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OC Register: Memorable Opening Days from Angels seasons past

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The Angels were supposed to be opening the 2020 season on Thursday in Houston against the Astros, with a powerful offense led by three-time MVP Mike Trout and newcomer Anthony Rendon.

Like any Opening Day, the optimism would have been high around the Angels, even though some figured they may not have enough pitching.

Unfortunately for the Angels and their fans, the question of pitching now seems trivial compared with what the baseball world – the world, actually – faces. The coronavirus crisis has shut down much of the country, including the national pastime.

With no baseball Thursday, and no guarantee the season will start at all in 2020, we are taking a look back at some of the most memorable Angels openers in their first 59 seasons.

April 27, 1961

Of course, you have to start at the beginning.

Three years after the Dodgers brought Major League Baseball to Southern California, the region saw the debut of an American League expansion team, the Angels.

They opened their inaugural season on the road in Baltimore. On April 11, Eli Grba took the mound for the Angels against an Orioles team that was building its way toward being a dynasty later in the decade.

Ted Kluszewski, a former home run champ who was starting what would be the final season of his career, belted homers in each of the first two innings, helping the Angels to a 7-0 lead.

Grba pitched a complete game, allowing six hits, and the Angels would roll to a 7-2 victory.  Unfortunately for the Angels, they lost the next eight games, including their home debut.

Former Angel owner Jackie Autry, Angel right fielder Tim Salmon and Dr. Tom Amberry, 42 year Angel season ticket holder, raise the official World Championship flag before the start of the home opener in 2003.

March 30, 2003

Never mind that the Angels lost 6-3 to the Texas Rangers in a nationally televised Sunday night opener.

Most of the 43,525 fans who filled Angel Stadium that night likely were satisfied with the evening before the first pitch, because the Angels celebrated their World Series title from 2002.

It took the franchise 18 years to even make the playoffs, and another 13 years to win a postseason series, so the fans were starved for a title.

They unfurled the championship banner in a pregame ceremony. The crowd chanted “USA, USA, USA,” as baseball fandom mingled with national pride amid the Gulf War.

But once the game began, it didn’t go the Angels’ way. John Lackey, who had won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, started the 2003 season on the same mound and was charged with five runs in five innings.

April 6, 1999

In the first inning of the season, the Angels’ new $80 million man, Mo Vaughn, fell into the first-base dugout chasing a foul ball and twisted his ankle. Vaughn would miss the next two weeks.

It was the fitting start to what would be one of the more tumultuous seasons in the franchise’s history.

By the time the season was over, the Angels would have a player mutiny that led to the resignation of manager Terry Collins. They finished 70-92, a season that still stands as their worst since 1980.

However, despite that ominous start to the opener on April 6, the Angels actually won a thrilling 6-5 game over the Cleveland Indians.

The Angels scored twice in the seventh to tie the game and once in the eighth to take the lead, overcoming a rare out when Tim Salmon was hit by a batted ball running the bases. Troy Glaus then doubled home the go-ahead run.

Troy Percival finished it off with a perfect ninth, retiring Roberto Alomar, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. Alomar and Thome are in the Hall of Fame, and the steroid-tainted Ramirez has Hall of Fame numbers.

Los Angeles Angels’ Chris Iannetta drives in two runs with a single off Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher J.J. Hoover in the 13th inning of an opening day baseball game, Monday, April 1, 2013, in Cincinnati. Los Angeles won 3-1. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

April 9, 2013

Mike Trout was unanimously selected as the Rookie of the Year in 2012, but he wasn’t on the roster on opening day, so the April 1 opener marked Trout’s first appearance on a big-league roster to start the season.

It was also Josh Hamilton’s debut in an Angels uniform. In retrospect, Hamilton’s tenure with the Angels came up far short of expectations, but back when the 2013 season began, there were high hopes for a team that could put Trout, Hamilton and Albert Pujols in the middle of the lineup.

The game was also historic because the Angels were visiting the Cincinnati Reds in the first interleague game on Opening Day. The Houston Astros had been moved from the National League to the American League that season, leaving 15 teams in each league and requiring at least one interleague game each day.

Jered Weaver got the start for the Angels, the fifth of his his seven Opening Day starts. Weaver gave up one run in six innings, long gone by the time the Angels pulled out a 3-1 win in 13 innings, equaling the Angels’ longest opener.

Chris Iannetta drove in all three Angels runs, with a homer in the third and a two-run single in the 13th.

Anaheim Stadium, known as “Big A,” is seen at full capacity on the first day of its opening as the California Angels host the San Francisco Giants in an exhibition game on April 9, 1966. The 230-foot-high letter “A,” with a halo at its top, in left field serves as a scoreboard support. (AP Photo)

April 1, 1998

Angel Stadium had been through a few different looks since the club began playing at its current site in 1966, but in 1998 it opened to what is essentially its current design. The renovation had taken more than a year.

Edison Field, as it was known at the time, played host to the New York Yankees for the April 1 opener.

The weather put something of a damper on the festivities, though. Rain throughout the day forced the Angels to bring in two helicopters to hover over the field to try to dry it out more quickly.

The game began nearly an hour late because of the weather, but the Angels then came out and beat the powerful Yankees 4-1. Chuck Finley gave up one run in seven innings, and the Angels scored all their runs in the fourth. They beat the Yankees 10-2 the next night, hanging two losses on a team that would go on to win 114 regular-season games and the World Series.

The plaque outside Angel Stadium from 1998 commemorating when Anaheim Stadium was rededicated as Edison International Field of Anaheim and the Angels were called The Anaheim Angels.///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: AngelsName Ð 12/31/14 Ð LEONARD ORTIZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER – _LOR5927.NEF – his story is about the 10th anniversary of the Angels name change from Anaheim Angels to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Please take photos at the Angels team store at the stadium. The vast majority of merchandise states Angels only. There’s one T-shirt and hat that has a retro LA on it from the days when team was actually in LA. You’ll see a row of T-shirts/hats in the middle with a bunch of retro logo items.On the outside of the stadium near the store, there are some plaques with city of Anaheim and Anaheim Angels reference.Around the stadium, there are signs that state Angel Stadium of Anaheim — on the outside of the stadium at main entrance and on the big A.

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