Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 9 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #9, a Jay Johnstone blast in the summer of '66.
August 26, 1966 - Jay Johnstone signed with the Angels on June 30, 1963 at age 17 out of Edgewood High School in nearby West Covina. He made his Angels debut on July 30, 1966 at age 20. Less than a month later he became the youngest Angel to ever hit a walk off home run.
He did it against the Kansas City Athletics. He was part of a four-run first inning that saw leadoff batter Jose Cardenal get hit by a pitch and leave the game. Pinch runner Jimmy Piersall scored on a Jim Fregosi single and four batters later Johnstone made it home.
With a 4-2 lead in the ninth, the Angels bullpen blew the game, giving up two runs and almost more until Blue Moon Odom was pickled in between 3B and home. Jack Aker got two strikeouts to start the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 4-4. Johnstone came up and changed the score. Jay Johnstone hit a tie-breaking solo walk off home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Final Score: Angels 5, Athletics 4.
Jay Johnstone played in parts of 5 seasons for the Angels before being traded to the White Sox after the 1970 season. He ended up playing for eight teams, including two tours with the Dodgers, winning a ring with them in 1981, a ring against them with the Yankees in 1978 and one with the 1973 Athletics, although he did not play in the postseason and only had 30 PA for them.
His best years, though, came with the Phillies, where his Games played and Plate Appearances were quite close to those he put up as an Angel (462 Games/1586 PA in Philly, 448/1577 with the Angels) but the production was incomparable. He had sixty more hits, 34 more doubles, 111 more bases and an .823 OPS compared to .657 as an Angel. He retired after the 1985 season. He was the 8th youngest player in his first season and the 9th oldest in baseball when he went out.