Top-50 Greatest Moments in Angels Baseball
Greatest Moments 11 - 20

41 - 50 31 - 40 21 - 30 1 - 10

#20 - May 15, 1973: Nolan Ryan throws his first no-hitter

By Ricardo Ramos - Contributor

When Nolan Ryan stepped on the mount at Royals Stadium on May 15, 1973, none of the 12,205 in attendance could have had any clue they were about to witness history. Ryan, after all, was coming off a terrible start in which he gave up five runs to the White Sox, failing to get out of the first inning (0.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER).

His next start, however, could not have been any different. On this night, Ryan was special, recording the first of his seven career no-hitters.

Before he threw his first pitch, Ryan's teammates had already staked him to a 2-0 lead. He then started off his night by striking out the side in the bottom of the first. Ryan would strike out at least one Royals hitter per inning, save for the fifth, fanning a dozen altogether.

Ryan, who despite his strikeout dominance, was always capable of painting himself into a corner with bases on balls, avoided trouble all night, spreading his three walks out over the first, third and eighth innings. In fact, Ryan was so overpowering that third baseman Al Gallagher, left fielder Vada Pinson and shortstop Rudy Meoli fielded only two balls between the three of them, both by Meoli.

With the Angels leading, 3-0, Ryan faced the top of the Kansas City order in the ninth. Shortstop Freddie Patek fouled out to first and right fielder Steve Hovley struck out. That brought outfielder Amos Otis to the plate. Angels announcer Don Drysdale made the call:

"The one strike pitch, high fly ball, this could do it. Barry going back, to the warning track, to the wall, MAKES THE CATCH! … Nolan Ryan has pitched his first no-hitter of his career!"

Telling that Drysdale specifically called it Ryan's first, as if it was inevitable there would be others - which of course, there would be.

"From the sixth inning on, I was given a lot of space in the dugout." Ryan said after the game, "The Angels believed in the old saying: Don't bother a pitcher who's got the no-hitter going. Don't even talk to him."

Ryan became the first Angels right-hander to throw a no-hitter and it was the first no-hitter thrown at Royals Stadium, which had only opened the previous month.

"I never honestly felt I was the type of pitcher to pitch a no-hitter," Ryan said. "My curveball isn't overpowering and after you've gone through the lineup once or twice, the hitters can get on the fastball better. A lot of that is timing. I don't have the type of fastball that really moves. A lot of guys have that explosive type of fastball that really moves. Also, I jam the hitters a lot so the really strong guys can bloop it over the infield for singles."

One wonders if you'd have told him then he'd throw six more, would he have believed it?

Nolan Ryan no-hitter trivia: Angels second baseman Sandy Alomar made the first out of this game. 18 years later, his son Roberto Alomar struck out to end Ryan's seventh no-hitter.

#19 - 2012: Troutís Rookie Season for the Ages

By Geoff Bilau - Senior Editor

Of all the superlatives that can be lavished upon Mike Trout’s rookie season, perhaps the simplest and most appropriate is “unprecedented,” because no rookie in Major League history reached the statistical heights Trout achieved. For that matter, no second-, third- or even 20th-year player did so, either.

And he did it all as a 20-year-old.

.326/.399/.594, 129 runs, 27 2B, 8 3B, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB

Trout led the American League in runs scored and stolen bases and finished second in batting average, despite starting the year at AAA Salt Lake and missing the first 20 Major League games. As for “unprecedented,” no player in Major League Baseball’s 141 years had ever surpassed 125 runs, 30 home runs and 45 stolen bases in the same season. Not one. Furthermore, he became the youngest player in history to record a 30 HR-30 SB season and the first rookie to combine 30 HR and 40 SB. Only two rookies scored more runs: Joe DiMaggio (132 in 1936) and Ted Williams (131 in 1939).

He was named an American League All-Star, American League Rookie of the Year, won a Silver Slugger and finished second in the American League MVP balloting to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

And, oh, all of those gravity-defying catches…

After making his celebrated, but far-from-polished big league debut as a 19-year-old in 2011 (batting just .220 and coming within a couple plate appearances of qualifying as a rookie), Trout was no sure bet to make the Angels 2012 roster out of spring training, especially not with an outfield/DH picture crowded by big contracts (Albert Pujols, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells), big emergences (Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos) and big question marks (Kendrys Morales). When Trout missed almost all of the spring with an energy-sapping illness, his fate was sealed — he would start the season in the minors.

While the “Millville Meteor” was batting .403/.467/.623 for the Bees, the Angels were woefully matching the franchise’s worst start (6-14) and falling nine games behind the Rangers for the division lead. In the midst of a five-game losing streak, the Angels recalled Trout on April 28 with the team in Cleveland. He went 0-4 from the leadoff spot, but the Angels won, 2-1.

With Trout setting the table, the Angels fortunes quickly turned. The team went 18-11 in May and climbed back to .500 for the first time since the season’s fourth game. Trout batted .324/.385/.556, but continued to fly under the radar of a baseball world that seemed preoccupied by Nationals rookie Bryce Harper. He was even better in June, posting a .372/.419/.531 line and helping the Angels to a 17-9 record in the month to pull within 4.5 games of the division-leading Rangers.

It was what he did on June 27 in Baltimore, however, that finally made the baseball world truly sit up and take notice. With his family and friends watching at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Trout made an unbelievable leaping catch in center field to rob shortstop J.J. Hardy of a first-inning home run. The catch was replayed for weeks and when people started to look at what he was doing with his bat and on the bases, as well, the youngster was not only a lock for the All-Star game, but suddenly in the discussion for AL MVP.

In July, Trout moved from “discussion” to “front runner,” posting an astounding .392/.455/.804 line. Comparisons to baseball’s immortals — DiMaggio, Williams, Mays, Mantle, even Ruth — became commonplace as statistical projections started to paint a picture of accomplishments matched only by the greatest of all-time — or no one in some cases.

Though he “slumped” to .287/.383/.500 from Aug. 1 on, and the Angels were ultimately unable to keep up with the Rangers and surprise division-winning Athletics, Trout made three more remarkable HR-robbing catches and sold more merchandise in the Angels team store than Pujols and all of his teammates combined.

At 10.7, he led the Major Leagues in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a “new-age” unit of measure that combines all conceivable statistical information — offense, defense and base running — into the number of victories a player is worth over a league-average alternative. Only three players in history posted a higher WAR before the age of 25: Ruth (11.6 in 1920), Gehrig (11.5 in 1927) and Mantle (11.1 in 1957 and 11.0 in 1956). His season ranks 20th all-time and every player ahead of Trout (Ruth, Hornsby, Yastrzemski, Bonds*, Gehrig, Ripken, Wagner, Cobb, Mantle, Mays, Morgan, Musial and Williams) is in the Hall of Fame.

For Angels fans, it was a rookie campaign for the ages, only the franchise’s second ROY (Salmon, 1993) and left just one question: What will he do for an encore?

#18 - June 10, 1997: Jim Edmonds makes "The Catch"

By Geoff Bilau - Senior Editor

Jim Edmonds' catch in Kansas City won't be remembered because it contributed to a division championship or turned the momentum of a postseason series. It did neither. It won't even be remembered because it helped win a game - which it incidentally did; the Angels defeated the Royals, 6-2, that night.

No, "The Catch" will be remembered quite simply because it was an unforgettable display of physical prowess that might never be duplicated.

In the fifth inning of a 1-1 tie at Kauffman Stadium, David Howard came to the plate with two on and two outs. Howard lined a Jason Dickson fastball to straightaway center field on a frozen rope. Edmonds, who always played a shallow center, turned, put his head down and charged back to where his instincts told him the ball might land.

As the ball sailed over his head, Edmonds threw his body in the air and blindly reached out his gloved hand as far as he could and, as Angels television broadcaster Steve Physioc called it …

"A long run for Jim Edmonds … OH, HE MADE A CATCH! UNBELIEVABLE!"

Edmonds wound up on the edge of the warning track, rolling onto his back with his legs in the air, left hand reaching up to display the ball.

"I looked up and saw it come over the bill of my cap and thought I might as well lay out for this one, the game's on the line here," said Edmonds, who doubled home the go-ahead run in the ensuing inning. "I heard (Tim) Salmon screaming and I saw Luis (Alicea) throw his glove up in the air and (Gary) DiSarcina had a blank look on his face.

"I'm thinking, 'Man, I got the ball in my hand. Is there something else I've got to do?' I had to sit there for a second and think about it."

What everybody else thought about it was they'd never seen anything like it.

"That was one of the greatest plays ever," veteran umpire Dave Phillips told the Kansas City Star. "That made Willie Mays' play look routine."

"It's one of the greatest catches I've ever seen, and 95 percent of the guys in here will tell you that," Howard said. "People don't just dive on their face with their back to the infield as they're heading into the wall."

"The angle of the ball directly over his head, diving away from home plate … tells you what a great player this guy is," Angels manager Terry Collins said. "He's a brilliant outfielder."

The play helped Edmonds net the first of two Gold Glove Awards he'd win for the Angels. He won six more playing for the St. Louis Cardinals.

USA Today in 2002 ranked the catch as the third-most amazing play of all-time, behind Mays' 1954 World Series grab and Ozzie Smith's barehanded magic in 1978.

#17 - Sept. 27, 1973: Ryan strikes out 383 to pass Koufax

By Geoff Bilau, Senior Editor

Heading into his final start of the 1973 season, Nolan Ryan had already accomplished more than most pitchers these days can claim in two or three seasons.

38 starts. 25 complete games. Four shutouts. 20 victories. 22 games with 10 or more strikeouts. Heck, he even recorded a save, pitching the final two innings a day after the shortest start of his career (0.1 inning) to secure an Angels 6-5 victory on May 12.

And, oh yeah, he also tossed two no-hitters, on May 15 and July 15.

With all of that already under his belt, it seems almost absurd that Ryan saved his best for last. You see, while he was ringing up all of those strikeouts, they were adding up to something potentially very special.

During his first five September starts (all complete game victories), Ryan struck out 53 batters, giving him 367 strikeouts for the year - 15 shy of Sandy Koufax's Major League record 382 in 1965.

Nursing a torn calf muscle, Ryan took the Anaheim Stadium mound in front of just 9,100 fans looking to make history one more time in 1973. When the Twins immediately jumped out to a 3-0 first inning lead, it didn't seem likely he'd stick around long enough to collect the requisite strikeouts - though he did fan the side in the inning.

The Angels answered with three in the bottom of the first and Ryan had new life. Through five innings, he had 11 strikeouts and the Angels led, 4-3. In the sixth, the Twins pushed across the tying run, which would prove fortuitous for Ryan later in the night.

In the seventh, he again struck out the side, giving him 14 strikeouts, one shy of tying Koufax. But he'd also walked six batters, allowed seven hits and was piling up a lot of pitches on an aching leg. In the eighth, Ryan struck out Steve Brye to end the inning, tying Koufax with No. 382.

After nine innings, the game remained tied, 4-4, with Ryan stalled at 15 punchouts. And when he pitched a scoreless 10th, sandwiching a fly ball between two groundouts, fans wondered if he had enough left for one more inning.

With reliever Steve Barber warming in the bullpen, the Angels went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning. Announcer Dick Enberg made the call.

"The crowd is standing in anticipation, watching the bullpen gate," Enberg said, pausing in his own anticipation. "And here he comes!"

Ryan jumped ahead of Brye, 1-2, but the center fielder grounded out to short. Ryan's body language couldn't disguise his fatigue or his frustration.

"Ryan now is like the heavyweight fighter with a knockout punch that has gone so many rounds that he has his opponent staggering and staggering but doesn't have enough left to deliver that one blow that will knock him to the canvas and put him away," Enberg said. "He's getting the two strikes on hitters, but can't get the third."

Next up was Rod Carew, who struck out only 55 times in 1973, though three of them came earlier in this game. Carew drew a walk, Ryan's seventh of the game, bringing manager Bobby Winkles to the mound. The crowd bristled, but Enberg was unfazed.

"He is going to let Nolan Ryan pitch as long as he wants," Enberg said.

During Tony Oliva's at-bat, Carew broke for second, drawing a throw - and a gasp from the crowd, which did not him to be thrown out, thus robbing Ryan of an opportunity for the 16th strikeout. Carew was safe. Oliva, however, flew out to center field, bringing up light hitting Rich Reese, who'd pinch run for Harmon Killebrew in the ninth.

"You can feel through the crowd a vibration saying, 'Maybe this is the guy,' " Enberg said.

Reese swung and missed at Ryan's first two pitches, another two-strike opportunity for the right-hander. On Ryan's 0-2 pitch…

"Swung on and missed! Nolan Ryan is the Major League strikeout king of all time! He walks off the mound, his teammates come over to greet him one by one, the fans stand cheering.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have seen one of the finest young men to ever wear a baseball uniform record one of the most incredible records in Major League history. Three hundred and eighty-three for Nolan Ryan!

"Fans are shaking hands with each other as if they're all part of this great night, as if to say, 'Yes, we saw it. We saw it all.' "

With their ace now the strikeout king, the Angels rewarded Ryan with the victory when pinch hitter Richie Scheinblum doubled home Tommy McCraw with the game-winner in the bottom of the 11th.

Ryan finished 1973 with a 21-16 record, 2.87 ERA and finished second in Cy Young Award voting to Jim Palmer. But it was the last pitch he threw that season that remains his most memorable.

#16 - Sept. 30, 1984: Witt produces perfection

By Kurt Swanson - Contributor

On the final day of the 1984 season, the Angels found themselves playing out the string, division also-rans to the Kansas City Royals. They would wrap the season in Arlington, facing the last place Rangers in front of a small crowd of 8,375.

Angels starting pitcher Mike Witt came into the game with a record of 14-11 after going 7-14 the previous season. Even before this game, 1984 had been a breakout season for the lanky right-hander as he'd doubled his win total from each of the previous three seasons and already enjoyed a 16-strikeout performance against the Seattle Mariners on July 23.

Witt, who made his Angels debut at 20 in 1981, had a great curveball and fastball, and was able to change speeds effectively with both. From 1984-1987, Witt led the Angels in victories, starts, complete games, strikeouts and innings pitched. In his best season, 1986, Witt won 18 games with a 2.84 ERA, finishing third to Roger Clemens and Teddy Higuera in A.L. Cy Young voting.

Unlikely as it seemed at the time, his last start of 1984 would prove to be the gem of Witt's career.

Witt and Texas knuckleballer Charlie Hough were locked up in a scoreless pitcher's duel through six innings. Hough had allowed the Angels just three hits, but Witt was quite a bit better. He was perfect, retiring all 18 batters he faced.

In the seventh, the Angels broke the deadlock with an unearned run scored on Reggie Jackson's fielder's choice. Witt retired the Rangers again in order in the seventh and eighth and took the mound for the ninth having fanned nine batters. The sparse crowd at Arlington Stadium rose to its feet and cheered as Witt went to work.

A first pitch strike to Tom Dunbar put his nerves at ease.

"When I walked out there for the ninth," Witt said, "I was as nervous as I was in my first big league game. But once I threw that first strike, I got right back into it."

Two more pitches and Dunbar was quickly strikeout No. 10, but more importantly out No. 25. Pinch hitter Bobby Jones hit a routine grounder to Rob Wilfong at second for No. 26. And on a 1-1 pitch to pinch hitter Marv Foley, Witt got another easy grounder to Wilfong, who tossed it to Bobby Grich at first for the final out - and baseball immortality for Witt.

"It probably won't be until tomorrow and the next day, and every day this winter, that I'll be saying to myself, "Hey, I did that," Witt said after the game. "I mean, to get 27 straight batters out is unbelievable. For me to be able to say it is unbelievable."

Witt's perfecto is the only such game pitched on the final day of the regular season and only the second no-hitter with that distinction. (Four Oakland A's - Vida Blue, Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers - combined to no-hit the Angels on Sept. 28, 1975.)

The game took just one hour and 49 minutes to complete and Witt needed only 94 pitches to finish it, 70 of them strikes.

Witt was an All-Star in 1986 and 1987 and had the Angels within one strike of the World Series in 1986. He combined with Mark Langston on April 11, 1990, to throw the most recent no-hitter in Angels history, becoming the only pitcher to participate in a collective no-hitter while also throwing his own.

Witt ranks third all-time in Angels victories (109), fifth in games (314) and third in innings (1,965.1) and strikeouts (1,283).

#15 - Oct. 11, 2009: Vlad Finishes Some Business

By Geoff Bilau - Senior Editor

It was a moment almost exactly 23 years in the making and the principle players couldn't have been dreamed up any better:

Angels and Red Sox. Fenway Park and October. Vladimir Guerrero and Jonathan Papelbon.

So much history between the two teams, almost all of it favoring Boston. Recently it was the ALDS sweeps in 2004 and 2007 and the gut-wrenching walk-off hits in those series and again in 2008. All of those, of course, were merely aftershocks to the debacle that was the 1986 ALCS, specifically Game 5 on Oct. 12, 1986.

Anybody with more than a passing interest in Angels baseball understands that what happened in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS wasn't just a clutch hit off a dominant closer. It was the hit many fans had wanted to see for more than two decades — dare I say it was the hit they needed to see.

Though the Angels had already jumped out to a commanding 2-0 series lead on the strength of dominant pitching performances by John Lackey and Jered Weaver in Games 1 and 2 in Anaheim, no Angels fan took a series victory for granted. How could they after all that had happened in the past?

And when the Red Sox, back home in their comfy bandbox, roughed up Scott Kazmir and took a 5-2 lead into the eighth inning of Game 3, Angels fans were already fast forwarding to Game 5 and Josh Beckett.

Red Sox reliever Billy Wagner, however, allowed the Angels to mount a threat in the eighth, forcing Boston manager Terry Francona to summon Papelbon for a four-out save. In 26 postseason innings, the Red Sox closer had not allowed a single run. But with runners on second and third, Juan Rivera drove Papelbon's first pitch to right field, drawing the Angels to within one, 5-4.

All hope seemed to die moments later, however, when pinch runner Reggie Willits was picked off first base to end the inning and the Red Sox added an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning.

Papelbon made quick work of Maicer Izturis and pinch hitter Gary Matthews Jr. to start the ninth and Game 4 seemed assured. But Erick Aybar, 2008 ALDS goat, lined an 0-2 Papelbon offering into center field to keep the Angels alive. Chone Figgins, in the midst of a horrible series (0-12) worked a seven-pitch walk.

When Bobby Abreu slapped a 1-2 pitch over left fielder Jason Bay's head, the Fenway crowd grew so quiet the sound of the ball slamming into the Green Monster echoed throughout the stadium. Aybar scored, the Angels trailed, 6-5, and Game 1 hero Torii Hunter was due up.

Francona elected to walk Hunter and load the bases for Guerrero. The face of the Angels franchise for much of the most successful period in team history was no longer the same "Super Vlad," injuries and age sapping much of his power and presence. A likely free agent at season's end, there was every indication this might be Guerrero's last hurrah with the Angels.

To nobody's surprise, Guerrero swung at Papelbon's first pitch, a knee-high 95 mph fastball, and served into into center field, where it dropped in front of a fast-charging Jacoby Ellsbury. Figgins and Abreu scored, giving the Angels a 7-6 lead, and Guerrero stood safe at first base with the biggest hit of his postseason career.

Papelbon walked off the Fenway Park mound to a chorus of boos.

A few minutes later, Brian Fuentes retired Boston in order in the bottom of the ninth and the Angels completed an unbelievable series sweep of the Red Sox.

Though they would succumb to the eventual World Champion Yankees, 4-2, in the ALCS (though not before providing two more memorable victories), there was undoubtedly a sense that the Angels had indeed completed some "unfinished business," thanks in huge part to the ninth inning heroics the man who may one day become the first player enshrined in the Hall of Fame as an Angel.

#14 - Oct. 2, 2004: Angels rally for A.L. West crown

By Geoff Bilau - Senior Editor

It would come down to this: the best two out of three takes the division.

The Angels, 2002 World Champions and 2003 underachievers, along with their new owner and an unprecedented number of fans, would converge on Oakland in a tie with the A's atop the division and three games to play. No tie-breakers, no one-game playoffs; just the simple math. Win twice or go home.

Despite their World Series title two seasons earlier, the Angels still had some unfinished business, having not won an American League West championship in 18 years. (The 2002 team entered the postseason as a wild card.) Arte Moreno, who acquired the team 17 months earlier, promised a winner, spent $145 million buying players to help build one and appeared on the verge of delivering the goods.

But the games were going to be played in Oakland and the Angels would have to go through the A's "Big Three" starting pitchers - Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson - to get there.

The series' Friday night opener turned out to be a laugher, with the Angels roughing up Mulder with four in the second and little Alfredo Amezaga delivering the knockout punch to Joe Blanton with a grand slam in the sixth. The Angels rode seven shutout innings from Bartolo Colon to an eventual 10-0 victory, and were now in the driver's seat needing only to win one of the following two games.

Hours before the first pitch of Saturday's matinee, Moreno proudly sifted about the lower sections of McAfee Coliseum, wearing a big smile and happily chatting up any Angels fan who approached him - and there were a lot of them. An Angels victory would represent a coronation of sorts for the man who talked a big game and seemed poised to back up his lofty aspirations with results.

With the stadium filled with more red than the blood typically spilled at a Raiders game, Zito and Kelvim Escobar locked horns in a tightly contested duel. Escobar would be the first to blink, giving up one-out singles to Mark Kotsay and Eric Byrnes ahead of Eric Chavez's double to score both of them and give Oakland a 2-0 lead.

Zito, meanwhile, was dealing. Through five innings, the Angels had managed only a hit and walk off the 2002 Cy Young Award winner. In the sixth, however, the Angels' would-be MVP evened the score. With two outs and Chone Figgins at first, Vlad Guerrero took the first pitch from Zito and crushed it over the tall fence in center field, bringing a subdued Angels fan contingent back to life.

But the A's answered quickly in the bottom half of the inning. Catcher Damian Miller doubled home Jermaine Dye with the go-ahead run, sending Escobar to the showers. Brendan Donnelly struck out Bobby Crosby for the second out, but frequent thorn in the Angels' side, Marco Scutaro, singled to score Miller and give the A's a 4-2 lead. And when Zito retired the Angels in order in the top of the seventh, it looked like the series would become a winner-takes-all affair on Sunday.

Donnelly did his part, getting the A's 1-2-3 in the seventh. Zito, who'd allowed just three hits in seven innings, however, told manager Ken Macha his legs felt tight and suggested he go to the bullpen. The Angels, apparently sensing a reprieve, wasted no time in making that decision a bad one.

With Jim Mecir now pitching, Bengie Molina led off with a groundball single to left and Josh Paul pinch ran. Curtis Pride, pinch hitting for Amezaga, struck out looking, but Figgins singled to center, moving Paul to second. Macha summoned lefty Ricardo Rincon to face Darin Erstad.

Rincon would warm up for several minutes in order to deliver one actual pitch - a fat one right in Erstad's wheelhouse that he drove deep into right field about a foot from the top of the wall for a double to drive in Paul and Figgins and again tie the score. Rincon would issue an intentional walk to Guerrero before being relieved by A's closer Octavio Dotel.

"I asked (pitching coach) Curt (Young) if he was confident in the bullpen right now and he said yes," Zito said. "In retrospect, it was the wrong call. But my legs were tightening up for the last couple of innings. I have to trust myself. I'm going to pitch as long as I can."

After Troy Glaus flew out to right for the second out, Garret Anderson rolled Dotel's 1-1 offering through the infield, just out of the reach of a diving Scutaro, and Erstad slid across home plate ahead of the throw from Dye to give the Angels their first lead of the game, 5-4. Erstad was greeted by the entire Angels roster outside the dugout as Angels fans reached a fever pitch.

"I knew our guys weren't going to melt," manager Mike Scioscia. "We have a lot of very, very talented players."

Francisco Rodriguez pitched a scoreless eighth and Troy Percival came on in the ninth to close it, inducing three straight fly balls to Jeff DaVanon in left field, the last giving the Angels their first division title since 1986.

"What we did to be at this point, nobody expected it," Figgins said. "It's motivation. We were down four or five games, but we still had to play in our division. When you still have to play in your division and it's coming down to the home stretch, you get a little more energy."

Angels fans who made the trip north lingered long after the game, congregating behind the visitor's dugout and celebrating while the players, coaches and Moreno showered each other in champagne in the clubhouse. The Angels were once again the kings of the West and Moreno was bestowed a crown of beer and champagne for helping them get there.

#13 - Oct. 26, 2002: All the way back

By Brent Hubbard - Contributor

Angels fans everywhere in despair. After the 16-4 pounding the Halos took in Game 5 of the 2002 fall classic, the series shifted back to Anaheim for the possible final game of the season.

But the team that had made a habit of coming back late all season long had yet another one up their collective sleeves. And while a home run by a certain red-bearded first baseman figures largely in this particular game, it would have all been for naught without more heroics in the eighth inning. (We'll get to the aforementioned home run soon enough.)

The top half seemed to be played in a haze. Emotions high. Thunderstix booming. Hope restored. Fans again allowing themselves to believe.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought in rookie Brendon Donnelly to replace uber-rookie Francisco Rodriguez. Donnelly promptly walked leadoff hitter Benito Santiago after putting him in a 1-2 hole. When J.T. Snow drove the first pitch he saw to center, for a second, for one brief moment, memories of Game 5 came flooding back. But Darin Erstad settled under the routine fly ball and there was one out.

Five more to go.

Donnelly next faced Reggie Sanders, firing in a first pitch fastball that Saunders couldn't lay off for strike one. A foul ball made it 0-2. Next pitch: strike three, swinging.

Four more to go.

Next up, David Bell. Two quick foul balls signaled that Bell was dialed in. Two pitches out of the zone evened the count and Donnelly stared Bell down, sweat dripping from his cap. Strike three, swinging.

Three outs remained. Time for the Angels new mascot, the Rally Monkey, to go back to work.

Erstad would lead off the eighth for the Halos. Tim Worrell, who'd made quick work of David Eckstein to end the seventh, remained on the mound.

First pitch: Ball one. Second pitch: Erstad out in front, foul. Next pitch: Crack! Over the right field wall on a frozen rope. 45,000 fans at once erupted. 5-4, Giants.

Tim Salmon, Mr. Angel, came to the plate. On a 1-0 pitch, he lined it into center field and the tying run was 270 feet from home. Rally time.

Chone Figgins came in to pinch run for Salmon. Everybody in the stadium knew he was going - but on which pitch?

As it turned out, he wouldn't get the chance. After smoking a foul ball into the stands, Garret Anderson blooped a Worrell pitch down the left field line. With Figgins tearing around second base and heading for third, Barry Bonds in left juggled the ball twice, allowing Anderson to hustle into the second.

Giants manager Dusty Baker motioned to the bullpen for closer Robb Nen for what would turn out to be the three-time All-Star's final appearance. He'd face third baseman Troy Glaus.

Nen's first three pitches were nowhere near the strike zone, though Glaus helped him out by swinging at and missing the second one. On a 2-1 count, Glaus hammered a poorly placed offering toward the left center field gap. Bonds, galloping back to the warning track, stretched his glove over his head in a vain attempt to catch the ball, but he'd have needed another 10 feet of reach to snare it.

Figgins and Anderson scored, and the Angels led, 6-5, Glaus pumping his fist as he retreated to second with the double. The Angels saved their best comeback of the season for last.

Nen then retired the side without additional damage, but with Troy Percival warmed up and ready for the ninth, the damage was already done. There would be a Game 7 and momentum was back with the Angels.

#12 - Oct. 5, 1979: "Yes We Can" one more time

By Geoff Bilau - Senior Editor

Yes they had. It took 19 mostly frustrating, often painful, at times utterly heartbreaking years, but the California Angels were finally playing in October.

Unfortunately, the Baltimore Orioles weren't the sentimental type and felt no guilt in dropping the Angels into an 0-2 ALCS deficit that to that point in MLB history had never been overcome. (The Angels would play an unfortunate role in changing this three years later.) Following 6-3 and 9-8 defeats in Baltimore (each in its own way gut wrenching), the Angels returned home to a down, but not out fan base, for which "Yes We Can" had become more than a chant. The sentiments were palpable, exemplified by the sheer audacity of the word "we."

Fan use of "we" when talking about their favorite sports team is an acceptable misnomer, but rarely means anything literal. For the 1979 Angels and their fans, at times it did indeed seem to be a group effort. This night would define the "we" of that season.

The Angels got a gutsy five innings from Frank Tanana and four outstanding innings of relief from Don Aase, but reached the bottom of the ninth inning, three outs from elimination, trailing Dennis Martinez, 3-2.

Don Baylor, whose solo home run in the fourth briefly gave the Angels a 2-1 lead, flew out to left field for the first out. But Rod Carew drove a ball into the left center field gap for a double. The crowd of 43,199, again picked up the refrain: "Yes we can! Yes we can!"

Orioles manager Earl Weaver summoned reliever Don Stanhouse, despite the fact he'd thrown 33 pitches and nearly lost the game the day before in Baltimore. Brian Downing worked an eight-pitch walk and Angels fans raised the decibel level another notch, prompting broadcaster Dick Enberg to observe that he'd never heard Anaheim Stadium any louder.

Bobby Grich lined a Stanhouse offering that center fielder Al Bumbry broke in on late and mishandled, allowing it to drop to the grass. Carew hustled around third and beat Bumbry's throw home to tie the score, Downing advancing to second. Bumbry would later admit the crowd noise prevented him from hearing the crack of the bat, contributing to his miscue.

"Yes we can! Yes we can!"

Then, on the second pitch he saw from Stanhouse, outfielder Larry Harlow slapped a line drive to Bumbry's left and Downing charged home with the winning run, making a wide turn at the backstop and continuing right into the dugout to celebrate with his teammates. The Angels staved off elimination, winning their first ever playoff game, 4-3.

Angels fans lingered in the afterglow long after the game and continued to chant "Yes we can!" as they exited the stadium.

It hardly mattered that 20 hours later it was all over, Scott McGregor pitching a six-hit shutout to send the Orioles to the World Series. For the Angels and, more importantly their long-suffering fans, that one victory might as well have been the whole World Series. For one more incredible night, yes, they did.

#11 - Aug. 12, 1974: Ryan fans 19

By Victor Varadi - Contributor

Nolan Ryan started his career with the Mets and was mostly a relief pitcher and spot starter, never quite able to crack the Mets' outstanding rotation for good during his four seasons in Queens. Ryan was a young flame-thrower, but he had control issues and it appeared that he would languish in the Mets bullpen despite flashes of brilliance in the 1969 postseason.

At the conclusion of the 1971 season, Ryan, who never felt comfortable in New York, expressed a desire to be traded. The Mets needed a third baseman and felt Angels veteran shortstop Jim Fregosi could make the switch. They offered Ryan, along with catcher Frank Estrada, pitcher Don Rose and outfielder Leroy Stanton. The Angels wisely accepted. Some would argue it was the best trade the Angels franchise ever made.

By the time the 1974 campaign rolled around, Ryan was on his way to becoming one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history. The season prior, Ryan threw two no-hitters, fanning 12 and 17, respectively. And while critics point to his paltry winning percentage as a reason why he should not be cast in the same breath as Sandy Koufax and his ilk, Ryan was dominating hitters while mired on bad teams.

On June 14, 1974, Ryan fanned 19 Red Sox in 13 innings (also walking 10 and earning no decision for his effort.) On Aug. 20, he did it again, striking out 19 Tigers, this time through 11 innings of a four-hitter he'd go on to lose, 1-0.

But it was two starts prior to that one that Ryan produced one of the most dominating performances, not only of his career, but in American League history.

On Aug. 12, five weeks before he would stifle the Minnesota Twins for his third no-hitter, Ryan struck out 19 Red Sox in a nine-inning game (walking only two), breaking an American League record held for 36 years by Bob Feller, who fanned 18 Detroit Tigers on Oct. 2, 1938. And this time, the Angels would actually make Ryan a 4-2 winner.

Ryan would strike out the side three times and fanned five of the final six batters he faced, a fly ball to right field by Rick Burleson to end the game preventing Ryan from breaking the Major League record he then shared with former Mets teammate Tom Seaver (April 22, 1970, vs. San Diego) and lefty Steve Carlton (Sept. 15, 1969, vs. New York).

Three players have since struck out 20 batters in a nine-inning game*: Seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens (twice), Kerry Wood and five-time Cy Young winner Randy Johnson.

(* Johnson's 20 strikeouts came in the first nine innings of a game that would eventually be won by the Diamondbacks in 11. MLB has recognized Johnson's effort as equaling the record.)

Despite his numerous feats of dominance, Ryan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999 having never been awarded a Cy Young. But then maybe some day baseball will recognize Ryan by naming a strikeout award after him.

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