Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 44 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #44, a blast off of a Hall of Fame pitcher.
August 3, 1985 - The Angels lost the American League Western Division by one game in 1985. Two more walk off home runs would have won it for them. Two more swings of the bat. Simple as that, right? When you consider that there have been 100 walk off home runs in 4,100+ Angels home games, it may be harsh to blame the lack of Walk Off Home Runs for the lack of a division championship, but the '85 Angels were a good team, almost a great team... forgotten though as they were.
But there was one swing of the bat that did get them as close as they got, made for a more intense penant race and that was this game's climax. Down 3-0 in the fourth, Doug DeCinces grounded into a bases-loaded double pay to score a run. With a man on 3B and two outs, Ruppert Jones hit a two-run homerun. All of this damage came off of Twins starter Bert Blyleven. Angels starter Geoff Zahn gave back a run right away in the top of the fifth and it stayed 4-3 in favor of the Twins into the bottom of the ninth.
While Zahn was relieved by Luis Sanchez, Al Holland and Stew Cliburn, Blyleven stayed int he game, and why not, surely manager Ray Miller knew he was the best available pitcher. He had only faced 28 batters through eight innings when got #29, Juan Beniquez, to fly out to Right Field to lead off the bottom of the ninth. With a complete game in mind he faced Brian doning for the fourth time, having walked him once earlier in the game.
Brian Downing doubled this time. Blyleven stayed in the game. Doug DeCinces had grounded into that double play and Ruppert Jones had homered so the goal was to get DeCinces out and walk Jones to set up a DP with a zero for three Reggie Jackson following.
But the chess game was upset when DeCinces blasted a Blyleven pitch into the night and over the wall for a two-run home run. Doug DeCinces had hit a come from behind two run walk off home run ...and he hit it off of Bert Blyleven, a future Hall of Famer. While some pitchers who have surrendered walk off home runs to the Angels are still active, and therefore still eligible for the Hall of Fame, as it stands this was only one of two walk off home runs hit by an Angels player from the arm of a Hall of Famer.
Final Score: Angels 5, Twins 4 ...in a season where they could have really used just two of these swings more.