Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 63 days away. There have been one hundred walk off homers in Angels history. This is the story of #63, served up to the rookie of the year by a beloved once and future Angel...
April 28, 1993 - This is one of the rarest games you will ever read about: two complete games. In the era of relief pitching and relief specialists, the complete game is an endangered species. Mark Langston and Jim Abbott pitched complete games on this night. Jim Abbott was more beloved by the Angels fans than Langston, but they got their money's worth in mound work and dramatics.
Jim Abbott was drafted by the Angels out of the University of Michigan in the first round (eighth pick overall) in 1988. His first professional game was on the mound at Anaheim Stadium in the big leagues in 1989. His athleticism was made more impressive when one realizes that his right arm ended at the wrist, a condition with which he was born. In 1987 he beat the Cuban National team in Cuba and in 1988 was on the the gold medal winning USA team in the Olympics.
With this thrilling combination of prowess and underdog narrative, Abbott was an instant fan favorite. His third and fourth seasons with the club, 1991 and 1992 saw him post an ERA + of 142 and 143. It was wasted on those terrible Angels offenses of the early 90s... His 2.77 ERA in 1992 got him a 7-15 record.
And then the unthinkable happened... Abbott was traded. J.T. Snow was the prize. Snow went on to have one above average season with the Angels out of the four he played in Anaheim before being shipped to San Francisco. Abbott had one above average seaosn for the Yankees, and partially one for the White Sox before being traded back tot he Angels. It was too little too late, the stud nobody with a heart could root against was out of gas. In 1996 he posted a 2-18 record with an ERA+ of 66 (100 being the baseline of league average).
But this Wednesday night game in Anaheim brought out 33,000+ fans (and it wasn't just the Yankees as the game with them the night before had posted an attendance just over 24,000). They were there to see their favorite Angel return home, albeit in the road grays of the Yankees.
Abbott squared off against his old teammate and the two pitched three scoreless apiece. Langston had an easy fourth but Abbott led off the bottom of the frame walking the kid who had never been his teammate, Tim Salmon. After striking out Chili Davis, Abbott gave up a single to the Angel he had been traded for, Snow. Rene Gonzalez doubled them both home. The 2-0 Angels lead lasted a long time.
In the ninth inning, Langston allowed two baserunners with a walk and a single, but struck out Don Mattingly for the second out. One out from victory and he goes into a full count with Danny Tartabull and gives up a double on the sixth pitch of the AB. The game was tied 2-2 and Langston labored to get out of the jam. Abbott came back out for the ninth inning but it was a short stay. His second pitch to Tim Salmon was hit on a line drive deep into the Left Field Seats.
Tim Salmon won the rookie of the year award after the 1993 season. He and Abbott would be teammates in a few years. Angels fans got to see an all time hero and discover a kid who would one day help bring them a World Series trophy. Final Score: Angels 3, Yankees 2.