#61 - MICKEY RIVERS, CF
In the early 1970s, the offense of most teams was built with a speedster or two at the top of the lineup. Mickey Rivers was our speedster. He came to the Angels as a minor leaguer in a trade with the Braves and got a short call-up as a Halo for his major league debut in 1970 at age 21.
He bounced back and forth between the minors and the big club for four seasons, never getting 300 plate Appearances total in one year. In 1974, though, he was given plenty of playing time and he dressed to impress. He batted .285 in 518 PA with a .734 OPS. He had 30 stolen bases and eleven triples (which led the AL that year). This earned him the keys to the kingdom and he had a great 1975, batting .284 with 175 hits and 70 Stolen Bases - which lead the American League as did his 13 triples. while it looks good on paper, though, his 1975 really underscores the hollowness of speed as a formula for success in baseball, something that only Baltimore manager Earl Weaver understood at the time and that Bill James was just about to unravel.
Mick The Quick stole 70 bases but only scored 70 runs for the Angels in 1975. It is inconceivable that a player would hit 70 doubles (which in and of itself has never been done) and only score 70 runs. The limitations of speed, the necessity of a productive supporting cast - and not just the success of one out of the next three batters but on two perhaps - the shortcomings of seeing speed as anything more than frosting on the cake but not the cake itself, those shortcomings are embodied in those numbers.
The Angels traded Mickey Rivers along with a great young pitcher named Ed Figueroa to the Yankees for Bobby Bonds after the '75 season. Mickey went on to be an All Star component of back to back Yankees world champions.
Mickey left his mark on the Angels record books - his 32 triples are the fifth most in club history. His 70 Stolen Bases in 1975 remains the club's single season record and his 126 bags stolen overall are the sixth most in the Halo record books and was #1 on the day he left. His SB success percentage of 78.75% ranks third in club history behind Gary Pettis and Mike Trout. Off the bench or in the starting lineup, he was a threat to get things started but proved that a speedster only gets by with a little help from his friends.