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83 Days Until Opening Day

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Counting Down to Opening Day, We Are Counting Down The 100 Walkoff Homers in Angels History. Scott Spiezio hit the 83rd Walkoff Homerun in a game recorded as the first career Win for a controversial reliever.

Scene of the Crime?
Scene of the Crime?
Jeff Golden

Opening Day (April 1, 2013) is 83 days away. We are counting down the 100 Walk Off Home Runs in Angels franchise history. Today we look at #83, Scott Spiezio's third walk off home run for the Angels and Pitcher Derrick Turnbow's first major league win.

September 16, 2003 - Jarrod Washburn and Rich Harden started this game, which saw the Angels come from being down 3-1 to tying it in the seventh inning. Brendan Donnelly then blew it in the eighth, surrendering two runs that got on base with a walk and a HBP. The Angels went quietly in the ninth and down 5-3, Mike Scioscia bought in reliever Derrick Turnbow.

Turnbow's career stats pale in comparison to his place in Angels lore and baseball history. The first man to ever throw a pitch for the Angels franchise, 1961 opening day starter Eli Grba scouted and signed a 19-year-old Turnbow out of Franklin High School in Franklin, Tennessee for the Philadelphia Phillies. Turnbow could throw triple digits. In December of 1999 Bill Stoneman acquired Turnbow in the Rule 5 Draft. Stoenman had been on the job for six weeks. His first hire, Mike Scioscia, hadn't been the manager of the team for a month yet.

Stoneman grew to have a reputation as a true conservative when it came to player acquisitions and trades, but you would not have known it from this move. To retain Turnbow as team property, the Angels would have to keep him on the major league roster for the entire 2000 season or they would be forced to offer him back to the Phillies. Astorundingly, and somewhat controversially, they managed to do exactly that. COnsidered a closer for the distant future because of his triple digit fastball, Turnbow traveled with the Angels the entire season as a full member of the 25-man roster. But he only appeared in 24 games. Almost every one of which was a blowout loss. They hardly used him. He had a stretches of 20 games in between appearances, 18, 13, 11, 10 and three 7-game gaps. All in the name of "The Future".

The Angels were 4-20 in games in which he appeared that season. He would pitch on consecutive days only twice that season. He pitched the eighth and ninth of a 12-3 laugher on July 21 and then tossed 1.1 innings in a 10-3 loss the next day. Out of the race, he helped rest the staff on September 23 by starting the game in Texas and going 3.2 innings in the process.

The sum total statistical record of Turnbow's first full season in the majors was one "Hold", recorded on September 3. At season's end he was officially property of the Angels and he went to the minor leagues for two entire years. After pitching in the Winged Logo jersey for 2000, his next appearance would be in the then-familiar Angels red for the reigning world champions early in the 2003 season. He appeared in two low-leverage situations in losses on April 23 and 25 and was sent to the minors.

Turnbow was a September callup in 2003 but again saw appearances in a string of Angels losses with no impact on the games either way. And so with Troy Percival warming up to pitch the ninth inning of this game, and with Donnelly blowing the lead in the eighth, Turnbow again made an appearance in a "meaningless game", he allowed a leadoff hit to Scott Hatteberg, caught a Ramon Hernandez popup bunt for the first out and doubled up Hatteberg at 1B. He then struck out Jermaine Dye to end the top of the ninth inning. On the bottom of the inning, Oakland's Jim Mecir got Chone Figgins to ground out. He gave up a single to Garett Anderson and walked Tim Salmon. Barry Wesson came in as a pinch runner for Kingfish but the threat of Scott Spiezio grounding into a game-ending double play loomed. But Speez hit the first pitch deep into the Right Field seats for a three-run walk of home run. The Angels won, 6-5 and Derrick Turnbow was the pitcher of record. It was his first major league win.

It was Spiezio's third walkoff homerun as a Halo. He is one of only nine Angels to have that many walkoff homers.

As for Turnbow, he would grab another "vulture" win a few days later and finish 2003 with a 2-0 record and a 0.59 ERA.

In January of 2004 it was announced that Turnbow had failed a drug test to play for the US Olympic team. He became the first major league baseball player ever to be directly linked with using a banned, performance-enhancing substance. The LA Times gave us the details:

On Monday, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency identified Turnbow as having tested positive for a steroid prohibited under international baseball rules, making him the first major leaguer publicly cited for flunking a steroid test. The substance is not prohibited under major league rules, and Turnbow said he took an over-the-counter dietary supplement.

There was no drug testing in major league baseball at the time. It was only because of the Olympics that Turnbow's use of PEDs was exposed.

He would pitch in 46 games at AAA Salt Lake in 2004 but only made it into four games with the big club in 2004. The Angels quietly released him in October after the season. Milwaukee claimed him off waivers and he put up great numbers for three seasons and made an all star team.

But was an Angels player baseball's first roider? The answer, sadly, is yes, and it was backed up years later in Matt McCarthy's wonderful book Odd Man Out about his year in the Angels low minor leagues. Early in the book he goes into great detail about Bobby Jenks' envy over Turnbow already having pitched for the big club and describes Turnbow's physical appearance as consistent with a steroid user, especially the backne.

Circumstantial? Turnbow was waived about three weeks after Jose Guillen was suspended late int he 2004 season. The issue of a rogue roider may have been something the team wanted to avoid. Turnbow put up an ERA+ over 265 in over 190 Innings Pitched in his first three seasons as a Brewer before turning into an injury pumpkin about the time steroid testing became mandatory because of stories far greater than that of Derrick Turnbow.