October 09, 2002

Slice of Angels History -- ...

Slice of Angels History -- Demise of the Aging Slugger: Now that some of you have become at least temporary Angels fans, it behooves me to spread a little of the team's trivial history. For instance, one thing that makes the 2002 team positively jump out, compared to all others, is its absn aging, over-the-hill slugger.

This is a category my team has specialized in since its inception in 1961, when 36-year-old Ted Kluszewski hit 15 home runs in his final year, and 32-year-old Steve Bilko hit 20 in his second-to-last. In recent seasons, of course, the most notable over-the-hill slugger has been Mo Vaughn (1999-2001). But last year's team also featured the final pathetic gasp of Glenallen Hill (.136, 1 HR in 66 at-bats), who in turn was trying to fill in for the unspectacular Ron Gant. And before Fat Mo, there was Really Fat Cecil Fielder.

Many great power hitters who you don't associate with my team came through town for a cough or two, before sputtering out. One of my very first baseball memories as a kid was watching an obviously creaky Frank Robinson hit a monster home run out near the Big A. Eddie Murray spent most of his final season (1997) flailing in an Angels uniform (.219, 3 HR inference.com/p/parkeda01.shtml">Parker teamed up to do nothing much in 1991. Bobby Bonds (1976-77) had one bad season, one great, and was gone. Dave Kingman and Rickey Henderson each stopped by for about a week.

Most of this was deliberate (if idiotic) strategy, but sometimes it paid off. Many people thought Reggie Jackson was over the hill when Gene Autry lured him from the Yankees in 1982; instead, he hit 39 home runs, the team came within three innings of the World Series, and got even closer in Jackson's final year (1986). Most every former Baltimore Oriole we snapped up -- Bobby Grich, Don Baylor, Doug DeCinces -- developed into legitimate power hitters while wearing Angel uniforms, and helped us to three division titles in eight pretty good years of baseball.

Still, for every good-hitting Chili Davis or Tony Phillips, there have been a world of aging heroes like Bo Jackson, George Hendrick, Tony Armas, Von Hayes, Ruppert Jones, Alvin Davis and Kelly Gruber, each of whom fizzled out their careers in Anaheim, after starring elsewhere.

The phenomenon was not limited, to sluggers, of course, though they have tended to stand out. Other former all-stars who doddered through an unspectacular year or two in Orange County: Don Sutton, Tommy John, Luis Tiant, Bert Campaneris, Bill Buckner, Willie Davis, Ron Fairly, Tommy Davis, Leo Cardenas, Freddy Patek, Rick Burleson, Lance Parrish, Lee Smith (Burleson, Parrish and Smith each made the All-Star team in their first year as Angels, then collapsed), Gary Gaetti, Tim Wallach, Joe Rudi, Claudell Washington, Tommy Harper, Hubie Brooks, Tony Conigliero, Ellis Valentine, Jimmie Piersall, Jimmie Hall, Vic Power, Jack McDowell, John Candelaria, Jerry Reuss, Scott Sanderson, Ken Brett, Ken Hill, Kent Bottenfield, Floyd Bannister, Dan Petry, Jim Slaton, Dave Lemanczyk, Butch Wynegar, Bill Melton, Norm Siebern, Harold Reynolds, Greg Jefferies, Carlos May, Billy Grabarkewitz, Andy Etchebarren and Del Rice.

Wow, that list is longer and uglier than I thought. Point is, during any given year, the Angels might have three or four guys like this -- aging former All-Stars playing out the string, acquired pitchers with arm trouble, whatever -- who would have just dreadful seasons (Cardenas' .283 slugging percentage in 1972, or Grabarkewitz' .163 batting average the next year). Cursing them is part of the annual ritual of the Angel fan. Except this year, we have none to curse.

Posted by at October 9, 2002 05:12 PM
Comments

Please take off that list. I'm going to have trouble sleeping after reading that ghoulish roster.

Posted by: Ron Maydon at October 9, 2002 11:04 PM

Ron -- And that was just former all-stars, bro. Imagine how'd you sleep if I included names like Butch Hobson, Dave Goltz, Al Cowens, Tim Belcher, Joe Ferguson, Woody Held and Ed Halicki!

You know how we almost got to the World Series in 1986? Look at some of the peg-legs who played on our '87 roster:

Bill Buckner
Johnny Ray
Jerry Reuss
Greg Minton
Butch Wynegar
George Hendrick
Ruppert Jones
John Candelaria
Don Sutton
Gary Lucas

... and there's actually quite a whole lot more.

Posted by: Matt Welch at October 9, 2002 11:19 PM

You'd think after about the first 50 on the list they'd get away from that strategy but surprisingly they never did until now. On your list of power hitters didn't Leon Wagner hold the team home run record for a long time?

Posted by: Jack Tanner at October 10, 2002 06:52 AM

It's obvious to anyone with eyes that Michael Eisner is owner of the decade. It is he who put this team together and it will be he who won't pay anyone what they are worth at season's end. But not to worry, he will launch a 25 year rebuilding program in December. He will start with Raul Mondisi, Ricky Henderson, and will lure a reluctant Michael Jordan out of reitrement to give baseball one last try.

Posted by:, still, I didn't realize you'd gotten so many of the Athletics greats...

(Did I use the word 'gotten' correctly up there? Really, I never know when I write that word...)

Posted by: ct at October 13, 2002 05:21 PM

Here's an example of how the National League or the American League can actually be in somebody's blood. I, geographically speaking, should root for the Giants if they get into the World Series, yet...between the Giants and the Angels I will instinctively pull for the Angels because I am just an American League person, inherently. Even though I've spotted Mickey Hatcher in the Angels dugout and he was a major villain for Athletics' fans during the disastrous '88 World Series I will STILL pull for the Angels. (Not to mention the Angel's manager who's name I can't spell confidently was on that Dodger's team...) Plus, I don't think it's healthy for franchises to have no World Series championships in their history. (In that sense I won't be totally unhappy if the Giants win the World Series either because they've yet to win one as San Francisco Giants which is sort of the same feel as never having one one in a franchise's total history.) I don't want St. Louis to win because that franchise is currently tied with the Athletics franchise for second most World Series Championships (9) behind the Yankees bizarre total...

Posted by: ct at October 14, 2002 02:46 AM
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I was most aware of the guys who went on to success in Anaheim, especially DeCinces. Most O's fans simply pretend that Eddie's last season never happened...

Now that I'm following hockey as closely as I used to follow baseball, I can't help but note that the none-too-mighty Ducks seem to have picked up their neighbors' old strategy. A two-year contract for Adam Oates? Yeah, that'll turn out about as well as the Tony Armas deal....

Posted by: Nell Lancaster at October 11, 2002 03:18 PM

Thanks for bringing back my memories of all those Athletic's World Series Championships with all those former Athletics names on your list. I guess your whole point is you got those guys after they'd done all their damage in their careers, still, I didn't realize you'd gotten so many of the Athletics greats...

(Did I use the word 'gotten' correctly up there? Really, I never know when I write that word...)

Posted by: ct at October 13, 2002 05:21 PM

Here's an example of how the National League or the American League can actually be in somebody's blood. I, geographically speaking, should root for the Giants if they get into the World Series, yet...between the Giants and the Angels I will instinctively pull for the Angels because I am just an American League person, inherently. Even though I've spotted Mickey Hatcher in the Angels dugout and he was a major villain for Athletics' fans during the disastrous '88 World Series I will STILL pull for the Angels. (Not to mention the Angel's manager who's name I can't spell confidently was on that Dodger's team...) Plus, I don't think it's healthy for franchises to have no World Series championships in their history. (In that sense I won't be totally unhappy if the Giants win the World Series either because they've yet to win one as San Francisco Giants which is sort of the same feel as never having one one in a franchise's total history.) I don't want St. Louis to win because that franchise is currently tied with the Athletics franchise for second most World Series Championships (9) behind the Yankees bizarre total...

Posted by: ct at October 14, 2002 02:46 AM
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