Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 6 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #6, a walk off blast in extra innings that staved off elimination.
September 22, 1962 - How long ago was this game? Terry Francona's dad hit a two-run homer off of Eli Grba, that is how long ago it was. It was the fourteenth round-tripper of the season for Tito Francona and it got the scoring started in the fifth inning, making it 2-0 Indians over the Angels.
It was 3-0 Indians in the bottom of the sixth when the Angels finally answered back. Lee Thomas singled in Albie Pearson and Leon Wagner homered him home to tie the game 3-3.
In the ninth, Francona grounded out with two men on and one out and one of those men scored, giving Cleveland a 4-3 lead. Cleveland starter Barry Latman had allowed eleven hits through eight innings but manager Mel McGaha stuck with him. Lee Thomas doubled home Jim Fregosi to tie the game and send it into extra innings.
The Angels were seven games behind the Yankees with 8 to play coming into the game. A loss by them end the season. Of course, a win by the Yankees would do the same thing. The Yankees had lost in Chicago. Could the impossible happen with second-year expansion club?
Latman was still in the game in the eleventh inning when he faced Leon Wagner at the plate with a man on 1B and two outs. He then allowed his sixteenth hit of the night, Wagner's second home run of the game. This one was a tie-breaking extra-inning two-run walk off home run. Final Score: Angels 6, Indians 4.
The Angels would be eliminated the next afternoon in a day game drubbing by the Tribe. But the symbolic power of keeping hope alive is what sustains us as fans, and doing so in such a dramatic fashion gives us all a better feeling about beating the odds in our own daily lives.