By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
Part of the treat of going to a home game this year is the opportunity to relive Angels glory as former Angels greats toss out ceremonial opening pitches. One of those greats who recently tossed out an opening pitch was an original Angel, Dean Chance. Signed by the Orioles, then drafted by the Senators, and then traded to the Angels, Chance made his first appearance late in the 1961 season.
Over the course of 6 years with the Angels, Chance posted a 74-66 record (11th most wins), a 2.83 ERA (2nd best for a starter), and 857 strikeouts (9th). Most importantly, he won the Angels’ first Cy Young award in 1964 when he went 20-9 with a 1.65 ERA. At the time, he was the youngest recipient of the award. He pitched 278.1 innings that year, striking out 207, and only allowing a 1.01 WHIP.
Named as the American League’s Right-Handed pitcher of the Decade by the Sporting News, Dean lives in Wooseter, Ohio and is the President of the International Boxing Association.
AngelsWin.com recently spoke with Dean Chance about his time with the Angels, pitching in general, the Hall of Fame, and the current team.
AngelsWin.com: This is David Saltzer with AngelsWin.com talking today with Angels’ great Dean Chance. Dean, how are you doing today?
Dean Chance: I’m doing fine Dave.
AngelsWin.com: What was the first thought that went through your mind when you found out that you were taken by the Angels?
Dean Chance: Well, I was a young kind—19 years of age. I was very happy and I remember going to Spring Training in Palm Springs. Mainly because Gene Autry owned the team and he was a wonderful person. Everyone knew him as the Singing Cowboy.
AngelsWin.com: Baseball was still new on the West Coast back then. Was there any negative thought about coming out to play “West Coast” baseball?
Dean Chance: I was happy because I got the opportunity to pitch that way whereas it would have taken me longer to get up with the Orioles. You gotta get the ball to get the chance to pitch which with the Angels I was afforded that opportunity.
AngelsWin.com: Now you mentioned the Cowboy. What was it like playing for him?
Dean Chance: Oh Gene was great. He loved baseball. He came and spent time with everybody. He loved the game. He’d be in the locker room. He’d head down to Spring Training every year. It was a wonderful experience.
AngelsWin.com: For younger fans who only know you from the record books, one of the most interesting things about you is your unorthodox delivery. Can you describe it for the fans?
Dean Chance: I don’t see too good out of my left, and I always turned my back which was my natural windup. That’s just how I pitched. Even still, it doesn’t matter what you do, you have to get the ball over the plate. Hopefully you have the blow and hit the corners. That’s still the key thing. If you can do that with more motion or this and that, you know, it all helps.
AngelsWin.com: When you made your first appearance, what was it like coming into a Major League stadium?
Dean Chance: My first game I ever started in a Major League regular season game was against the Minnesota Twins in 1961.
Dean Chance: What going through your mind?
AngelsWin.com: Well, the first guy—a left handed hitter—Lenny Green hit a little pop fly that hit the chalk line in left field for a double. Billy Martin was the next hitter and he did the same thing—it hit the chalk—in right field. So I was losing 1-0 with a runner on second with Bob Allison, Harmon Killebrew, and Earl Battey coming up! That would have been trouble, but I got lucky and got out of that. I was winning 2-1 in the 8th inning, so overall it was a good game. I ended up losing. Morgan came in and gave up a 3-run homer in the 8th.
AngelsWin.com: The Angels have a young pitcher, Tyler Chatwood, who is breaking in at about the same age you did. What advice would you give to a young pitcher?
Dean Chance: The best thing is to get your arm strong just by pitching and then just experience. Of course the better control you have the better it is. The more different pitches you have—that you can control—the better you are because if the hitter guesses right with you, I don’t care how hard you throw or how good of a curve ball you’ve got. If he guesses the right pitch in the right location, you’re in trouble.
AngelsWin.com: What was it about the ’62 team that made it so special?
Dean Chance: In 1962 . . . I tell you what they ought to do. My friend Rob Goldman wrote a book called “Once They Were Angels”. What they need to do is get that book. He put in words exactly how it was that year—especially on Bo Belinsky, Albie Pearson and stuff like that. That ’62 team was absolutely tremendous. Anyone who was on that team will absolutely say it was the best year of their lives—that they enjoyed it. We were a bunch of young guys and a bunch of old guys over the hill. Everybody thought that Bill Rigney was like the mastermind for that year putting all the pieces together. We finished third, but at the All-Star Break, we were in first place that year. That’s with the Yankees, Minnesota, Baltimore—all those great teams. We finished third that year which was like unbelievable. That’s what makes ’62. Plus, it was my first full year in the big leagues. It really was a special year. If everybody gets that book “Once They Were Angels,” they’ll understand.
AngelsWin.com: What was it like pitching in Dodgers’ Stadium? Did that help you?
Dean Chance: Dodgers’ Stadium was the greatest park for a pitcher. We won five Cy Young awards in a row there. Sandy Koufax won three of them, Don Drysdale won one, and I won one. And believe me, Dodgers’ Stadium helped us. The mound—they got a real good clay there so you don’t even need a pitching mound because your footage is tremendous. And at night, the ball does not travel there. I mean you really have to hit it to hit a homerun at night there. It was a great pitcher’s ballpark.
AngelsWin.com: The year you won a Cy Young, you had a lot of close games—1-0, 2-1 games. How was it as a pitcher knowing that your offense wasn’t that strong?
Dean Chance: Well, what helped me a lot was Bobby Knoop and Jim Fregosi—our shortstop/second base combination. Instead of hitting a base hit, they’d turn it into a double-play. You’ve got to be very fortunate. Some years you get the breaks, some years . . . It’s like that kid Hernandez last year with Seattle. He won the Cy Young, and I think he was 13-12 or 14-12, but he could have very easily won 26 or 27 games. But, when you don’t the breaks and you don’t get runs, that’s what happens.
AngelsWin.com: One of the differences between when you pitched and pitching today is the use of the bullpen. I think you had 11 complete games in 1964 when you won the Cy Young.
Dean Chance: I had 11 shut outs that year.
AngelsWin.com: And how many complete games?
Dean Chance: I led the league in complete games. I had 16 or 18, I forget. I led the league twice in innings pitched—’64 and ’67.
AngelsWin.com: What was different about pitching then that pitchers went complete games as opposed to going to the bullpen?
Dean Chance: Well, me . . . Rigney would come out and you could talk him out of taking you out of a ball game. I wanted to determine my own fate. Now when I had a real good bullpen—I had Bob Lee one year who was tremendous! I remember he came in one game, I only pitched 6 innings, and I won the game 1-0. I just had an off night, but Rigney realized it and brought in and he completed the game and I got a win. Or, the team got a win.
AngelsWin.com: One of the areas where you struggled was in your batting average . . .
Dean Chance: I was a terrible hitter. If it had been for my batting, I’d have never left the farm. I would have been in Ohio. I was not a good hitter, but I was good bunter. I had a lot of sacrifices. I think I struck out two out of every three at-bats.
AngelsWin.com: As a former pitcher who batted, do you favor the DH rule or not?
Dean Chance: I’m telling you, that would have really, really helped me if we had had the DH rule. Oh! Because if I’m losing 1-0 or 2-1, and I come up in the 7th inning or 8th inning, I’m out of there. That would have been the greatest thing in the world for me, the DH rule.
AngelsWin.com: Another difference about when you pitched is that when you took the ball they had a four-man rotation and now it’s a five-man rotation. Sometimes people still debate if there should be a five-man rotation. What are your thoughts?
Dean Chance: Well, it’s such a commodity to have a good arm, they want to protect their good arms on guys. And, like Koufax, he retired around 30, I retired then because I mean they just pitched us. You know they gave us the ball all the time. You know the wear and tear. You’ve only got so many pitches. You can only throw so many. It all depends on the individual. We weren’t making any money in them days. All we cared about was getting wins so we could make more money.
AngelsWin.com: I understand that.
Dean Chance: Later this summer, we’re going to have Bert Blyleven go into the Hall of Fame.
AngelsWin.com: Oh my heavens. Bert Blyleven. Are you kidding me? With 60 shutouts and over 3,700 strikeouts! I mean they should have had him in there 10 years ago.
Dean Chance: I fully agree with that.
AngelsWin.com: My question to you is that for years the 300-win mark was always the standard for the Hall of Fame.
Dean Chance: No, that ain’t right. Sandy Koufax is in and he won less than 175. Bob Feller who only won 200 . . . see there are a lot of guys in there who didn’t win 300 games.
AngelsWin.com: So, as a veteran you don’t think that 300 win should still be “the mark”?
Dean Chance: Hell. I mean 300 wins is a tremendous stat. It depends on how long you play. To me, Jim Kaat, with all the years that he pitched and 16 gold gloves, I mean he should be in. Tony Oliva absolutely should be in. Any right-handed pitcher who ever pitched to him will tell you that he was the toughest hitter they ever pitched against. I mean it’s a shame, but he should be in. They messed his right leg up on that operation whereas today they could have done arthroscopic surgery and it would have been perfect.
AngelsWin.com: What do you think of Mike Scioscia as a manager?
Dean Chance: I think he’s tremendous. I think he does a great great job.
AngelsWin.com: Would you want to play for his team?
Dean Chance: Yeah. He would have been fun to play for.
AngelsWin.com: Do you have any thoughts about baseball or your time playing for the Angels that you would like to share with the fans?
Dean Chance: Oh, it was great in the days that we played. Los Angeles was great. Anaheim down here is just so beautiful now. It’s gotta be much better for a player than playing in Dodger’s Stadium now the way everything is going with the ownership. I think they pull more people in Anaheim than Dodger’s Stadium. I’m not sure, but I think I do.
AngelsWin.com: On behalf of AngelsWin.com, and Angels fans everywhere, thank you for your time today, your history, and your pitching for the Angels.
Dean Chance: Tell all your fans, if they want to know about the Angels, go out and buy that book that Rob Goldman wrote to learn about the Angels. That book is tremendous.
AngelsWin.com: It is a good book.
Dean Chance: You take care Dave.
AngelsWin.com: Thanks Dean. Take care as well.
To purchase a copy of Rob Goldman’s book “Once They Were Angels”, please click here.