Opening Day (April 1, 2013) is 72 days away. We are counting down the 100 Walk Off Home Runs in Angels franchise history. Today we look at #72... the career highlight of Jeff DaVanon...
October 1, 1999 - The season was shot. The manger had been fired. Huge changes were coming, a gentle breeze was blowing, you could feel it from inside... the team had long given up on a season that had given up on them. Joe Maddon was the team's interim manager. This Friday night game was the third to the last contest for the season and for a whole generation of Angels front office culture.
At the trade deadline, the Angels had sent Randy Velarde and Omar Olivares to the Athletics in exchange for three prospects: Nathan Haynes, Elvin Nina and Jeff DaVanon. The team was so thin, talent-wise, that DaVanon made his big league debut on September 7 as a late-inning replacement. This Friday night game a few weeks later was only his third major league start.
Jeff DaVanon was the son of former major leaguer Jerry DaVanon, who once called Anahime his team back when they were the California Angels. So of course, the Giants got both Bonds and the Angels got both DaVanons. In the fifth inning of the game DaVanon got his first major league hit, a single off of Texas starter Esteban Loaiza. The Angels rallied from a 6-3 deficit in the eighth inning. Jim Edmonds scored on a Tim Salmon single and Salmon was just behind Mo Vaughn scoring on a Troy Glaus Double. Mike Holtz pitched a perfect ninth and then DaVanon led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a solo, tie-breaking, game-winning, Walk Off Home Run. It was his first major league homer, his second hit in the big leagues.
While everything was turning over in Anaheim, the assumption that Jeff DaVanon might rise to the top of the new world order didn't exactly happen... he was hut all of the 2000 season and was not a priority in 2001 or 2002. In 2003 he shined with his career year, batting .282 with 12 HR and a 113 OPS+ over 382 PA in 123 games as a heavily platooned part-time outfielder.
Jeff's claim to fame in addition to his first major league homer being a walk off is that he was the first Angels player to have a fan blog exclusively devoted to him. Watching Jeff DaVanon was diligently run by an Angels fan named Maya. Rookies embody hope for so many fans in such a deep, inexplicable way. They speak to a hope for the future, for potential in all of us. Jeff DaVanon might have not panned out like so many Angels fans hoped for, like the 25,000+ on hand that night in 1999 might have sworn he would, but it doesn't diminish the ideal of hope that he embodied for one swing late in an almost forgotten season.