Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Lost Rings of the 1982 Angels

When a team wins a World Series, obviously the fan base is rewarded with great memories and a chance to set the "Years since a championship" odometer back to zero.

But just as emotional is seeing which veterans, All Stars and future Hall of Famers getting their first ring.

Last year saw a budding superstar in Tim Lincecum get his ring relatively early in his career.

The 2009 Yankees saw the likes of Alex Rodriguez, C. C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui get their first World Series rings.

Who could forget the emotions behind Dave Winfield finally getting a ring in 1992 or Paul Molitor's in 1993? Or the Diamondbacks in 2001 whose franchise was young but the roster was filled with veterans who got their only title like Randy Johnson, Mike Morgan, Mark Grace, Reggie Sanders, Steve Finley, Matt Williams, Jay Bell and Greg Swindell among others.

Well, one team in history could have had one of the most emotional World Series celebrations in baseball history.

I am talking about the 1982 California Angels... the same team who made me scratch my head and say "How did this team NOT win the pennant?!"

The team was loaded with superstars, former MVPs, 2 future Hall of Famers and a man who has become better known for a surgery than his brilliant career.

Had the team gotten past the Brewers in the ALCS (and they just needed to win one of the last 3 games to do that) and if they then beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, many veteran careers would have changed forever.

Several players who had brilliant careers would have received their rings instead of retiring without a title.

Some players may have improved their own Hall of Fame credentials. Some others would have erased some painful memories of past World Series losses.

And a manager and owner would have certainly be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Let's take a look at who was lost their ring in 1982.


The 18 time All Star did it all. He won the MVP, won 7 batting titles and the future Hall of Famer brought credibility to the Angels when he arrived from Minnesota.

He never did win a World Series ring and never got closer than he did in 1982.

He retired after the 1985 season when he collected his 3,000th hit.


The man who looked like he was going to be the next great left handed bat in Red Sox history was dealt to California in a disastrous trade for Boston. (Frank Tanana left Boston after one season as did Joe Rudi, leaving only Jim Dorsey in Boston while Lynn was hitting in Anaheim.)

Like Carew, Lynn was a former AL MVP. His performance in the 1982 ALCS earned him series MVP despite the fact that he was on the losing team.

It was his last October as injuries caught up with him in the 1980s. He never again put up the big numbers he had in Boston and he retired after the 1990 season.


Yeah, the guy the surgery was named after.

He had a brilliant career where he won 288 games over 26 seasons. He also had rotten luck in the World Series. He played in the 1977, 1978 and 1981 World Series as a member of the Dodgers and Yankees, and somehow wound up on the losing end each time.

Late in 1982, he arrived in Anaheim and pitched in the playoffs. A World Series ring would have eased some of the frustrations and maybe bolstered his Cooperstown resume.


DeCinces committed an unforgivable crime in Baltimore: He was NOT named Brooks Robinson. He replaced the beloved Robinson at thirdbase and started for the Orioles in the 1979 World Series. The fans never really embraced the Southern California native and he was dealt to Anaheim to make room for Cal Ripken Jr. So essentially he was the bridge between two Baltimore legends.

He had his best years with the Angels becoming an All Star and finishing third in the 1982 AL MVP vote. He played 12 full seasons in the bigs before injuries ended his career after a very brief stint with the Cardinals.

He never got his World Series ring. Robinson and Ripken have theirs.


Speaking of former Orioles infielders who thrived in California... Grich was an All Star Gold Glove second baseman who blossomed under Earl Weaver in Baltimore. He then became a free agent and landed in California where he helped lead the Angels to their first ever Division Title in 1979. Those Angels lost in the ALCS to the Orioles.

Grich put up solid numbers in California, sharing the home run lead in 1981 and becoming an All Star several times over.

He never got to play in a World Series, much less win one. His last ever game was Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS where he saw the Red Sox win the pennant.

I always found it was odd that Downing was called The Incredible Hulk. I always thought he was a dead ringer for Christopher Reeve and should have been called Superman.

Either way, the former White Sox catcher became a mainstay in the Angels outfield, developing into a home run hitter in his 30s before people were suspicious about sudden surges in power.

He played 17 seasons in the bigs, made a few All Star Games, some Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger and even some MVP votes.

But he never played in a World Series.

For 15+ seasons, Forsch pitched in the big leagues along with his brother Bob.

Each threw a no hitter.
Each became an All Star.
Each were solid pros.

But Bob played in multiple World Series in St. Louis and Forsch never played in one during his seasons in Houston and California.

Had the Angels won the 1982 pennant, he would have faced his brother in the World Series.

Alas it was Bob who was fitted for a ring.


The 10 year veteran had his best season with the 1982 Angels. He went 18-8 with a 3.73 ERA over 229 1/3 innings for the AL West Champs. He started and lost Game 3 of the 1982 ALCS, his lone post season appearance.

He would retire with the Angels after the 1985 season, having pitched 13 years with the Dodgers, Cubs and Twins as well as for California.

He would later become a baseball coach for the University of Michigan.


Never a superstar, Beniquez was just a solid and sought after bat who played 15+ seasons in the major leagues with 8 different teams.

He played for the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series but had his longest stretch for one team with the Angels, where he played from 1981 to 1985.

With all the times he was dealt, it is amazing he never played in another World Series. But the versatile Beniquez, who played all three outfield positions and all four infield positions, finished his career without a World Series title.

Like Beniquez, Renko was never a star. Just a well travelled veteran who bounced around from team to team, filling the need for a capable starter good for 25-30 starts a year.

After 8 years of anonymity in Montreal, he made his way to California by way of the Cubs, White Sox, A's and Red Sox.

The 1982 Angels were the only team that he played with that won a Division Title. In 1983 he joined the Royals for his 15th and final season.

There was always a cool quality to Ron Jackson. I always loved how he had his whole name written on his back. It could be "JACKSON" because of Reggie. And just putting "R. JACKSON" wouldn't solve anything either.

So it said "RON JACKSON" on his back. That's neat in my opinion.

1982 was his second tour with the Angels and he singled in the ALCS, his lone playoff appearance.

He never got a ring as a player but later earned one as the beloved "Papa Jack", hitting coach for the 2004 World Champion Red Sox.


The former Dodgers catcher had unbelievably bad luck when it came to World Championships.

He played with the 1974 Dodgers and was best known for throwing out Sal Bando at homeplate after being inserted into the outfield during Game 1 of the World Series. But the emergence of Steve Yeager made him expendable. After stints with the Astros and Cardinals he returned to the Dodgers. But he was cut during the 1981 season as Mike Scioscia made him expendable. Those Dodgers would go on to win the World Series without him. He joined the Angels but fared no better and retired after the 1983 season.

Later he did get his ring as a coach for the 1988 Dodgers.


The beloved former Red Sox shortstop played his second season in Anaheim with the 1982 Angels. It was however, the beginning of the end for him. Arm issues limited him to 11 games in 1982 and he missed most of the 1983 and 1984 seasons and all of the 1985 campaign.

He returned to play 93 games with the 1986 Angels only to see their World Series dreams fall ironically to the Red Sox.

His lone career World Series appearance was in 1975 with Boston.


Speaking of beloved former Red Sox players...

El Tiante would have been the MVP of the 1975 World Series had the Red Sox held onto their Game 7 lead. He pitched his heart out for 7 plus seasons in Fenway before landing in the Bronx.

By then he was winding down and after a fling with the Pirates and the Mexican league, ended up in Anaheim for the last few months of the 1982 season.

He would not have been on the playoff roster but Lou-ie could have ended his career a champion. (Although he needs no ring to confirm that he was a championship caliber player.)


No stranger to post season play, Hassler was anything but a good luck charm. He played for the 1976 Royals team that lost the ALCS on Chris Chambliss' homer. He was on the 1977 KC team that coughed up the lead in a potential pennant clinching 9th inning. Later he pitched for the Red Sox in the Bucky Bleeping Dent game.

Gene Mauch inexplicably didn't use Hassler against Cecil Cooper in Game 5 of the 1982 ALCS and it probably cost the Angels the pennant.

He never did get to play in a World Series.


Another former Red Sox pitcher! Actually he was included in a deal that seemed to be inspired by bringing local boys back home. Aase was from Orange County California and playing in Boston. Meanwhile Jerry Remy was a native of Massachusetts playing for the Angels in Orange County.

The two players were swapped and Aase pitched for the Angels in the 1979 ALCS.

An elbow injury derailed his 1982 season and left the Angels bullpen thin in the playoffs.

He went on to be late to the party in terms of World Series titles with three different franchises. He joined the orioles in 1986, 3 years after they won the World Series. He joined the Mets in 1989, three years after THEY won the World Series. He finished his career with the Dodgers in 1990, 2 years after they won it all.


At the August 31 post season roster deadline, the Angels purchased the contract of 13 year veteran John Curtis from the Padres.

The left handed native New Englander pitched 15 seasons in his career including stops in Boston, St. Louis, San Francisco and San Diego before becoming an Angel.

He was an effective swing man for many seasons but never got to play in the World Series.


The valuable utility infielder finished his 11 year career with the 1982 Angels. He made stops in St. Louis, Houston and Detroit but spent 5 years in Wrigley Field with the Cubs.

He played all infield positions but was not exactly a long ball threat. In 1202 career plate appearances, he never hit a homer.

He never got a ring as a player either but wound up getting one as a coach with the 2009 Yankees.


I grant you, it is a stretch to put Don Baylor on this list. The first player to play in three straight World Series with three different teams (the '86 Red Sox, the '87 Twins and the '88 A's) won in Minnesota. And he contributed to the title with a Game winning hit in Game 1 of the ALCS and a game tying homer in Game 6 of the World Series.

But he was the Angels first ever MVP and along with Rod Carew seemed to be the face of the team. And while the ring he won as a rent a player for the Twins must have been sweet, being able to win it for the team he helped put on the map would have been even sweeter for his legacy.


OK, if putting Don Baylor on this list was a stretch, the putting Reggie on here seems insane. After all, he was Mr. October and was a World Series MVP for two different franchises. But hear me out.

The one thing in Reggie's Hall of Fame career that I am sure he regrets is not being able to win a World Series for the Angels. After battling with Finley in Oakland and Steinbrenner in New York, Reggie had a strong father-son bond with Gene Autry. Winning a title for Mr. Autry would have been his crowning achievement.

It would have also been a gigantic middle finger to the Yankees, who became lost without Reggie and would have forever solidified his position as a championship difference maker. Not that he needed to pad his resume.


The Late Gene Mauch won more games as a manager than anyone in history without a World Series appearance. He helped turn the Phillies into a contender in the 1960s. He made winners out of the Twins in the 1970s. And twice nearly got the Angels into the World Series during the 1980s.

If he had won a pennant during his 26 years as a manager, he'd be considered for the Hall of Fame. If he had won a World Series as a manager, he'd probably already be in.

Instead he finished his career and had his life end with no pennant to his name.


Most heart breaking of all, the singing cowboy never got to see his team win a pennant, much less the World Series. The former film star championed the expansion of the American League into California and the Angels became the first true West Coast franchise. They weren't stolen from Brooklyn or New York (nor from Kansas City as the A's were.)

The Angels roots were pure West Coast and Autry put his heart, soul and money into the franchise trying to build a winner outside of the looming shadow of the more successful Dodgers.

He died in 1998, not long after seeing the Angels final face plant of his lifetime when they coughed up the 1995 AL West title to the Mariners.

That's a lot of people who would have looked at the 1982 World Series title as their highpoint. Imagine the emotion of the celebration. Carew gets his ring and celebrates with Baylor, the two players who led the Angels to their first Division. DeCinces and Grich put their bad timing in Baltimore behind them. The former Red Sox players erase memories of 1975 and 1978.

Ferguson and John salute their former Dodger teammates and Ken Forsch taunts his brother.

And Reggie gives an embrace to Mr. Autry, knowing that their mission was done in the first year. And Gene Mauch begins to think of his Hall of Fame speech.

If only the baseball Angels smiled upon the California Angels some more.
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  1. Anonymous4:35 AM

    Two words, Gene Mauch. He blew a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 to play as Phillies manager in 1964, was at the helm for Angels in 82, and pulled Mike Witt for Donnie Moore in 86. You can apply that old saying about "there are no coincidences" in his case. Good manager yes. Great no. I bet Dick Williams, Billy Martin, or Earl Weaver would have won if in his place. The Brewers had Yount, Molitor, and Fingers. All future HOFers. So they were not chopped liver. As a 3rd grader growing up in Santa Monica, CA I have fond memories of 1982 season. The early formative years as a baseball fan stay with you forever. I am sure you already know that.
    Never been to this blog before, but I shall return. Great article. One last thing, am I the only person that wishes the Angels would go back to the 1982 uniforms. Too much red in the current edition.

  2. good article, stick more to the older stuff
    (less of the new stuff) since its obviously what your better at

  3. Nice back handed compliment Mummbles

  4. Drew Brown2:44 PM

    Great article. Great team. In hindsight, the heartbreaking loss in '82, and the even more heartbreaking loss in '86 made the 2002 World Series win that much sweeter. Wouldn't have admitted that at the time... and twenty years is a long time to wait for retribution.... but the long history of disappointment was part of the great story of the championship team.

    P.S. I disagree with Mummbles; I think you handle the newer stuff just as competently as you handle the older stuff.

    P.S.S. Ken Forsch ultimately got his ring as a member of the front office of the 2002 team.

  5. Well done as always! Thanks for the memory... as painful as it is.