November 13th, 2008
Though the Angels have had some poor and disastrous seasons, including the worst possibly in 1971 when the Angels were considered legitimate division contenders for the first time in franchise history, but Tony Conigliaro’s vision loss related mid-season retirement, Alex Johnson had a meltdown and players were pulling guns on one another in the clubhouse, these bad campaigns weren’t a ‘moment’, they were months of pain that the fans had to endure throughout the season.
Here is what we at Angelswin.com feel are the 10 worst moments in Angels Baseball since the club was established back in 1961.
10. The Mo Vaughn fall
In 1999 the Angels made a big splash in the free agent market for the first time in years, signing slugger Mo Vaughn away from the Boston Red Sox. In the very first inning of his tumultuous Angels career, Vaughn fell into the visiting dugout, occupied by the Cleveland Indians, and sprained his left ankle. After putting up decent, but not MVP-caliber numbers for two years with the Angels, Vaughn missed all of 2001 with an arm injury, demanded a trade, then bashed the organization and key players when his demand was granted.
8. 1968 Car Accident Leaves Minnie Rojas Paralyzed, Kills His Two Daughters
In 1967, Minnie Rojas led the American League with a then franchise record 27 saves for the Angels. But one of the game’s best relief pitchers had his career cut short when an automobile accident in 1968 left him paralyzed. The accident also tragically took the lives of his two daughters.
7. 2005 ALCS against White Sox (Controversial call, or non call)
In Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS, with the Angels leading the Chicago White Sox one game to zero, and the game tied at 1-1, home plate umpire Doug Eddings called strike three after A.J. Pierzynski swung and missed at a Kelvim Escobar split finger fastball. Angel catcher Josh Paul rolled the baseball out to the mound after that third out and the Angel players began to make their way to the dugout. Pierzynski flung his bat and ran to first base. Eddings and his crew ruled Pierzynski safe, claiming that the strike three pitch hit the ground before finding Paul’s glove. Despite the fact that Eddings called Pierzynski out, rather than ruling the ball hit the dirt, and that video footage later revealed that Paul indeed caught the baseball, Pierzysnki was awarded first base.
The next hitter, Joe Crede laced a line drive off the left field wall to score pinch runner Pablo Ozuna to win the game, 2-1, and even the series. The Angels lost the next three games to the White Sox in Anaheim.
6. Nolan Ryan Leaves Angels
Following the triumphant 1979 season, the Angels failed to re-sign free agent Nolan Ryan, who instead received the first ever $1 million per year contract from the Houston Astros. Angels General Manager Buzzy Bavasi scoffed at Ryan’s age (33), contract demands and 1979 record (16-14), concluding he could replace Ryan’s production with “two 8-7 pitchers.”
Ryan went on to pitch for 14 more seasons, winning 157 games, striking out 2,805 batters and throwing three more no-hitters.
5. Lyman Bostock’s murder
On Nov. 21, 1977, the California Angels signed young, up and coming star Lymon Bostock to a free agent contract. Bostock was solid for the Angels in 1978, hitting .296 while driving in 71 runs. At 27 years old, the future was bright for the outfielder.
Tragically, on Sept. 23 of the 1978 season, Bostock was gunned down in the back seat of a car while waiting with friends at a stoplight in Gary, In. The shotgun blast to the head from Leonard Smith, the estranged husband of another passenger in the car, killed Bostock instantly. Smith was later found not guilty of murder charges by reason of insanity.
4. Angels Blow 2-0 Series Lead in 1982 ALCS
The Angels won their second American League Western Division Championship in 1982 and held a two games to zero lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the best-of-five ALCS. But when the series moved to Milwaukee, the Angels lost the final three games, blowing a golden opportunity to win the franchise’s first pennant. It was the first time in league championship history a team lost the series after taking a 2-0 lead.
3. 2004, 2007 and 2008 playoff losses to Red Sox
The Angels went a combined 1-9 vs. the Boston Red Sox in 2004, 2007 and 2008, losing each series. Walk-off home runs by David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, and an ill-fated squeeze play attempt will likely continue to haunt Angels fans until the team finally gets back to the World Series.
2. 1995 Angels Fall Apart
On Aug. 16, 1995, the Angels led second place Texas by 10.5 games and Seattle by 11.5. The team lost 18 of its next 21 games, but on Sept. 12 still led the division by six games over Seattle. But then they lost nine in a row, falling three games behind the Mariners with five to play. Over the stretch, the Angels record was 8-28.
Amazingly, the Angels won their last five and forced a one-game playoff with the Mariners, but lost miserably to Randy Johnson at the Kingdome. Adding insult to injury, the loss pushed the Angels a half game behind the eventual wild card winning Yankees. The rules have since been changed to prevent this from happening.
1. 1986 Team Comes Within One Strike of the World Series
It’s difficult to pinpoint the worst moment of the worst game in Angels history. Is it Gene Mauch removing Mike Witt with nobody on base from a game he was one out away from winning? Or reliever Gary Lucas hitting Rich Gedman with his first pitch to put the tying run on base? Or was it later, when Doug DeCinces popped up the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the ninth, when a lazy fly ball was all the Angels needed to score Rob Wilfong with the game winner?
The obvious choice, of course, is Donnie Moore’s 3-2 pitch to Dave Henderson, with Brian Downing practically collapsing into the left field fence as the ball sailed over his head and Henderson was spinning pirouettes along the first base line. The Angels were within one strike of going to the World Series until Henderson struck, sending the franchise into a spiral that would last another 16 years.
In reality, the worst moment came two innings later, when Henderson drove in the game winning run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the 11th and the Angels could not answer in the bottom half. Thus was begun the humiliating, gut-wrenching 11-game postseason losing streak to the Red Sox, stretching nearly 22 full years.
The Angels World Series title in 2002 did a lot to wipe away this pain, but there is still a great sense of unfinished business that won’t truly be erased until the Angels finally defeat the Red Sox in October. That all started with this game.