THEY CALL IT THE DONNIE MOORE GAME
You cannot tell the story of the Angels franchise without telling the story of October 12, 1986. The team was one strike away from going to the world series and did not win the game. That Sunday afternoon seemed to be the culmination of a decade of owner Gene Autry embracing free agency as a way to build a better ballclub. Two division titles had yielded to losses in the Championship Series and the 1985 club had finished one game out of first place at season's end. This loss marked the end of Autry's headline-grabbing free agent signings, of contending with marquee players. And this era did not end with a fizzle, it was a loud, thunderous ovation right up until the minute they killed us.
To replay the box score would be to minimize what really happened. The entire stadium was on its feet and ready to storm the field. It had crescendoed with the first two outs of the bottom of the ninth and was deafening with each strike. And then, in the cool breeze of a swung bat, it was silent.
Of all the hearts broken that day, many would just leave their Angels fandom behind. There would be lean years ahead to kick those who stayed when they were down. There was an epic collapse in 1995 to squeeze the hope out of those who stayed true and even a few who lingered back. The preseason hype of 1999 was mercifully killed on opening day when the big free agent sprained his ankle falling into the dugout during the second at-bat of the season. It was that kind of franchise. It celebrated an outfielder's circus over the shoulder catch as the highlight of a decade and a half, and there were not any arguments of a better moment.
And it was only made more terrible 32 months later by the suicide of the pitcher who gave up the homerun that sunk the franchise. While his gambling debts and other demons were the cause of a breakdown and while injuries to his body are what ended his career, the story of his regret over that one pitch bleeds with a narrative inevitability that it must be linked. The dude shot and wounded his wife before he turned the gun on himself, so it was not some "Shoulda Thrown a Curveball, coach" depression. There was angry booing hurled down at him the next season, each failure seemingly compounded. But the narrative impulse points to October 12 and stays there.
You cannot tell the story of the California Angels without the story of what happened at Anaheim Stadium on Sunday afternoon, October 12, 1986. But I am not the writer to tell you anything more because after twenty six years it still fucking hurts. You could not pay me one hundred dollars to watch a video of that bottom of the ninth. It will always hurt. One strike away. Always.
2002 - Angels beat Twins 7-1 to take a 3 games to 1 lead in the ALCS
For simply winning a ame on this otherwise star-crossed date, this should be the most memorable palyoff game in club history. As it stands, it is perhaps the most overlooked game in Angels playoff victories.
First, the margin of victory reveals nothing about this game, as it was scoreless until after the seventh inning stretch. Second and most important, the three-hit, seven-K performance of rookie John Lackey in seven shutout innings gave Mike Scioscia the confidence to use Lackey in a bigger game two weeks later. Third, and most amazing, Bengie Molina hit triple.
Brad Radke dominated the Angels thru six innings. He faced only three batters in five of those six. John Lackey pitched almost as well and no runs crossed the plate. Radke faltered in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single to Darn Erstad and a walk to Tim Salmon. Ersty stole 2B and advanced to 3B on a bad throw. Radke got Garret Adnerson to pop out and suddenly the pattern of maddening innings looked like it might reappear. Troy Glaus singled home Erstad and after a Brad Fullmer strikeout, Scott Spiezio drove two in with a double.
A 3-0 Angels lead going into the eighth inning on October 12 only made it more intense. Frankie Rodriguez gave up a leadoff double and every Angels fan who knew better felt the echo of butterflies in his or her stomach. And Angels fans do not generally eat butterflies. I don't, do you? But Frankie got a groundout and two strikeouts and the floodgates opened in the bottom of the inning.
Did I tell you about the Bengie Molina triple? The next day there was still an imprint of the Twins CF embedded into the plastic wrap coating of the CF wall. He banged into it and the ball trickled away and B-Mo was off!
Bengie Molina tripled to drive in the sixth and seventh runs of the game for the Angels and the only echo of October 12 was heading into a Sunday ALCS game with a three games to one lead. But 2002 was about exorcising the franchise's past, wasn't it?
2005 - Angels lose Game 2 of the ALCS 2-1 to the White Sox, Series tied at 1 game apiece.
THEY CALL IT THE DOUG EDDINGS GAME
The Doug Eddings game took place on the nineteenth anniversary of the 1986 ALCS debacle. It has been written about elsewhere extensively and was parsed on national teevee until kingdom come.
Despite all our rage they will still not go back and start at the top of the tenth inning, score tied 1-1. Screaming kind of helps. You can scream now, but we will always have 2002.