Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 48 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #48, The Schofield Game.
August 29, 1986 - There are 162 games in a team's season. Barring any rainouts, there are 1,620 game that your favorite team plays each decade. When the 2012 season concluded the Angels had 52 seasons of baseball under their belts. In that time they had played 8,297 games (the 1981 & '94 strikes and 1972 & 95 work stoppages accounting for most of the discrepancy in what should have been 8,424 games, but there were a few unplayed rain outs along the way).
Of those 8,297 games, this is the game with the biggest comeback.
Not only was this game the biggest comeback, with eight runs scored in the bottom of the ninth inning, but of the 100 walk off home runs, this is the only game where the walk off home run, a grand slam, came with the team down by three runs. And if that is not enough - it came with two outs.
This game defined the 1986 Angels at the time, indelibly so, we all thought, until a month and a half later a huge playoff defeat stained what was otherwise one of the greatest seasons in Angels baseball. And yet decades later, for those who were there and for those who saw it on television and for those who listened to it on the radio, this was a stunning, magic moment like no other. Compare it to the Scott Spiezio World Series home run... it was about that awesome.
The Angels were playing the Tigers in the second game of a four-game series. It was a Friday night and Gene Mauch's first place club was hosting Sparky Anderson's Tigers. Detroit was two seasons removed from a dominant World Series title but the core was still there - Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammel, Kirk Gibson batting 1-2-3 Darrel Evans and Chet Lemon were there too.
Johnny Grubb got it started with a three run home run in the top of the first inning off of Angels starter Kirk McCaskill. Evans made it 5-1 with a two-run homer in the top of the third. Chuck Finley allowed three runs in middle relief.
It was 8-1 in the sixth inning when Bob Boone touched up former Halo superstar and Tigers starter Frank Tanana for a two-run single. But a Chet Lemon homer with two in the very next frame off of new Halo reliever Vern Ruhle made the 8-3 Tigers lead an 11-3 romp. Randy O'Neal relieved Tanana and gave the Angels two runs back, but Doug Corbett relived Ruhle and allowed a solo homer to Trammel and it was 12-5 Tigers. The Angels went 1-2-3 in the eighth inning and Corbett got the Tigers in order in the top of the ninth.
Down 12-5, light-hitting shortstop Dick Schofield hit a single. With one out Wally Joyner walked. Brian Downing singled to load the bases. Jack Howell hit a two-run double.
The Channel 5 News at Ten was just finishing up their 10:50 Sports report when the announcer mentioned the comeback that was happening. Thousands turned on their radios.
Score 12-7. Willie Hernandez comes into the game. In 1984 he won the Cy Young and the MVP with 68 Games finished, 32 Saves, and a 1.92 ERA in 140 innings of relief. On this night he gave up RBI singles to George Hendrick and Bobby Grich before getting a force out at 2B for the second out of the inning.
Score 12-9. Hernandez walked Ruppert Jones. Up comes Schofield for the second time in the inning. The right hander plants one into the left field seats to give the Angels the lead, the game and the hearts of Southern California.
Dick Schofield hit the only down from three runs walk off home run in Angels history. It was a game-winning walk off grand slam to cap an eight-run ninth inning.
Final Score: Angels 13, Tigers 12 in what is forever simply known as "The Schofield Game".
When two longtime Angels fans meet an discover they have been following the team since the Autry years, the conversation eventually includes this line: "Dude, do you remember The Schofield Game?"
And we all do. Check it out...
What can you say but... WOW.