Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 32 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #32, a blast against what was becoming a formidable Orioles team...
August 18, 1978 - The Orioles of Earl Weaver had won three straight pennants 1969-71, with the World Series championship in 1970. From 1968 - 1980, Baltimore would finish in fourth place one time: the 1978 season, and even then his team would win 90 games. Imagine a 90-win fourth place team today, there would be senate hearing inquiring why they missed the playoffs.
Jim Fregosi's Angels had a slightly better record than the Orioles when they met on this Friday night in August, 1978 (66-57 to 64-55) in front of 19,488 fans. Scott McGregor would go on to be integral to the Orioles pennant winners the following season but his lousy W-L record revealed an inadequate offense. Not many pitchers with a 3.36 ERA have a 12-11 record in August with Murderer's Row backing them up. He faced off against Chris Knapp and each pitcher was the only one their respective team would need.
Knapp went a full nine innings, one of ten complete games he would pitch as an Angel in his three miserably underachieving years with the team. On this night, though, he managed to allow only two earned runs despite allowing seven hits and five walks. Striking out eight Orioles helped immeasurably. Both runs came on back to back solo homers in the fourth inning by Eddie Murray and Doug DeCinces.
The Angels were down 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh when Joe Rudi and Carney Lansford singled in runs. Weaver stuck with McGregor. He allowed a meaningless single in the eighth and got the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth. Up to the plate for the Angels came Don Baylor.
Don Baylor was drafted by the Orioles and played full seasons for two of Earl Weaver's division winners in 1972 and 73. He was traded to Oakland for Reggie Jackson a week before the 1976 season started. After one year in the Bay Area he was a big free agent signing for Gene Autry.
He would go on to win the AL MVP in 1979 with the club but on this night, int eh division chase of 1978he blasted a Scott McGregor pitch into the night, over the wall and rounded the bases. Don Baylor had hit a tie-breaking solo walk off home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Final Score: Angels 3, Orioles 2.