If Hollywood hired a writer to write the perfect script for a baseball movie, it couldn’t have done better than what actually happened at Angel Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019.
To set the stage, the Angels were struggling all season long through July 1st, barely holding onto a .500 record. While on the road in Texas, the Angels awoke to the tragic news that their friend, their teammate, their pitcher, Tyler Skaggs had died of an accidental drug overdose in his hotel room.
The Angels and Rangers cancelled their game that night, while the team dealt with its grief. The whole team was visibly shaken. Mike Trout tweeted out ““Words cannot express the deep sadness we feel right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with Carli and their families. Remembering him as a great teammate, friend, and person who will forever remain in our hearts… we love you, 45.”
Overnight, a memorial, built by fans with flowers, hats, letters, pictures, and posters appeared on the pitching mound in front of Angels Stadium. Everyday, the memorial grew while the Angels finished up their road trip leading up to the All-Star Break. At the All-Star Game, both Mike Trout and Tommy La Stella wore #45 jerseys to honor their teammate.
On Friday, July 12th, the Angels opened a homestand with the Mariners. They honored Tyler by having his mother, Debbie throw out the opening pitch. Standing beside her stood Carli, Tyler’s wife, his brother Garret, and stepfather Dan. A visibly emotional Andrew Heaney and Mike Trout carried out a framed Skaggs #45 jersey while every Angels player wore a #45 Skaggs jersey to honor their friend.
With the ceremonial 1st pitch, Debbie threw a perfect strike to Andrew Heaney to open the game. Afterwards, she wrote Tyler’s initials on the mound. And then, it was if a guardian angel came down to make this a truly memorial game.
Taylor Cole opened the game with a 1-2-3 inning. And then, in the bottom of the first, the Angels offense exploded. They scored 7 runs on 7 hits in the first. Mike Trout drove in 4; two on a homerun and 2 more on a double. The blast travelled 454 feet which was Skaggs’ number forwards and backwards.
After Cole pitched two hitless innings, Felix Peña came on in the third and pitched the rest of the way. The combination of these two, was hardly the predictable duo to pitch what happened that night. Cole, had bounced up and down from AAA all season, and Peña rarely had the stamina or control to pitch deep into games.
Throughout the emotional crowd, no one wanted to say anything about the magic that was happening before them. In the 6th inning, rookie Matt Thaiss made a spectacular play at 3B, a position he was learning at the Major League level, to record the out.
In the 9th, with the crowd on its feet, the Angels made two more spectacular plays to save the no-hitter. The first, against Dee Gordon, was a little nubber that Gordon nearly beat out at first. The second was a smash hit to Luis Rengifo at 2B that for a moment seemed to get away from him, but he recovered to record the out.
After the game, the emotions just poured out on the field. The team came together around the mound and one by one took their jerseys off laid them down on the mound, with Skaggs’ name and #45 pointed up to the sky.
The symbolism was not lost on the Angels. They knew that they had a guardian angel looking out for them that night, and it showed in many ways. The Angels scored 7 runs in the first, and 13 runs total. Tyler Skaggs was born on 7/13. The combined no hitter was the first combined no hitter in California since 7/13/91—the day that Tyler was born. The Angels collected 13 hits that night. The next day, July 13th, Tyler would have turned 28. The no-hitter that night was the Angels’ 11th no-hitter in franchise history. In high school, Skaggs wore #11.
The Angels sent jerseys and balls from the no-hitter to the Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown. Someday they will be on display, and fans can see and learn of the magic of this game.
Dee Gordon, the Mariners player best summed up this game when he said “If you don’t believe in God, you might want to start.” If you were there that night, you know he was right.
You can watch highlights of this game below.
--Check out the full Top-50 Greatest Moments in Angels Baseball feature below--