Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 51 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #51, the first of five Walk Off Home Runs hit by the 1987 Angels and the first career walk off home run by Wally Joyner.
May 20, 1987 - The players get over it faster than the fans, they have to play every day. The losses hurt, but they go further into the rear view at a speedy pace. Lingering on loss sends a man out of the game. The defeat washes off in the shower or in bed the night after the game. The player who wakes up thinking about last night's loss is headed back to the minors or out of the sport.
So as the fans carried the burden of the painful 1986 playoff loss, the Angels moved forward. They would hit five walk off home runs in 1987, but the season would be a 75-87 disaster. Along the way though, there were some great games and some memorable moments.
Wally Joyner was the most exciting homegrown Angels player since Frank Tanana. He was young and such a good guy that fans of other teams sort of rooted for him. Think about it - Joyner, Tim Salmon and Mike Trout have all been the face of the franchise over different eras, big fan favorites in their time, drafted by the Angels, raised thru the minor leagues and heavily identified with the franchise and all three end up as the most wholesome trio of guys, not a DUI among them.
Joyner replaced Rod Carew in the Angels lineup the year before and rose to the occasion. He topped his rookie campaign with an even better 1987 and even before the start of the season the fans had re-christened Anaheim Stadium "Wally World" with or without regard to National Lampoon and their Vacation screenplay.
On this day, Angels starter Jack Lazorko was getting the better of Toronto ace Jimmy Key. The score was 4-1 when Lazorko came out to pitch the ninth inning. Sadly, he and reliever DeWayne Buice gascanned in the runs and the score was 4-4. Closer Tom Henke was pitching in his third inning of relief when Joyner dug into the batter's box with one out in the bottom of the tenth inning.
Welcome to Wally World - Wally Joyner hit a solo extra inning walk off home run to win the game for the Angels 5-4 over the Blue Jays. Wally would go on to hit 34 home runs that season and engrave his name in Angels lore.