When Wallace Keith “Wally” Joyner started the season in 1986, he had some big shoes to fill. Those shoes belonged to future Hall of Famer Rod Carew, who retired at the conclusion of the 1985 season. Wearing uniform No. 21, no one knew how the baby-faced 23-year-old lefty would do.
On April 9, Joyner hit his first home run off Seattle’s Mark Langston in just his second game as a Major Leaguer. Angels fans immediately embraced the rookie. Chants of “WAL-LY! WAL-LY! WAL-LY!” broke out during every one of his at-bats. Anaheim Stadium soon became known as “Wally World” to the fans and media.
For six weeks, Joyner ruled the American League, slugging 16 home runs by May 26. Joyner also had a knack for timely hitting to go with his surprising power. He played spectacular defense and had a wholesome, infectious smile.
Joyner became a national sensation, as he reached 20 home runs by the All-Star break. He became the first rookie ever voted as a starter in the All-Star Game. Joyner batted third for the American League in 1986 and tied the Mets’ Darryl Strawberry for the most home runs in the All-Star Home Run Derby.
Joyner finished up 1986 with a .290/.348/.457 line on the year with 22 home runs and 100 RBI. A staph infection, suffered in early August, sapped his strength for the rest of the season. The illness required Joyner to be hospitalized after Game 3 of the American League Championship Series and he missed the rest of the series. In one of the more controversial Rookie of the Year votes, Joyner finished second to Jose Canseco.
In 1987, Joyner had his best year, posting a .285/.366/.528 line with 34 home runs and 117 RBI. He became the ninth player in Major League history to have back-to-back 100 RBI seasons at the start of his career.
Following the 1992 season, Joyner signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals. He played for four years with the Royals before they traded him to the San Diego Padres. After four years in San Diego, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. Finally, in 2001, he returned to the Angels, where he retired on June 16, 2001.
As an Angel, Joyner ranks ninth in RBI, 10th in doubles, 11th in at-bats, 12th in hits, batting average and home runs, and 13th in slugging percentage and runs scored. Defensively, amongst all Angels first basemen, he ranks first in total chances, put outs, assists and double plays, and had a career .994 fielding percentage.
Anaheim Stadium has had many names over the years, but none have been as fun as the time when it was called “Wally World” and echoed with chants of “WAL-LY! WAL-LY! WAL-LY!”