Tuesday, August 10, 2021

First In Their Hearts, Sixth In The American League; The Angels


TRIVIA WINNER: Congrats to Dan Taguchi of Los Angeles, CA who correctly stated The dubious honor Roberto Clemente had in 1960 was to lead the NL in double plays grounded into. The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.

NEW TRIVIA CONTEST:  By answering the TRIVIA QUESTION CORRECTLY you are automatically entered into a weekly drawing for a Starbucks Gift Card.  YOU MUST ENTER VIA THE EMAIL AT THE END OF THIS COLUMN. Don't forget to put your mailing address in with the answer so if you win we can send you the gift card in the mail.

Just a note to add; If you look at the top right hand corner of the side bar you will see a link to daily sports scores. We made an agreement with Baseball 24 in a mutual sharing situation. Hope its helpful to fans of several sports.

NEW TRIVIA QUESTION: In the mid-1960's the Angels had a player who nearly every year was the model of versatility, playing three of the four infield positions and catcher. Who was he?  
ANSWER to the Trivia question in the previous column: 
Roberto Clemente in 1960 led the NL in double plays grounded into.

What made the 1966 Los Angeles/California Angels so interesting they would finish in sixth place in the American League but still finish first in attendance? While the team closed out the 1966 season 80-82, 1,400,321 fans went through the turnstiles of Anaheim Stadium. Bill Rigney's team did not have a .300 hitter or a batter with at least 20 homers. Aging Joe Adcock led the club with 18 in only 83 games. The club's leading hurlers each won 13 games (George Brunet and Jack Sanford) and ace Dean Chance was 12-17. So why did the fans turn out?

The team was never in danger of winning the pennant. They rarely won or lost more than five in a row. Their highlight was in mid-June when they won 11 of 13 and were seven games over .500. They were still eight games back of the Orioles but they were in fourth place. Then they dropped three in a row to Baltimore, another to Detroit and despite a four game winning streak which followed shortly thereafter, the season was essentially lost. 

They still played good baseball overall, and by the end of July they were still over .500. However they were 14.5 games back of first place Baltimore. Perhaps it was the fact the Angels, despite looking up to see down trying to overcome the Frank Robinson led Birds, never gave up. On July 30th Chance pitched the Angels to a 2-1 win over Cleveland to put the west coast team into its only day in second place. They were 13.5 back. It lasted 24 hours.
Brunet, always the hard luck pitcher would face even more hard luck in 1967 when the Angels competed for the pennant, Fregosi continued to play well and alongside Bobby Knoop they were among the best double play duos of the era. Chance would become an outstanding pitcher, especially after being traded to Minnesota. The Norm Siebern/Joe Adcock platoon was replaced by Don Mincher the following season. 

It was the slugging Adcock's final season and leading the team in homers at age 38 was pretty indicative of the 1966 Angels. Let's face it, this was a team of lovable players who were at a crossroads in a region hungry for a winner not named the Dodgers. They Angels were no match for the pennant winning team led by Sandy Koufax in his final season, Don Drysdale and fav's such as Wes Parker and Lou Johnson.

They really were every bit as talented as the Dodgers but were just not ready to eclipse the upper tier of the American League. The Orioles, the Red Sox and the Tigers were way too difficult for the team from Anaheim. They were never more than 3 games under .500, and as the 80-82 record indicated they played pretty evenly through the year. They had 9 walk off wins and 9 walk off losses which is pretty darn even. 

This was a club of lovable characters. There were new kids on the block like Rick Reichardt, Paul Schall, Jim McGlothlin, Jackie Hernandez, Clyde Wright and Minnie Rojas. There was a mix of real fan favorites such as Adcock, Bubba Morton, Lew Burdette, Jimmy Piersall, Jack Sanford and Ramon Lopez. 
Perhaps a real indication where this team of aging vets and young stars trying to shine is how they finished. One of the clubs best games was on Sunday October 2, facing Luis Tiant and the Indians. Knoop's 2-run triple in the bottom of the eighth plated the only runs of the game to back the 5-hit pitching of Jorge Rubio (WHO?). In the ninth, facing four batters, Rubio did not allow a fair hit ball. He walked Rocky Colavito and struck out Leon Wagner, Bill Davis and Fred Whitfield.
Rubio finished his career the following season with a 2-3 lifetime record in ten total career games. The Angels were a team waiting to happen with a fan base eager to see it happen. Or so one would think. The following season they were in the race for much of the year and finished 84-77 in 5th place. Attendance: Dropped off to fourth in the American League, down to
1,317,713. Some people just can't stand a winner.

TRIVIA CONTEST; After reading this column you can enter the weekly trivia contest for a chance to win a Starbucks Gift Card. Enter via the following email. Send 1) your answer to the trivia question at the top of the column, 2) your name, address and email so where we know where to send the card if you win 3) any comment you have on the column. One winner will be selected at random each week based on correct answers with the odds being based on the number of correct entries.  Please cut and paste or enter the following email into your email system.

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