The 1980-81 offseason was a staggering reconstruction of the California Angels. They traded Carney Lansford, Rick Miller and Mark Clear to the Red Sox in December. A month later they sent Boston Frank Tanana, Jim Dorsey and Joe Rudi in exchange for Fred Lynn and Steve Renko. A week before the season started they traded Jason Thompson to the Pirates for Ed Ott and Mickey Mahler and sent Dickie Thon to the Astros for Ken Forsch. Only Lynn and Forsch would make a positive impact on the franchise.
They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn. Despite the mentally retarded trades listed above, General Manager Buzzie Bavasi oversaw the firing of manager Jim Fregosi after 47 games. The prolonged baseball strike and the burgeoning Fernandomania at Dodger Stadium made 1981 a downright gloomy season for the Angels. But three of the next six seasons would see Angel teams win at least 90 games.
Buzzie Bavasi's offseason handiwork quickly went on display on Thursday, April 9 as the Angels opened the 1981 season in the Kingdome in Seattle. Rick Burleson grounded out in the top of the 1st. Fred Lynn followed with a base hit. He would score the first run of the season when Brian Downing hit a 2-out grand slam three batters later. Tom Brunansky followed Downing, reaching on error and stealing a base in his major league debut. Offseason free agent signing Geoff Zahn made the most of this cushion and threw 7 innings for the Win. 3B Butch Hobson was 0 for 3 in the game. The other notable event in this contest was the major league debut of Mariner Dave Henderson - too bad he didn't get that 1986 homerun out of his system 5 and a half years earlier and transferred his debut 0-4 to when it would have mattered most for us...
374. Jesse Jefferson
375. Luis Sanchez
376. John D'Acquisto
377. Mike Witt
378. Ed Ott
Free Agent acquisitions dominated the 2nd game of the season an April 10 as Jesse Jefferson started and did not see the end of the 2nd inning, handing the ball to Luis Sanchez, making his major league debut and holding the Mariners to 1 unearned run in 4 and a third innings. Free Agent veteran John D'Acquisto was a gas can out of the pen and gave up 5 runs in 2 innings pitched. Rookie Mike Witt made his major league debut starting Game 3 of the season on April 11. He surrendered 3 runs in 4 and a third innings of an eventual Angel victory. Catcher Ed Ott was a late-inning replacement behind the plate in the same game.
Newly-acquired pitcher Ken Forsch had a lousy Angel debut on April 12, going 6 and 2/3 innings to start and giving up 5 earned runs, he was saved by a 4-run 9th inning that featured Rod Carew stealing home for the go-ahead. In the home opener on April 13, free agent Bill Travers got the start and did well, giving up an earned run in 4 and 1/3 innings. Travers was the 4th out of the first 5 starting pitchers in 1981 who were debuting with their Halo for the Anaheim faithful. Juan Beniquez came in late to replace Butch Hobson and popped up late in the game in his only at-bat. On April 14, Steve Renko struck out the only batter he faced to finish the top of the 9th inning in a 5-2 loss. His appearance in Game 6 of the 1981 season made him the 15th Angel to debut so far.
384. Doug Rau
385. Angel Moreno
Former Dodger Doug Rau signed as a free agent with the Angels in late April and made his debut as the starting pitcher on May 16. He appeared in 3 games and retired in September. Play resumed after the players' strike and the first player to debut on the Angels with Gene Mauch as his manager was the name worthy of an oracle: Angel Moreno. In his major league debut on April 15, Moreno walked the only batter he faced.
386. Mickey Mahler
387. Bob Davis
388. Joe Ferguson
389. Daryl Sconiers
390. Steve Lubratich
September Call Ups
The Angels played out the string in September with little enthusiasm, going 11-20 counting 3 games in October. On September 5, Mickey Mahler pitched the final out of the bottom of the 8th in Cleveland, striking out Jorge Orta. On September 9, Catcher Bob Davis was behind the plate to start the game, going 0 for 2, while in the same game, former dodger catcher Joe Ferguson started the game in Right Field, doubling in 2 at-bats. On September 13, the star-crossed Daryl Sconiers made his major league debut as a defensive replacement at 1B for Rod Carew in the top of the 12th inning at home. On September 27, Sconiers hit his first major league HR in the same game that Steve Lubratich made the final Angel debut of a busy 1981, pinch running in the bottom of the 9th but left stranded in a loss.