The Express - Ronald Martinez
Counting Down to Opening Day, We Are Counting Down The 100 Walk Off Homers in Angels History. #33 made a winner out of Mark Clear in relief of Nolan Ryan.
Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 33 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #33, a blast by the man who would be MVP...
May 15, 1979 - Nolan Ryan took the mound for the Angels. It was the 370th game of his career. He had made his career debut in September of 1966. Lefty Gomez and Ron Guidry only appeared in 368 career games and here Nolan was only about halfway through his career. It was his 263rd appearance in an Angels uniform and he did what he did best - he pitched, striking out seven and allowing two hits and one earned run in six innings.
The lone Brewers run allowed by Ryan was a solo home run to lead off the top of the fifth by Cecil Cooper. Mike Caldwell had a 1-0 lead until he walked Joe Rudi in the bottom of the eighth and allowed a run-scoring double to Bobby Grich. With a 1-1 tie, Caldwell took the mound in the bottom of the ninth but the first batter of the inning would assure the box score that he was only credited with eight innings pitched. Don Baylor led the inning off with a tie-breaking walk off solo home run. Final Score: Angels 2, Brewers 1.
Nolan Ryan pitched in so many games for the Angels form 1972 to 1979 where he would allow almost no runs but the Angels offense would manage fewer or none at all. Redemption like this night (leaving the game as the potential losing pitcher despite being the better man on the mound of the two) was the exception, rather than the rule in his years with the club. He would sign as a free agent in the 1979/80 offseason with the Houston Astros. His legacy as an Angel is intact, but the wonder of what he might have accomplished, Wins-wise, with an above league average set of bats to back him up remains unanswered.