#6 Top Angels All-Star Moment: Six Angels make the 1979 All-Star Team - Brian Downing on the wrong side of an Iconic All-Star Moment.
The 1979 Angels season is generally remembered as the one in which the team won their first western division title. But by midseason, the free agent energy and ascension in the AL West had gripped baseball's imagination. After almost a decade of playing second fiddle to Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan was named the starter of All Star Game. The fans voted in Don Baylor as the starting Left Fielder. Rod Carew, Brian Downing and Bobby Grich were all named as position players. Relief pitcher Mark Clear got named to the AL squad as well. Six Angels had made the team.
All but Carew made an appearance in the game. Original Mariners investor Danny Kaye threw out the ceremonial first pitch and Nolan Ryan took the Kingdome mound and struck out Davey Lopes and Dave Parker to start the game. Pretty awesome, eh? Well that was the peak of awesome, basically, as The Express walked Steve Garvey, gave up a triple to Mike Schmidt and a double down the line to George Foster for a 2-0 NL lead. Ryan got San Diego Padres Outfielder Dave Winfield to lineout to end the inning.
In the bottom of the first with one out and George Brett on 1B, Don Baylor hit a double, plating his Royals AL teammate. Undeserved Hall of Famer Jim Rice then popped out weakly but Baylor scored on a Fred Lynn homerun. All of this was off of Steve Carlton by the way. But Ryan gave it back in the top of the 2nd inning, giving up three hits and a sac fly to make it 3-3.
With the NL leading 4-3 in the bottom of the 3rd, Baylor singled and later scored on a Carl Yazstremski base hit. The AL took the lead 5-4 later that inning but in the top of the 6th, Mark Clear would do what his teammate Nolan had done, let the NL tie the game, this time giving up a run scoring single to Gary Carter. Padre Winfield scored from 2B having hit a 1-out double. Clear walked Larry Bowa and got a Pete Rose to ground into a 4-6-3 Double Play.
In the top of the 7th, Baylor was removed from the game with a number of other AL teammates. Brian Downing took over for Darrel Porter at Catcher and Bobby Grich took over at 2B, Bruce Bochte having pinch hit for 2B Frank White in the bottom of the 6th and driven in the go ahead run for the AL to make the game 6-5.
Facing Bruce Sutter to lead of the bottom of the 8th in a 6-6 tie, Brian Downing got a base hit and was bunted over to 2B, Yankee Reggie Jackson was intentionally walked in favor of facing Bobby Grich. The Hall of Fame reliever struck the Angels 2B out. With Downing representing the tying run with two outs, Graig Nettles hit a single to RF.
Now, if you have watched any All-Star Game highlight reel, you have seen what happened. Brian Downing rounded 3B as the ball was fielded. But it was fielded by the Cobra, Dave Parker, and he made one of the greatest cannon throws to the plate in the history of the sport. Downing was out on a bullet throw to Expo Gary Carter at home plate. The American League would not take the lead. Ron Guidry would walk-in the go ahead run and Sutter would close out his own victory for a 7-6 National League win.
But the Angels had arrived at a new plateau of national visibility and it was no fluke as those six went on to win the west, Baylor took the AL MVP and Ryan became the first million dollar a year free agent after the season.