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Q & A with 2015 Los Angeles Angels Hall of Fame Inductee Dean Chance by Rob Goldman


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Goldman: What are your feelings about going into the Angels Hall of Fame this weekend?
 
Chance: I feel great about it. I’ll be there with Eli Grba, Bobby Knoop, equipment man Bob Case, batboy Scotty Keene, and a few more who were there in the old days reliving all the memories of the Angels and the early 60’s. 
 
Goldman: What are some of your favorite memories of those years?
 
Chance:  I would say 1962 when we finished third. It’s a lot more fun playing when you win and Bill Rigney (manager) did a tremendous job. We thought we were going to win the pennant and almost did. The Yankees came in and we’d fill Dodger Stadium every game. I can’t tell how exciting those days were.
 
Goldman: Will there be some people you’re going to miss when you come to LA this week?
 
Chance: I’ll be thinking of Jim Fregosi. What a tremendous year he and Bobby Knoop had in 1964. That was Bobby’s first year. Jim came up in June 1962. One game I recall. It was 1964. We were playing against the Twins and I was going for my 20th win. They had runners on first and third with one out and Jimmie Hall hit a line drive up the middle. I don’t know how Knoop got to it. He slapped it back with his glove to Fregosi and we got a double play and the inning’s over. If he doesn’t get to the ball the game is tied and I don’t get my 20th win. It’s the defensive best play I’ve ever seen.
 
Goldman: In a recent vote among fans, MLB named Nolan Ryan, Tim Salmon, Mike Trout, and Vlad Guerrero as the four greatest Angels.  Do you think Jim Fregosi deserves to be on the list?
 
Chance: Ability wise, Nolan Ryan is the greatest Angel ever, and I would say Trout, the way he’s going is in the same boat. Guerrero and Salmon, they were both tremendous hitters. As far as Fregosi, he absolutely belongs on that list. He played 11 years for the Angels and later managed the club. He always gave 100 percent. He’ll go down in history as one of the top Angels
 
Goldman: How has baseball, in particular pitching, changed since you played?
 
Chance: Well they have relief pitchers now and they got it down to a science. Some guys are good for six innings, some seven. In our day, guys like Denny McLain had 28 complete games in one year. (1968) I mean look at Koufax and his innings pitched. His records are unbelievable.
 
The problem with our era, they burned everybody out real early. These pitchers today with the money spent on them, you can’t afford to burn them out. The way they’re doing it now they’ll be around a lot longer. 
 
Goldman: Do you think any modern pitcher will ever match your 1964 season?
 (20-9; 1.65 ERA; 207 K’s; 278 innings; 15 complete games; 11 shutouts; won the only Cy Young Award over Sandy Koufax.)
 
Chance: They won’t let pitchers get complete games anymore. They don’t want them to go that many innings. If they do get a complete game they have to do it with under a hundred pitches. The times have changed. If someone gets three complete games a year it’s a lot.
 
Goldman: Do you still have your Cy Young Award? 
 
Chance: The Cy Young is still setting on the wall. Bob Case (equipment man) wants to buy it and he’s the only guy I would ever sell it too. 
 
Goldman: What are your thoughts on the Gene Autry era compared to the Arte Moreno era?
 
Chance: It’s all completely different now. The TV money and the corporate sponsorships, everything has changed. When I played the minimum salary was $7.000 a year, now it’s $500.000 a year. That’s the minimum they can pay you.
 
Goldman: Do you wish you could have played now?
 
Chance: Well the money would have been great but now they take half of it in taxes. Both eras are great. Back in my days you could watch a Willie Mays, a Mickey Mantle, or a Brooks Robinson the whole game and you got your money’s worth. Now, you get the same feeling watching a guy like Mike Trout, or this Bryce Harper, or Miguel Cabrera. They generate the same kind of excitement.
 
Goldman: What pitchers impress you the most these days?
 
Goldman: Clayton Kershaw and Madison Baumgartner, they’re tremendous. And (Zach) Grenke’s having a great year.
 
Goldman: As you know, the Angels had a rough spell of late. What are the Angels missing this season?
 
Chance: Everything in baseball is momentum. You got cold streaks like their having during a season but they still have a lot of baseball to play. That extra inning game they lost the other day at KC (Aug. 16th) hurts because they had it won. 
 
If they don’t win the western division they won’t make it because other teams will beat them out percentage-wise for the two Wild Card spots. So they’ve got to win the division. 
 
Goldman: What do you think your thoughts will be when you are inducted on Saturday and you walk onto the Anaheim Stadium grass again?
 
Chance: I have no idea. I’m just playing it by ear. I’m going to see a lot of my friends. I have no idea what I’ll be thinking of.
 
Goldman: What’s your fondest memory of LA when you played for the Angels?
 
Chance: When we were playing the Yankees at Chavez Ravine and it’s totally sold out. It couldn’t get any bigger then that. 
 
Goldman: You played alongside many of baseball’s all time greats. What are your favorite memories of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays?
 
Chance: The only guy who could hit a ball farther then Mickey Mantle hitting left handed was Mickey Mantle hitting right handed. When he would take batting practice all the visiting players would go out to the dugout just to just watch him hit. The ball would go off his bat like a golf ball.
Mantle was a better hitter right handed. (Left-handed he was a dead low-ball hitter.) I think he hit the longest ball ever recorded, 565 feet. It was against a lefthander named Chuck Stobbs at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC.  
 
Goldman: How did you fare against Mantle?
 
Chance: In 1964, we were facing the Yankees and winning 2-0. It was the 8th inning nobody on base, 3-1 was the count. I’d rather give up a home run then walk a guy and Mantle got hold of a ball, a line drive that hit the top of the fence that went over. 
 
It was the only run the Yankees got off me the whole year. I faced them 5 times for 50 innings and allowed just 14 hits. 
 
Goldman: Who was tougher on you, Mantle or Roger Maris? 
 
Chance: I would say Mantle was a lot more dangerous then Roger. Maris never hit a home run off of me. Mantle came up in 1951 and I never faced him until 1962. From 1962 to 1967, he hit three home runs off me. He retired after 1968. 
 
Goldman: How about Willie Mays?
 
Chance: They could hit a ball to Mays and he could shut his eyes and his instincts would take him right to it. The first time I pitched to him was in the Polo Grounds in Palm Springs in 1962 and I was just a wild rookie then. We always got along. 
 
Goldman: How did Mays compare to Hank Aaron?
 
Chance: Well I think Willie was a better outfielder. I only pitched to Aaron a couple times, the All Star Game in 1967 and once in spring training. 
 
Goldman: Who was the toughest hitter you ever faced?
 
Chance: Tony Oliva and Carl Yazstremski. They were both left-handed hitters who could take me the opposite way. 
 
Goldman: Should Oliva be in the Baseball Hall of Fame?
 
Chance: Yes. He was unbelievable. If his knees hadn’t been hurt he would have been up there with the all time greats.
 
Goldman: You had the honor of throwing the first pitch in Anaheim Stadium in 1966. Do you have any special memories of that game?
 
Chance: It was an exhibition game with the Giants. Hal Lanier, the Giants second baseman led the game off and Emmett Ashford was the umpire. Lanier came over to me and said, “Dean, throw the first pitch for a strike and I’ll take it.” Well, luckily, it went over and Emmett, he was a real show off, lifted his arm and yelled, “Strike one!” So the first official pitch in Anaheim was a genuine strike.
 
Goldman: At Minnesota you had the honor of playing with another Angels Hall of Famer, Rod Carew.
 
Chance: He was tremendous. Rod came up with the Twins in ’67 as a rookie second baseman. I saw him steal second base once in 1969 when the pitcher was still in his stretch.
 
Going into the Hall of Fame with Fregosi, Knoop and Carew, is special because I knew them. But it’s great going into the Hall of Fame with all of ‘em.
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Another great interview by Rob. Loved the bit about the first strike. That's why talking to old timers is so great--their stories are so much better.

 

I took a vacation from the Angels and website this weekend so I missed this. 

 

Great interview, good read. 

 

Thanks for posting, David. Fantastic interview, Rob. 

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His words ring true how the pitchers back then were burned up quickly. If you took 6'3" Dean Chance and put him on todays club he wouldn't be required to pitch until the game was over or his arm fell off. Every pitching coach would be tracking his velocity and pulling him out at 100-115 pitches regardless of inning or score. Instead of looking at the end of his career at 30 he would be staring at Grienke money being thrown at him.

 

He is not the only guy of his era to see too many innings, too early and too often with four man rotations. Ryan thrived off it, Tanana blew his arm up doing it. There is a long history of short career phenoms that either threw junk balls like screwballs, knuckleballs and spitters or left the game before they reached 30. It wasn't until about four years after Chance retired that pitch counts and innings started to mean something to pitching coaches and the five man rotations started to appear.

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