Cooperstown! That’s the ultimate goal of almost every ball player, to be enshrined as a baseball immortal as the best who ever played the game. Sunday a few more of them will be inducted and celebrated. But Cooperstown is also source of some mild frustration in Anaheim, because after 56 years as a franchise, there isn’t even one player who dons a cap on his plaque with a Halo over it in the upstate New York museum.
While the official records list Nolan Ryan’s “primary team” as the California Angels, that small factoid is of little satisfaction, as his plaque has one of the Texas teams’ cap on it.
Even many of the younger franchises can boast of one of their own who has been enshrined (Arizona – Randy Johnson; NY Mets – Tom Seaver; Seattle – Ken Griffey Jr.; Kansas City – George Brett; San Diego – Tony Gwynn/Dave Winfield; Toronto – Roberto Alomar; Montreal – Gary Carter/Andre Dawson/Tim Raines; Houston – Jeff Bagwell/Craig Biggio). And now another one for Texas (Ivan Rodriguez). Ouch!
That painful list doesn’t even include some of the relocated franchise such as Atlanta (Tom Glavine/John Smoltz) or Oakland (Dennis Eckersley). More ouch!
Most Angel fans already know the cases of Nolan Ryan (who should have gone into the Shrine as an Angel), and Bobby Grich, who no doubt belongs there too. Those steeped in Angelino lore and history of baseball in the 1960s can also know Jim Fregosi belongs there also. Hat tip to Matt Welch, among others who has done most of the heavy lifting on those two middle infielders.
This HOF article won’t focus on those three Halo greats though - it’s time to reclaim our Halos lads already in the HOF - more C’town turf for Orange County! Don’t get frustrated about Vlad Guerrero having to wait another year! Maybe these HOF Angels don’t represent the cap, but that doesn’t mean the path to Cooperstown doesn’t goes through Anaheim.
Besides, Ryan, there are nine Angels in the HOF, plus two of our managers. We will go in order and look at their career while calling the Big A home.
Hoyt Wilhelm He’s in Cooperstown and he played in Anaheim too. You say, it was towards the end of his career and he really didn’t make establish his C’town credentials in Anaheim? Well, just get used to it - that’s the way we roll into C’town from Anaheim! He was already an MLB veteran and on his way to the HOF. (This mantra will be included in all nine players and the two managers, so settle in). Hoyt played in Anaheim in 1969 after we gave up two players for him.
He did well here too in 1969: 52 games with 65 innings and a 2.65 FIP. Of those 52 games he appeared, he finished 42 of them with 14 Saves in 19 Save Situations. He also appeared in 33 non-Save situations. Overall, he went had a W-L record of 7-7. He didn’t stay long and was traded in September to Atlanta, and in return we got back Mickey Rivers, and so even in the end, Hoyt had some final additional value. That return was the most we’d ever get back for one of our HOF boys.
Frank Robinson – He played in Anaheim in 1973-74. I remember listening live on KMPC to the first AB Frank Robinson had as an Angel in 1973: He hit a HR on the very first pitch he saw as an Angel. That was Bobby Winkles first win as a manager and President Nixon was also at that game. Of course by this time, he was already an MLB veteran and on his way to the HOF. He cost us a good player and Top 100 Angel, Andy Messersmith, in a rare big trade with the Dodgers, but we didn’t get much at all back when we dealt him to the Indians in 1974 (Rusty Torres, Ken Suarez).
Robinson was primarily used as a DH here. While he was in Anaheim, he was the 4th all-time HR leader, trailing only Ruth, Aaron, and Mays. He did well as an Angel with a slash line of .259/.372/.477 and 50 HRs. The team had a nice start in 1973 and was in first place by June, but it was all downhill from there.
Robinson had some interesting twists in his second and last season in 1974: (a) feuding with Winkles and acting as a pseudo-manager? Yep!; (b) All-Star team in 1974? Yes. (C) hoping to replace the eventually fired Bobby Winkles as manager? Nope – that role went to Dick Williams; (d) being traded to the Red Sox? Nope! The Orioles had a right to block that and they did. (e) How about going back to the Orioles? Nope – Robinson vetoed that himself. Finally, mired in last place, the Angels sent him to Cleveland in September, 1974. At the time he was dealt, the Angels were a last place team. All that was good enough to be a Top 100 Angel at Halos Heaven.
Rod Carew- he came over at the start of 1979 for four players. He was already an MLB veteran and on his way to the HOF. While he was in town, he made six All Star teams in a row. Carew did well enough in the 1979 ALCS with a .412 OBP, but not so much in the 1982 ALCS with only 3 hits in 21 ABs. While not the offensive juggernaut he was with the Twins, Carew was ranked among the best defensive 1B in his 7 years on State College Blvd. Besides Ryan, definitely the most successful HOF player while in Anaheim. (And he still will be when that ex-Cardinal DH we have retires. Even if it is 2045. Because Phat only has 13+ WAR. And he ain't catchin' Rodney). Carew retired as an Angel at the end of 1985. The Rev did a nice review of Rodney’s time here.
Reggie Jackson - Came to the Angels in 1982 as a Free Agent He was already an MLB veteran and on his way to the HOF. Reggie was a three-time All Star and also won a HR title in 1982 which was by far his best year as an Angel with 3.1 bWAR. He did help the Angels to two AL West titles in his five years here. He also hit his 500th HR here. The Rev did a nice profile on Reggie too as another Top 100 Angel. He also played more games as an Angel than a Yankee. After leaving the Angels after 1986 as a free agent, he played one more year in Oakland.
Don Sutton – came over in a September trade in 1985 for two prospects, then signed here as a Free Agent several months later, so he played full seasons in 1986-87. He was already an MLB veteran and on his way to the HOF. Sutton had a 4.75 FIP in 74 games here with a record of 28-24 over 430 innings. He did well for us in the 1986 ALCS; he pitched well in Game 4, and had a 1.86 ERA in that playoff series but John Candelaria was not a fan. And he didn’t make the latest Halos Heaven Top 100 either. Oversight? No; and who cares anyway? Too much of a Doyer. After Sutton was released he played his last season with the Dodgers.
Dave Winfield came over in a trade for Mike Witt in 1990. He was already an MLB veteran and on his way to the HOF. He didn’t do much while he was here for two years in 1990-91: an average player on .500 teams with 47 HRs total. Maybe we should have kept Mike Witt? (not really: -0.2 bWAR with the Yanks in 3 seasons). But after he left as a free agent, the sweet swingin’ big man joyced us: he signed with Toronto and put up 4.1 bWAR in 1992 and helped them win a World Series.
Bert Blyleven 1989-92; he came over from the Twins in a trade in November 1988 and then re-signed as a Free Agent in 1992. He was already an MLB veteran and on his way to the HOF. Blyleven had a great first year here in 1989 with 6.0 bWAR, 17-5 and 2.73 ERA/3.08 FIP and 4th in the AL Cy Young vote. And then…...well, that was about it. So we’ll just throw out so more from 1989: 8 CG and he led the AL with 5 Shut Outs! He sat out 1991 with an injury, and he wrapped up his career in 1992 home in OC as he was a Santiago Garden Grove HS graduate. The last HOF member to be part of the Top 100 Angels.
Eddie Murray – 1997. He was already an MLB veteran and on his way to the HOF. He too wore the periwinkle Flying A. Signed for the 1997 season, he hit his last three HRs of his career here (#502, #503, #503). Murray played in just 46 games was released by August 14. Slash? .219/.273/.319. Not a good year for future HOF players in Anaheim - Part 1.
Rickey Henderson – 1997. Rickey played here in August and September of 1997. He was already an MLB veteran and on his way to the HOF. We traded George Arias for Rickey on August 13th, (HOF Murray out, HOF Rickey in). Then Rickey was released that winter. Rickey must not have liked it too well here in those two months, even though Rickey stole 16 bases and Rickey was caught only four times. Out of the nine teams Rickey played for, it was the only stop where Rickey hit less than .200 (BA) and had a SLG% less than .300. Not a good year for future HOF players in Anaheim - Part 2.
After Rickey left the Angels he went on to play for Oakland (again), the Mets, Seattle, the Padres (again), Boston, and the Dodgers with his last year in 2003.
Honorable Mentions Fun Fact: Six players (a) played with the Angels, AND (b) appeared on the HOF for a full 15 years AND (c) not enough votes: The Hall of MLB Veterans who Weren’t Good Enough for Cooperstown but were Good Enough to Stay on the Ballot for 15 Years: Luis Tiant (1982/-0.3 bWAR), Tommy John (1982-85/3.8 bWAR), Dave Parker (1991/-1.2 bWAR), Lee Smith (1995-96/1.5 bWAR), Jack McDowell (1998-99/0.7 bWAR) and Vada Pinson (1973-74/2.9 bWAR).
Next to last, let’s mention a couple of Halo Managers in the HOF, Dick Williams (1974-76) and Whitey Herzog (1974). Williams took Boston, Oakland, Montreal, and San Diego to the playoffs. But not the Angels. Herzog took St. Louis and Kansas City to the playoffs. But not the Angels. Whitey perhaps is better known for his sting in the Angels front office in the early 1990s. Besides Ryan (somehwat), he’s the only member of the HOF that went on to bigger and better things after he left Anaheim.
Oh my! Finally, we shouldn’t forget the media. Dick Enberg (1969-1981), the voice of my youth and the dude who made that Robinson HR call in 1993 is there. And Don Drysdale (1973-79 1981), who made one of my most favorite calls ever! They made some great Angel calls in the 1970s. And before he came iconic in Seattle, Dave Niehaus (1969-1976) worked with Enberg and I still remember those two in the KMPC booth.
Before Joe Torre became a HOF manager, he too was an Angel broadcaster. Sparky Anderson, Ernie Harwell and Joe Garagiola made some stops through the announcing booth too. Last, we have Ross Newhan, an LA Times writer who chronicled the team in the first 40 years.
To conclude, plaques with Halos? We don’t need no stinkin’ plaques with Halos! Celebrate all these Angels in Cooperstown – don’t let anyone say we don’t have any representatives there at all. And if we don’t get Machado or Moustakas, don’t worry - the 3B of the future in 2020? Adrian Beltre - count on it!