Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 35 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #35, an extra inning walk off home run hit by a future Hall of Famer in 1980.
August 7, 1980 - The Minnesota Twins traded Rod Carew to the Angels in February of 1979. The big "get" for the Twins was Ken Landreaux among the four players the Angels sent to the frozen tundra of Minneapolis for one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game. Carew played for seven seasons with the Angels. In the first five, he never had an OPS+ under 120.
Meanwhile, Landreuax was a smidge above league average for the Twins in two season before being traded to the Dodgers for ...Mickey Hatcher.
The 1980 Angels were a disappointing 65-95 team. A midseason trade for Jason Thompson provided some great offense but injuries to Brian Downing and Don Baylor doomed the bats. Carew and Thompson were the only batters with an OPS+ over 120 (132 and 167, respectively). Bobby Grich (119) and outfielder Larry Harlow (113) were the only regulars over 100 - the benchmark for league average.
Meanwhile the pitching was even more dreadful. Not one starting pitcher had an ERA+ of even 100. Chris Knapp got 20 starts with an ERA+ of 64... that is historically dreadful.
Gene Mauch managed the Twins in 1980. Jim Fregosi was hanging on as the Angels skipper. Neither team was going anywhere, the Twins at 47-61 and Fregosi's Halos at 42-64 when this Thursday night game took place.
The terrifying prospect of sending out Dave LaRoche as a starting pitcher should scare any Angels fan quite a bit, even thirty three years later. Sure enough, "Heart Attack" Dave went out and scattered ten hits and two walks over seven innings. But something funny happened - only two runs scored amidst that chaos, both in the top of the sixth. Fernando Arroyo pitched better for the Twins, allowing only five hits and two walks over 7.1 IP, but was also responsible for two earned runs that came late.
Down 2-0, the game went to the bottom of the eighth where Carney Lansford's two-run base hit tied it. And before you gloat too long about the great Carew trade, Lansford was traded for Butch Hobson and Rick Burleson after the 1980 season. Lansford would accrue 33.7 Offensive WAR over the next twelve season at 3B with Boston and Oakland while Burleson would deliver 3.0 Offensive WAR in four disappointing seasons and Hobson was a wash.
Tied 2-2 the game went into extra innings. Mark Clear had pitched the eighth and ninth and started the extra frames with a scoreless top of the tenth. Twins reliever and future Angel Doug Corbett finished the eighth with a blown save for allowing Arroyo's baserunners to score. He then went on to pitch six scoreless innings. Andy Hassler pitched the eleventh thru the fifteenth inning for the Angels - scoreless.
In the bottom of the fifteenth, Albert Williams replaced Corbett for the Twins. Freddy Patek got a one-out base hit and was bunted over to 2B. With two outs and 1B empty, Williams pitched to Rod Carew.
Mistake. Rod Carew hit a two-run tie-breaking fifteenth inning walk off home run. Final Score: Angels 4, Twins 2.
Oh, and Ken Landreaux, he of the Carew trade... returning to Anaheim... Kenny was 0 for 7 with three strikeouts.