Opening Day (April 1, 2013) is 66 days away. We are counting down the 100 Walk Off Home Runs in Angels franchise history. Today we look at #62, the first by the King Fish.
September 2, 1992 - The Angels had taken the first two games of the three game series with the Indians, both teams eight games under .500 at one point in the series, late in the season, no hopes of a postseason, playing out the stretch of appearances until the words "Wait Until Next Year" could be mumbled with mathematical certainty.
Indians starter Jack Armstrong struck out nine Angels in seven innings, scattering nine hits, walking one and allowing two earned runs. In ten innings pitched, Chuck Finley allowed seven hits and two earned runs as well.
The Angels scored both of their regulation runs on a bases loaded single in the sixth inning by Lee Stevens, plating Luis Sojo from 3B and Gary Gaetti from 3B to tie the game.
The Indians had scored earlier. the third inning, Kenny Lofton scored on a Carlos Baerga single. In the fifth inning, Lofton scored on a Thomas Howard single. In exactly ten years, one month and twenty five days, Lofton would make the final out in the top of the ninth inning in the seventh game of the wold series on this same field.
Armstrong gave way to Tribe reliever Steve Olin in the bottom of the eighth and the young reliever blanked the Halos into the eleventh inning. He would depart from the mound never to return, dying in a tragic Spring Training boating accident the following March along with teammate Tim Crews.
Scott Lewis relieved Finley in the eleventh and pitched five innings of scoreless ball. It might be the highlight of his Angels career. He went 9-9 in his five big league seasons, all 178 innings accruing a 5.01 ERA with 19 Games Started in 74 relief appearances between 1990 and the strike season of 1994.
Derek Lilliquist relieved Olin and pitched 4.1 innings of shutout baseball. But with two outs in the bottom of the fifteenth, Tim Salmon hit a line drive to deep left field that cleared the wall and gave the Scott Lewis and the Angels the walk off victory. FInal Score: Angels 3, Indians 2.
Tim Salmon would go on to set many Angels offensive records in a career that lasted thru the 2006 season. A sense of hope could permeate coverage in the media of the team well into the next season, primarily on the shoulders of a 24-year old rookie. Tim Salmon hit a walk off home run in the 52nd Plate Appearance of his major league career. It was the second home run of his carer and the sixth RBI. He would win rookie of the year after the 1993 season, the first Angels player to do so, but those paying attention late in the lost season of 1992 knew his name. In ten years, one month and twenty five days days, he would be carrying the world series trophy on a victory lap on this same field, in front of the same fans, no doubt.
There was no bandwagon in 1992. There was quiet hope for the future in the person of Tim Salmon.