Los Angeles Angels
Franchise Record: (through 2019) 4,709-4,719-3 (.499)
Post Season Record: 27-37 (.422)
World Series Titles: 1 (2002)
League Pennants: 1 (2002)
The Los Angeles Angels are an American League team representing the Los Angeles, CA metropolitan area while based in Anaheim, CA, in Orange County, some 25 miles from downtown L.A. Created by the expansion of 1961, the team has been known as the Angels throughout its existence, but has appended four different geographic monikers to the name. The name "Angels" hearkens back to the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League and to the "City of Angels", a common nickname for Los Angeles.
The Angels began life as the Los Angeles Angels from 1961 to 1964. In 1965, in anticipation of moving to their new ballpark in Anaheim, Angel Stadium, they became known as the California Angels. In 1997, when the city of Anaheim pitched in funds to renovate the ballpark, municipal leaders insisted on the franchise being renamed the Anaheim Angels, under which name they won their only World Series title in 2002. In 2005, owner Arte Moreno, concerned that the name was costing the team fans in the wider metropolitan area, decided to rename the team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, respecting the letter of the agreement with the city of Anaheim that the word "Anaheim" figure in the team name, while ensuring that in most contexts, the team would simply be referred to as the Los Angeles Angels. The city of Anaheim threatened to sue over this perversion of the lease agreement, but after losing in first instance in 2008, decided it had more serious matters to worry about than to mount a costly appeal to the California Supreme Court and the ungainly name stuck. However, starting in 2017, after the legal obligation to have "Anaheim" as part of its name ran out, the team quietly dropped it and it completely disappeared from all official material. The Angels were thus once again using their original name of Los Angeles Angels.
The team's creation was rushed, because the expansion of 1961 was decided at the last minute by the American League, after the 1960 season was completed, and before an ownership group was in place in either Los Angeles or Washington, DC. The thought was that Bill Veeck and Hank Greenberg would be named owners of the franchise, but plans changed. Former movie star Gene Autry, who owned a radio network in southern California, went to the 1960 Winter Meetings wanting to secure radio broadcast rights for the new team; instead, American League President Joe Cronin convinced him to be the team's owner. He agreed and immediately hired two veteran baseball men to run things: Fred Haney, who had led the Milwaukee Braves to a pair of World Series appearances in 1957 and 1958 as a manager, was hired as the General Manager, and Bill Rigney, former New York Giants manager, was named as skipper. It was a good thing that the choice was made quickly, because by then the expansion draft was only a week away. It was held in the American League offices in Boston, MA on December 14th. The Angels got to choose first and picked New York Yankees pitcher Eli Grba as their first player. He would be their Opening Day starter in 1961. Haney and Rigney had received some very good scouting reports on Yankee prospects from Casey Stengel, who had recently been fired by the Yankees and had a bit of a grudge against management; they would use that inside knowledge to pick four other ex-Yankees in the draft. Although the deck was stacked against them and their expansion mates the "new" Washington Senators, they did not do badly out of the draft, getting some good talent in Ken McBride, Buck Rodgers, Jim Fregosi, Bob Cerv and Ken Hunt. They also received a gift from Cronin when he forced the Senators to trade young pitcher Dean Chance to them in return for marginal outfielder Joe Hicks, because he had failed to run the draft properly and needed to cover up some of his mistakes.
Among the Angels' first employees was Roland Hemond, who became the scouting director and put together a solid network of scouts with a focus on southern California. The Angels emphasized building a development network and were quite successful at setting up a good foundation. Their first season was relatively successful, with 70 wins, and in 1962, they surprised everyone by competing for the American League pennant, ending in 3rd place with a record of 86-76. However, they were unable to maintain that level of achievement, and were soon eclipsed badly by their neighbors the Los Angeles Dodgers, who went to the World Series three times in four years from 1963 to 1966. It was not fair competition for the new team, and they couldn't help but suffer in comparison. They would remain second bananas in southern California until the end of the 20th century.
Still, there was some hope in the early years, with the team's first two stars appearing on the scene in the 1962 season in pitchers Dean Chance and Bo Belinsky. The two had been friends in the Baltimore Orioles organization, and soon became the face of the franchise. Belinsky started his career 5-0 and fired a no-hitter on May 5th against the Orioles. A good-looking young man who was known for dating actresses and models, Bo became a big star around L.A. even though his success on the field was short-lived. Chance truly blossomed over the second half of the 1964 season, when he was 15-4, 1.29, on the way to winning the 1964 Cy Young Award. He remained one of the league's top pitchers until the end of the decade, although he was traded after the 1966 season. Other good young players were SS Jim Fregosi, C Buck Rodgers and 2B Billy Moran. They also signed some highly sought-after amateur talent in OF Rick Reichardt, C Tom Egan and OF Jay Johnstone, and pitchers like Andy Messersmith, Clyde Wright and Jim McGlothlin. In fact, when signing college star Reichardt, they gave him the highest signing bonus up to that time, a move that prompted Major League Baseball to institute the amateur draft shortly afterwards. Unfortunately, Reichardt's rise to stardom was stopped when he needed to have surgery to remove a kidney, and Egan never was able to develop as a hitter.
By the end of the 1960s, the team's management started to become impatient, as the Angels were not involved in another pennant race after the 1962 blip. The motto became to "win one for Gene" (Autry), and the approach moved from focusing on home-grown players to acquiring bigger names through trades. That is how players like Alex Johnson, Tony Conigliaro and Frank Robinson ended up in an Angels uniform in the early 1970s. The best trade was certainly that of Fregosi to the New York Mets for P Nolan Ryan before the 1972 season. Ryan became the next Angels superstar, firing 4 no-hitters and breaking the single-season strikeout record in 1973. However, most of the trades were balanced, so if productive players like Alex Johnson or P Bill Singer became Angels, other players who were just as good, in those cases Jim McGlothlin and Andy Messersmith, went the other way, and the team was not making progress. Before the 1976 season, the Angels made a big trade with the Yankees for OF Bobby Bonds; Bonds was good, but they gave up two quality major leaguers in Mickey Rivers and Rudy May to get him, and were no further ahead in the end.
When free agency came after the 1976 season, the Angels were one of the first teams to jump in with enthusiasm. From the first batch of free agents, they signed 2B Bobby Grich and OFs Don Baylor and Joe Rudi. They already had two of the best pitchers in the American League with Ryan and Frank Tanana, one of the few home-grown players on the team, in addition to Bonds, but the rest of the team was far below par and they finished 74-88 in spite of all the spending. Undeterred, they dipped back in the free agent market the next year, adding OF Lyman Bostock. With all the free agent outfielders, Bonds became expendable, and he was sent to the Chicago White Sox, netting a few useful players such as Ps Ken Brett and Dave Frost and C Brian Downing, who would be a fixture on the team until the end of the 1980s after moving to left field. The team was still unbalanced, with a top-heavy pitching staff, and a few black holes in the line-up, such as .217-hitting Ron Fairly playing 1B, but they finished second in 1978, with 87 wins and only 5 games behind the first-place Kansas City Royals. However, tragedy struck late in the season when Bostock was murdered while riding in a car in Gary, IN. That death came as the latest in a series of tragic events that had shaken the franchise, making many believe it had been cursed: Fritz Brickell, the team's opening day shortstop in 1961, died of cancer at 30 in 1965; P Dick Wantz, who made his debut with the Angels in April of 1965, was diagnosed with a brain tumor a few days later and died in an operation in mid-May; Minnie Rojas a top reliever for the club from 1966 to 1968 was paralyzed in a car crash in April of 1970 while attempting a comeback from arm trouble; infielder Chico Ruiz was killed in a car crash in February of 1972 after playing for the Angels in 1971; top pitching prospect Bruce Heinbechner was also the victim of a fatal car crash as spring training was starting in 1974; and Mike Miley, a former first-round draft pick also died in a car accident before the 1977 season.
Things turned around for the team in 1979. They made an excellent trade in acquiring 1B Rod Carew from the Minnesota Twins for four players, and finally all the parts assembled from other teams clicked together. Baylor won the AL MVP Award, Ryan won 16 games, Grich drove in 100 runs, and OF Dan Ford, pried from the Twins in other good trade, also drove in 100. The team finally finished in first place; they were defeated by the Orioles in the 1979 ALCS, but the future looked bright. The signing of free agents and swinging of big trades for established players continued over the following years, and in 1982, the Angels won another division title behind another group of assembled "mercenaries", including OF Reggie Jackson and Fred Lynn, 3B Doug DeCinces, C Bob Boone, and Ps Ken Forsch, Tommy John and Geoff Zahn. They took a 2-0 lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the ALCS, but managed to lose the next three games and miss a trip to the World Series. But if that loss was painful, it was nowhere near as bad as the next one, in 1986. That team still had Jackson, Grich, DeCinces and Boone, along with a couple of pitchers who had been stars with other teams in Don Sutton and John Candelaria, but it also got a significant contribution from some home-grown players such as rookie 1B Wally Joyner, OF Gary Pettis and Ps Mike Witt and Kirk McCaskill. They took a three-games-to-one lead in the ALCS, and led 5-2 going into the 9th inning in Game 5 when Witt and closer Donnie Moore each gave up two-run homers, the first by Baylor, who was now with the Red Sox, and the second to an unknown named Dave Henderson, with two outs and two strikes, to erase the Angels' lead. What is less remembered is that the Angels then rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th but left the bases loaded. The Red Sox eventually won the contest in the 11th inning and then took the next two games at home by lopsided scores over the demoralized Angels to reach the 1986 World Series. Moore never recovered psychologically from blowing that Game 5 lead and committed suicide in 1989.
The Angels sputtered for a number of years after their shattering 1986 loss, and would not return to the postseason until 2002. In the meantime, the team suffered a huge collapse in 1995 after holding an 11-game lead in early August. Another unhappy event took place on May 21, 1992, when the team bus crashed in New Jersey, injuring several players and manager Buck Rodgers, who had to sit out almost half the season as a result. In 1997, the team became known as the "Anaheim Angels", and in 2000 made a genius move in hiring former Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia to be their manager. Scioscia brought stability to the dugout, and an emphasis on defense and fundamentals that had not been seen since the early 1960s. The Angels of the 2000s were no longer the mercenaries of the previous era. They continued to sign the occasional free agent, but home-grown players were not an anomaly anymore. Players like Chuck Finley, Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson had long and productive careers in an Angels uniform and it was the Dodgers who were now the team trying a different get-rich-quick scheme every year and installing a revolving door of managers. In 2002, the Angels returned to the postseason as the AL wild card, then defeated the Yankees and Twins in succession to reach the 2002 World Series. 2B Adam Kennedy emerged as a surprise star in the postseason with a three-homer game from the 9th spot in the lineup against the Twins, and 3B Troy Glaus was the big man in the World Series. The Angels faced the San Francisco Giants in the Series and in a highly-entertaining seven-game affair, were pounded by the bat of Barry Bonds, son of their former star Bobby, but otherwise managed to score enough runs to compensate. This time, it was the Giants who collapsed. With a 5-run lead and one win away from the title in Game 6, the Giants' bullpen choked, and the Angels won that game and Game 7 as well, behind the pitching of rookie John Lackey. It is their only championship to date, in a year that gave baseball the Rally Monkey and the thunderstick.
While the Angels have failed to repeat as world champions, they became regulars in the postseason, winning division titles in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009. These were the seasons when the team's biggest star was OF Vladimir Guerrero, who won the AL MVP Award in his first season with the team in 2004. Most of those years, the Angels seemed to run into their nemesis, the Boston Red Sox, in the postseason and did not advance further. They did reach the ALCS in 2005, but lost to a brilliant performance by the White Sox's starting pitchers. The 2009 season started on an awful note, when young pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver after making his first start of the season. But the team found the inner strength to overcome the tragedy, won another division title, and in the postseason, finally managed to beat the Red Sox in the first round. They then ran into the Yankees in the ALCS, and while they put up a valiant fight, they lost in 6 games. The 2010 season was basically lost when star 1B Kendrys Morales broke his leg in a freak accident while celebrating a walk-off home run by jumping on home plate on May 29th. In 2011, three rookies, 1B Mark Trumbo, and OFs Chris Bourjos and Mike Trout showed a lot of promise, pointing to a bright future. The following off-season, the Angels went all-out to unseat the Texas Rangers from the top spot in the AL West, signing free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to huge contracts starting in 2012, but these failed to deliver.
Trout turned out to be the real deal though, an he was the team leader and the league MVP when the Angels put up the best record in the AL in 2014. But, once again, things fell apart in the postseason, at the hands of an inspired Kansas City Royals team that swept them in three games in the ALDS. Due largely to pitching injuries, they could not sustain that level of success over the next couple of years, event though Trout continued to be the best position player in the major leagues, repeating as MVP in 2016. In the following seasons, Trout seemed to be a lone standout on a team that was never very bad or very good, but always out of the postseason. High-profile additions such as that of OF Justin Upton did not seem to pay off, and pitching was a chronic area of concern for the remainder of the decade. One player who did do very well was SS Andrelton Simmons, who was continually rated as one of - if not the best - defensive player in baseball during that time, and whose hitting improved enough that he could be considered a genuine star before injuries slowed him down. In 2018, however, they made a splash when they signed highly-coveted free agent Shohei Ohtani, who was hoping to become the first true two-way player in the major leagues since Babe Ruth. Ohtani was able to deliver on his promise, winning the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year Award, although it was largely on the strength of his hitting, as an arm injury limited his time on the mound significantly. After the season, long-time manager Scioscia stepped down and was replaced by Brad Ausmus, and while Trout continued to play as well as ever, the team was still mired around the .500 mark when on July 1st, they were struck with another tragedy, the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs, one of the mainstays of their starting rotation, a few days short of his 28th birthday.
Members of Angels Hall of Fame
Bobby Grich (inducted 1988)
Jim Fregosi (inducted 1989)
Don Baylor (inducted 1990)
Rod Carew (inducted 1991)
Nolan Ryan (inducted 1992)
Jimmie Reese (coach - inducted 1995)
- Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company (March 1993).
- Robert Goldman: Once They Were Angels: A History of the Team, Sports Publishing LLC, Champaign, IL, 2006
- Joe Haakenson: 100 Things Angels Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2013, ISBN 978-1-60078-776-8
- Roland Hemond: "A Whole New Franchise: Creating the 1961 Los Angeles Angels in 120 Days", in Jean Hastings Ardell and Andy McCue, ed.: Endless Seasons: Baseball in Southern California, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 41, 2011, pp. 46-48.
- Andy McCue and Eric Thompson: "Mis-Management 101: The American League Expansion of 1961", in Jean Hastings Ardell and Andy McCue, ed.: Endless Seasons: Baseball in Southern California, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 41, 2011, pp. 42-45.
- Ross Newhan: The Anaheim Angels: A Complete History, Hyperion, New York, NY, 2000.
- Stephen Roney: "Of Witches, Hexes, and Plain Bad Luck: The Reputed Curse of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim", in Jean Hastings Ardell and Andy McCue, ed.: Endless Seasons: Baseball in Southern California, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 41, 2011, pp. 46-48.
- Tom Singer and Doug Miller: "The Glasnost Gang: When the Halos 'invaded' Russia: In 1992, the Angels signed three Russian players. Here is their story", mlb.com, March 25, 2016. 
- John Thorn: Total Baseball, Total Sports Publishing, 1989, 1995.
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