Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 21 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #18, a blast off of Boston reliever Sparky Lyle.
June 15, 1971 - The Red Sox were in town for a three game series against the 28-33 Angels. Monday's game had gone fifteen innings, with the Angels losing. They did not score for twelve consecutive innings in that game. In Tuesday's game, they were down 4-0 going into the bottom of the fifth inning but the scoreless streak ended there at 16 innings with an Alex Johnson single to score Sandy Alomar.
Of course, it might behoove the lads to score some runs, it being the fifth inning down 4-1 and all...
In the eighth, starter Gary Peters gave up two runs and Boston manager Eddie Kasko replaced him with Bobby Bolin. Three batters later the Angels had scored two runs, the first time in nineteen consecutive innings that they had scored more than one run in an inning. It was 4-3 Red Sox after eight.
Not to be outdone the Angels, threatened right away in the ninth. Bolin walked Roger Repoz to lead off the inning. Sandy Alomar bunted him over. Kasko had seen enough and he brought in reliever Sparky Lyle to face Right Fielder Tony Gonzalez. Angels manager Lefty Phillips brought in Syd O'Brien to pinch hit. It would be the only Halo batter that Lyle saw.
Syd O'Brien is the type of player that advanced stats reveals slipped up through the cracks. He played in 378 games in parts of four seasons with four teams as a utility infielder. His lifetime batting average was .230 with no power or speed and more recent defensive stats reveal him to be a terrible defender at every position he played. But even using the age old fielding percentage, he was mediocre.
In the minors his lifetime fielding percentage was .943 (bad) and .891 in 151 games at 3B. Many deserving players get passed over but greatness eventually rises to the top. In the era of advanced stats, teams make sure talent doesn't slip through the cracks, but even more, the Syd O'Briens of the world are prevented form slipping on UP through the cracks. The best players can be found more easily in any system and passed ahead of the Syds of the world.
But on this night, he hit one of his 24 career home runs. It was come form behind two-run walk off home run. he hit it off of Sparky Lyle, the winning pitcher in the fifteen inning game the night before, the losing pitcher facing one pinch hitter on this night. Final Score: Angels 5, Red Sox 4.