Part 1: 1979
Part 2: 1982
In 1985 MLB expanded the first round playoff games from best of 5 to best of 7, a move that was long overdue. Unfortunately after 1993 they went right back to the first round being best of 5, because they effectively doubled the number of teams that made the playoffs. After coming in second in the AL West for two seasons in a row, the 1986 version of the Angels seemed poised to break out and enjoy post-season success. They improved their record by two games, winning the AL West by 5 games, which was a club record at the time (their current best is winning the West by 7 games in 2005, which will be broken this year obviously).
The ’86 Halos were the first team since 1979 not to have Rod Carew starting at first, the HOFer having retired at the end of the ’85 season. In his place was a 24-year-old rookie out of BYU who coined the phrase “Wally World” with a few monster shots out to left field. The venerable Bobby Grich at 2B joined Wally Joyner at 1B, though it would be his last season, Dick Schofield at SS and team veteran Doug DeCinces still at 3B. The starting outfield was Brian Downing still at LF, the speedster Gary Pettis who was in his prime and won a Gold Glove in CF, and an almost-retired Rupert Jones started in RF. Reggie Jackson typically was the DH as he was also in his penultimate season in the bigs, and last with the Halos. Perennial Gold Glover Bob Boone was still behind the plate. Pettis and Joyner were the Angels All-Stars in 1986, Joyner becoming the first rookie in 16 years to start in the All-Star game.
The starting rotation for manager Gene Mauch consisted of 41-year-old Don Sutton, and 25 year-olds Mike Witt and Kirk McCaskill. The trio was joined by John Candelaria, Ron Romanick, Joe Slaton and Ray Chadwick who all started games as well. Sutton, Witt, McCaskill and Candelaria all won 10+ games each, Witt leading the squad with an 18-10 record, with McCaskill right behind him at 17-10. In only 16 starts the Candy-man won 10 games and lost 2. The closer for the Halos was Donnie Moore, who led the team with 21 saves. Such luminaries as Chuck Finley, Doug Corbett and Terry Forster joined him in the bullpen.
After spending the first half of the season dueling with Texas for first place in the West, the Angels took over for good after the 92nd game in the season. With 9 games to go they held a 10 game lead over the Rangers and a 90-63 record. They would win only 2 of their remaining games, going into the post-season on a downturn that would ultimately be their undoing.
Game One showed a lot of promise however, with the Angels jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the second after two walks, a single, a double and another single. Turns out that is all they would need, cruising to an 8-1 victory. Mike Witt got the win over Roger Clemens in his first post-season appearance. Brian Downing had a stellar game at the plate going 2-5 with 4 RBI and Wally Joyner knocked two doubles to go 2-4.
Boston would come roaring back in Game Two with Bruce Hurst on the mound against Kirk McCaskill. The game was extremely close for the first 6 1/2 innings, but the Sox, who held a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the 7th blew the game wide open with 3 in the 7th and 3 in the 8th, winning 9-2. Wally Joyner was the lone bright spot for the Halos with a solo homer in the 5th.
Splitting the first two games at Fenway was a great outcome for the Halos. They rolled into Angel Stadium and won the next two games 5-3 in Game Three with HRs from Pettis and Schofield behind a gem pitched by John Candelaria (7 IP, 1 ER, 5 hits, 3 BB, 5 K) and mopped up by Donnie Moore who got the save. Oil Can Boyd took the loss for the Sox. After the game Wally Joyner would sit out the rest of the series with a staph infection, moving Grich from second to first, and Rob Wilfong getting more playing time. No doubt that had Joyner been healthy, the outcome of the series would have been drastically different. Joyner was the Halos rally-spark that season, and had become a fan favorite.
Game Four was a come-from-behind affair, the Angels winning finally 4-3, after trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the 9th. Clemens started the game, going 8 1/3rd innings. The Sox scored a single run in the 6th and two in the 8th, and were one inning away from tying the series at two games apiece, but Clemens gave up a leadoff solo shot to DeCinces in the bottom of the 9th, and was yanked after giving up back-to-back singles to Schofield and Boone. With runners on 1st and 2nd, and 1 out Pettis delivered a double off of reliever Calvin Schiraldi that scored Schofield and put Devon White (running for Boone) on 3rd. With the bases loaded and two outs, Schiraldi hit Downing with a pitch scoring the tying run.
In the extra frames, the Angels blanked the Sox; Doug Corbett got five straight groundouts and didn’t give up a hit or a walk. In the bottom of the 11th new Catcher Jerry Narron led the inning off with a single. Pettis moved him over to second on a bunt. Rupert Jones was intentionally walked and Bob Grich in his 6th AB of the game finally got a hit, scoring Narron. The Angels were one game away from their first world series ever, and the Red Sox were reeling.
The Angels took a 5-2 lead into the 8th inning in Game Five on homers by Boone (solo) and Grich (two runs) and RBIs by Wilfong and Downing. Starter Mike Witt would be pulled in the top of the 9th in favor of Gary Lucas after he gave up a 2 run HR to former Angel Don Baylor. With the Angels ahead by only 1 run, with two strikes, Donnie Moore gave up a two run shot to Dave Henderson giving the Sox a 6-5 lead. The game would end up going to the 11th after the Wilfong drove in Jones to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th. Unfortunately for Moore he couldn’t keep the Sox off the scoreboard, and they won in the 11th 7-6 off of a sac-fly by Henderson.
The two teams flew back to Boston, with the AL East Champions behind 3 games to 2. Boston dominated every aspect of Games Five and Six, winning them by a combined 13 runs. Game 6 ended 10-4 and Game 7 was over in the 2nd inning, ending 8-1. For all intents and purposes the series really ended with Game Five, as the Angels never really recovered, and neither did Donnie Moore, who had signed a huge 3-year contract extension (avoiding Free-Agency) after the end of the ’85 season where he became one of the league’s pre-eminent closers.
He’d spend the rest of his career with the Angels, being released after his contract expired in 1988. The post ’86 seasons weren’t kind for Moore; he blamed himself for the Halos not making the World Series, and spent a lot of time on the DL. After his release he tried to make one of Kansas City’s minor league squads, but was eventually cut. According to his obituary on July 19, 1989 he had an argument with his wife Tonya whom he was legally separated from. He shot her three times in their Anaheim home, and after she fled with two of their three children, he turned the gun on himself, ending his life at age 35, a tragic reminder of how seriously people take sports. Of course it’s impossible to tell, some almost 20 years later, how much that one pitch factored into the decision that Donnie Moore made to end his life. Reports are that substance abuse and depression over the end of his baseball career were just as much of a factor, as were continuing marital strife and allegations of spousal abuse. Accounts of the shooting also vary depending on the source.
The Red Sox would go on to play the Mets in the 1986 season; a team that many would say was a team of destiny. The Sox would have their own bad luck to overcome, and perhaps a greater goat in Billy Buckner who allowed a slow roller by Mookie Wilson to pass between his legs letting Ray Knight come in to score the winning run. The Sox had been one out away from winning their first World Series since 1918. They would have a long wait in between opportunities, even longer than the Halos. The Sox wouldn’t get another chance at a World Title until 2004, only two years removed from the Angels next chance at a World Title in 2002.
The intervening 16 seasons were a grab bag of middling success for the Halos. They would come in 2nd in the AL West three times during the 90’s, but their combined record between 1987 and 2001 was 81 games under .500 with 9 losing seasons out of 15 with nine different managers between Mauch and Mike Sciosia who took over the managerial duties in 2000.
Since 1986 the Angels and Red Sox have played twice in the Playoffs, the Sox sweeping the Halos 3-0 both times (2004 and 2007). If the Angels end 2008 with the best record in the league and the Red Sox make the post-season as the Wild Card, then they’ll play again this season, and the Halos have won 8 out of 9 against them this season. Both John Lackey and Joe Saunders have two wins against them, and one of those two should start two games in a five game series (probably Lackey).
Next time we’ll look at the Angels historic 2002 run to the title, a feat that we can only hope that they’ll be duplicating this season.
Post Season Starters (Games Started)
1B – Wally Joyner (3), George Hendrick (1), Bob Grich (3)
2B – Rob Wilfong (3), Bob Grich (3), Rick Burleson (1)
3B – Doug DeCinces (7)
SS – Dick Schofield (7)
LF – Brian Downing (7)
CF – Gary Pettis (7)
RF – Rupert Jones (5), George Hendrick (2)
DH – Reggie Jackson (6), Rick Burleson (1)
1. Mike Witt (2)
2. Kirk McCaskill (2)
3. John Candelaria (2)
4. Don Sutton