Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 5 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #5, an extra inning blast off the bat of Daddy Wags.
August 17, 1962 - The expansion Angels in their second season started this Friday night 5.5 games behind the Yankees for first place in the one-division American League. The Yankees lost. The Angels were 5 games back and tied in the first game of a doubleheader against the Washington Senators.
Angels starter Bo Belinsky gave up the lead in the top of the eight, making a 2-1 Angels lead a 3-2 deficit with one pitch that became a two-run homer.
Lee Thomas got that run back right away, homering to lead of the bottom of the frame. Tied 3-3, the game went into the ninth and then tenth. With two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning, Angels LF Leon Wagner hit a solo home run to win the game. He hit a tie-breaking, extra-inning walk off home run in the first game of a Friday night double header. Final Score: Angels 4, Senators 3.
The Angels won the second game and by 11:20 PM, they were four games back in the American League.
Leon Wagner still holds a few top ten records in club history. Among Angels with more than 1,500 Plate Appearances he had a Slugging % of .490 in 1,801 Plate Appearances as an Angel - that ranks sixth all time. Mike Napoli is seventh with a .485 SLG% in 1,804 PA as an Angel. "Daddy Wags" as Wagner was called is tied with Napoli for fifth place all time with their .831 On-Base-Plus-Slugging (OPS).
His 37 home runs in 1962 stood as the single season mark for twenty years until Reggie Jackson broke it in 1982 (Bobby Bonds had tied it in 1975) - and mind you, there was no DH in the AL back then AND the Angels played their home games at offense-killing Dodger Stadium deep in a deadball decade. His 17.7 AB per HR still ranks third in frnachise history, one full AB ahead of Vlad Guerrero's fourth place 18.7 AB/HR.
Wagner was an All Star for the Angels in 1962 and 63. He had opened a clothing store in LA with the slogan "Get Your Rags From Daddy Wags" but drug addiction took a heavy toll. He was found dead five months shy of his seventieth birthday in South Central Los Angeles in January of 2004. He had been living in an unlocked plywood structure designed to protect a building's electrical meters from the tampering. In other words, he was homeless, pushing a shopping cart blocks from where he had played as an Angel in the team's first season at Wrigley Field on 41st Place and Avalon Boulevard.