Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 12 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #12, a coda to a national tragedy that affected the Angels schedule as it rocked America.
June 15, 1968 -The Angels had seen opening day of the 1968 season delayed for almost an hour by the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. History would affect the schedule a few months later in an even greater manner.
At the end of May, the team had what we would call a crazy schedule prior to this game. After a May 30 game at home against the Detroit Tigers, they had a fourteen-game road trip that was made longer a period of utter chaos in American history. After three games in Oakland and four in Baltimore, they flew to New York after their June 6 game with the Orioles. That evening, Robert Kennedy was assassinated on Los Angeles. The Angels played a Friday doubleheader on June 7 at Yankee Stadium and a Sunday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, the Saturday contest being postponed in memory of the murdered presidential candidate, less than five years after the murder of his brother, President John Kennedy.
To make matters even more troubling, their next games were scheduled in Boston, Kennedy's home town. The Red Sox didn't play a baseball game after June 8 until June 13, which comprised the final two games of this road trip - two sides of a doubleheader at Fenway Park. The second game was, mercifully, suspended by mutual agreement so the Angels could fly home for a Friday game against the Senators.
They opened a twelve game homestand with a 2-0 win over the Senators on Friday and then played this Saturday afternoon contest where they used five pitchers and the Senators sent up the same number in a ten inning game. It was a nice 2-1 game favoring the Angels until Bernie Allen hit a pinch-hit bases-clearing double to make it 4-2 in favor of Washington. A Jim Fregosi triple with two out in the bottom of the ninth plated two runs and tied the game 4-4. With one out in the bottom of the tenth inning, Left Fielder Rick Reichardt, already 2 for 4 in the game with a run scored, hit a tie-breaking extra-inning walk off home run. Final Score: Angels 5, Senators 4
The Angels would play five games in three days in Boston at the beginning of August, going 1-4.
Rick Reichardt's claim to fame was a home run, but not this one. He hit the first home in run in Anaheim Stadium History. Reichardt was a "bonus baby" - that class of free agent amateurs who were signed by high-bid auctions prior to the institution of a major league amateur draft. Reichardt actually turned down $250,000 from the Yankees to sign with the Angels FOR LESS ($225K) - he figured that he would get to the majors quicker with a young expansion team still looking to make it all click and he was right.
While he never hit superstar status, Reichardt did put up a 117 OPS+ in 563 games as an Angel. His tenure came at a time of great and painful change in America. It could even be considered service, as is the play of all men on the diamond during periods of uncertainty and tension, allowing the continuity of the national pastime to be there for us all as an escape in times of great tribulation.