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16 Days Until Opening Day

Counting Down to Opening Day, We Are Counting Down The 100 Walk Off Homers in Angels History. #16 saw a future Hall of Famer get the win in relief for the Halos

This came up when the search term was WILHELM. I suppose it could be the path of Hoyt's knuckler...
This came up when the search term was WILHELM. I suppose it could be the path of Hoyt's knuckler...
Mike Hewitt

Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 16 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #16, one that saw a future Hall of Famer get the win for the Angels.

September 6, 1969 - The White Sox were in town, with an even more miserable record than the 59-76 Angels. At 53-82, Don Gutteridge's team had not improved a whit since the April firing of longtime skipper Al Lopez. And yet 8,043 fans came out to the Big A to see these two team play on a Saturday afternoon.

Starters Andy Messersmith and Paul Edmondson each pitched into the tenth inning, Messersmith tossing a complete 10 while Edmondson was removed for reliever Wilbur Wood, who gout out of a bases loaded jam.

Tied at 1-1, Vern Geishert pitched a 1-2-3 eleventh inning for the Angels. Wood ran into trouble but danced around the Angels lineup enough to send it into the twelfth.

In teh top of the twelfth inning, the oldest player in baseball took the mound in an Angels uniform. Knuckleball reliever Hoyt Wilhelm had been the oldest player in baseball the season before as well. And the season before that. And the one before that. Born in 1922, Wilhelm was the 9th oldest player in the AL in 1959. When he took the lead in 1966 at age 43, the oldest National League player was 39-year old Robin Roberts.

The Angels acquired Wilhelm in the offseason for Ed Kirkpatrick. In his 44 games with the Angels allowed 45 hits in 65 Innings Pitched, striking out 53, getting 10 Saves and accruing an ERA+ of 141.

Wilhelm pitched around trouble when a leadoff batter singled and was bunted over to 2B. He got a flyout and walked a batter before getting a groundout. Wilbur Wood came out to try to top that in the bottom of the twelfth. Angels manager Lefty Phillips called for Billy Cowan to bat for Right Fielder Bill Voss. Cowan promptly hit a home run to win the game, making a loser out of Wood and winner out of Wilhelm.

Billy Cowan was a fourth-outfielder who had played for the Cubs, Mets, Milwaukee Braves and Phillies when the Cubs were the best of those four then-perennial losers. The Yankees sold him to the Angels in 1969 and he rarely started.

Wilhelm, meanwhile, had gotten the win in his final game as an Angel. He was traded two days later to the Atlanta Braves for Mickey Rivers. He would pitch into the 1972 season and be elected tot eh Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985 on the eighth ballot of his eligibility.