Thursday, October 22, 2009

1962 - YES WE CAN!

Long before Barack Obama's camp adopted the phrase, Angels fans in 1962 were chanting "YES WE CAN!" in hopes of a championship season.  Why in the world would a team in just its second season have postseason dreams, especially before the advent of divisional play?  To start with, most of these guys looked pretty happy going into the season wearing a halo on their heads:

The '62 Angels did the impossible - they actually led the American League late in the season.  In fact, "First on the Fourth" was a cry at one point when the Halos were in first place on the 4th of July.  Ultimately they fell to third place, ten games behind some team from New York, but at 86-76, it was an amazing finish for such a new team.

While this set is well-loved by collectors because of the wood-grain finish, in terms of quality control 1962 turned out to be one of the worst years for Topps cards ever.  Due do a serious production error, an entire run of cards ended up with a greenish tint, and there were many other variations - many including Angels.  As you can see in the first image, there was a variation on the team card, with two insert pictures being added in later runs.  And the Eddie Yost card was printed with a head shot in one version, and a batting pose in another.

Leon "Daddy Wags" Wagner was the major force on offense that year, with 37 homers and 107 RBI.  He ended up winning the Angels' first All-Star MVP award that year and placed 4th in the MVP ballot.  Lee Thomas led the Halos with a .290 batting average.  On the pitching side, Dean Chance led the team with 14 wins and a 2.96 ERA among the regulars, while Bo Belinsky checked in with 145 strikeouts.  Belinsky pitched the franchise's first no-hitter on May 5th (against the Orioles), and became an instant sensation in SoCal.

Belinsky's rookie card, #592) was the hardest pre-1972 card for me to get.  Unfortunately this wasn't just because it was Bo's rookie card, but because it was also Jim Bouton's rookie card.  Bouton wrote the first real tell-all book about baseball, "Ball Four," and his cards have been more in demand ever since.

The inserts this year were lickable stamps, set two to a panel.  While most of what I've acquired are single panels, I'm pretty happy about the double-panels I've found.  Having the old-school Angels logo paired with a Houston Colts emblem is really cool.

1962 was such an amazing year for the Angels, that (so far) it ranks as my second favorite season ever.  In addition to the 1962 Topps Bucks, I even had to pick up a couple non-regular-Topps cards because I love this team so much.  The first is a 1999 Fleer Greats of the Game autograph card of Bo Belinsky, which I obtained after he passed away.  Bo was such a huge character on the early Angels teams, largely because he had relationships with many of the hottest starlets of the day.

I also had to get the Topps Archives Dean Chance auto card, as it just wouldn't be 1962 if Belinsky was there without Chance.

1962 Topps Angels Checklist

11 - Tom Morgan
39 - Joe Koppe
68 - Ken L. Hunt
96 - Eli Grba
128A - Art Fowler green tint
128B - Art Fowler
132A - Angels Team
132B - Angels Team w/photo inserts
154A - Lee Thomas green tint
154B - Lee Thomas
176A - Eddie Yost - portrait
176B - Eddie Yost - batting
194A - Dean Chance green tint
194B - Dean Chance
209 - Jim Fregosi
257 - Jack Spring
268 - Ken McBride
287 - George Witt
343 - Albie Pearson
369 - Ted Bowsfield
388 - Ryne Duren
422 - Steve Bilko
431 - Bob Rodgers
452 - Earl Averill
491 - Leon Wagner
498 - Jim Donohue
525 - George Thomas
539 - Billy Moran
549 - Bill Rigney SP
569 - Ed Sadowski SP
592 - RC Parade Pitchers (Belinsky, Bonikowski, Bouton, Pfister, Stenhouse) SP
595 - RC Parade Infielders (Sadowski, Charles, Coughtry, Torres) SP

Topps Stamps Inserts
TSI62 - Los Angeles Emblem
TSI63 Steve Bilko
TSI64 Ted Bowsfield
TSI65 Ken Hunt
TSI66 Ken McBride
TSI67 Albie Pearson
TSI68 Bob Rodgers
TSI69 George Thomas
TSI70 Lee Thomas
TSI71 Leon Wagner

1962 Topps Bucks
TB40 Ken Hunt
TB58 Ken McBride
TB88 Lee Thomas
TB90 Leon Wagner

1999 Fleer Bo Belinsky Sports Illustrated Greats of the Game Autograph
2002 Topps Archives Dean Chance Autograph

regular cards: 28 + 4
inserts: 14

Monday, October 19, 2009

ALCS Game 3

So I got doubly lucky this year, and was able to score tickets to our first home game of the American League Championship Series.  Not wanting to mess with the formula that worked for game one of the AL Division Series, Jamie and I took our friends Clark and Michelle.  The Angels were already down in the series two games to none to the hated Yankmes from New Yawk, and I have to admit that I wasn't feeling confident coming in to this game.

Unlike the ALDS, we actually had a flyover for this game.  This C-130 cargo jet circled so low over the stadium that Michelle thought that terrorists were attacking.

The Angels had the right side of the '80s infield there for the first pitch - Rod Carew tossed the ball to Bobby Grich.

The Big A is still under renovation for the All-Star Game next year.  It is so very weird to look out there and see a big hole instead of a cola ad.  Unfortunately the Big Halo did not get lit after our win in game 1 of the ALDS.  I always like to take a picture of a lit Halo after an Angels victory.

Always nice to see that fans still remember and love Mr. Autry!

All right, first pitch, and Jered Weaver throws... a ball.  Meh.

Weaver gave up three runs in five innings, and left with the Angels in a 3-0 hole.  Soon after, Howie Kendrick hit a solo homer in the bottom of the fifth, and Vladdy said "Yes we can!" with a two-run blast in the sixth.  The game was tied at the seventh inning stretch when they introduced the crew of the C-130.

I really don't have enough pics of the numbers that the Angels have retired.

Once again, I was so busy watching the game (and our seats were in the nosebleeds) that I didn't get any pics of the action.  Oddly enough, I was really tempted to pull out the camera right before Vladdy's two-run shot.  We ended up going ahead in the 7th (BRILLIANT move by Mike Scioscia to pinch hit Maicer Izturis for Mike Napoli - Mighty Maicer seems like he's always clutch), but the Yankees tied it in the 8th.  I blame this partly on the video crew showing a second Rally Monkey video after we had already taken the lead.  Isn't that against the rules?

I'd like to take a moment to point out how much respect the Yankees have for Angels fans. Every time the Angels got any sort of momentum going on offense (i.e. anyone on base at all), they did everything they could to slow the game down. I cannot remember the last time I saw a pitcher throw to first four times in a row so early in the game, so thank you for that, Andy Pettitte. Joe Girardi also got in on the fun, having inserted Mo Rivera into the batting order at one point, and stopping the game to confirm with the umpire that that's what he was doing. All these delays did a good job of getting us fans to sit back down (especially when beer sales stopped an inning earlier than usual) but it didn't knock us out of the game. As usual, Angels fans were up to the occasion, and went nuts when--

--after three more scoreless innings, the Angels finally came through in the bottom of the eleventh when Jeff Mathis knocked in Howie Kendrick to make it a 2-1 series.  The folks in the condos across the parking lot were pretty happy about it.

Taking a cue from the Afternoon Angel, I made sure to congratulate a couple of Yankees fans on a great game before heading out.  After all, no matter who wins, an eleven inning game won by one run is always a good beisbol game.  It made me happy that the first two guys I said "good game" to shook my hand and took my well wishes as they were intended.  They both looked to be in their twenties.  I find it very interesting that the two older gentlemen that I said "good game" to looked at me like I had just spat on Babe Ruth's grave.

Mr. Autry was all smiles as we made our way back to the parking lot.

One great bonus was realizing that part of the renovation on the Big A is complete; they lit up the Halo!  Now instead of a single row of white light, we have a bunch of rows that can go multiple colors.

After thirteen innings Saturday night, and eleven today, I am WIPED. Rest up, Angels fans. The Halos are going to need every cheer we can muster to even this up.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Look what I got! - Part Two in a Series

And now for something different:

This, my friends, is the Topps File Card for one Gary George Pettis.  Topps has always done business with individual players, instead of signing a blanket deal with the MLBPA.  Back before the internet (and evidently before Topps bought computers?), Topps kept their records on File Cards like this one so they could keep track of who they had signed, what they paid them (usually cash, but sometimes stuff like stereo systems) and what number their card ended up being.  Considering that I'm keeping a running history of Topps Angels cards here, I'm really happy to have finally added one of these to the collection.  The first image is of the whole card, and the second is of the attachment that's stapled onto the front.

Gary played for the Angels from 1982 through 1987, winning Gold Gloves in 1985 and 1986 (and three more with the Tigers (2) and Rangers).  His best season with the Halos came in 1986, when he hit .258 with 5 homers, 58 RBI, 93 runs scored and 50 stolen bases.  He held the Angels' steals record until Chone Figgins broke it in 2007.  He's currently the first base coach for the Texas Rangers (he still gets cheers when Tejas comes to town), and his #20 jersey can be seen being placed into his locker during the pregame video every night at the Big A.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Now where did I put my broom?

So I'm standing there watching the game in the 7th, and the wife's Uncle turns to me and says, "Oh well, I guess we can clinch it in tomorrow's game."

I looked at him and calmly said, "Game's not over yet."

I had no doubt in my mind that the Angels could come back from a 5-1 deficit on Sunday to beat the hated Red Sox and sweep them out of the playoffs.  Soon after, we made it 5-2.  Then Billy Wagner let two men on in the eighth, and they brought in Papelbon.

I smiled.

It seems like every time Tito Francona sends in Papelbon against us and there are men on base, we end up scoring.  True, we usually only score enough runs against the kid to lose by 1, but we seem to reach him regularly.  And I had a feeling this time would be different.

Top of the eighth.  Two on, two out.  Juan Rivera gets his first-ever hit off of Papelbon, and suddenly it's a 1 run game.  Bottom of the eight,  it becomes 6-4 Red Sox.  Okay, that's just one extra run we need.

Top of the ninth.  Casey Kotchman in at first for the Red Sox (never thought I'd ever type that).  Papelbon gets two quick outs.  I'm so focused on what the Angels are doing, I don't even realize we're one out from playing another game in Boston.

Then Aybar singles.  They let him take second.

Figgins walks.  I start to smile.

CLANG! - Abreu doubles off the wall.  6-5 Red Sox.  Men on 2nd and 3rd.

And then, AND THEN, they intentionally walk Torii to get to Vladdy.  My confident smile becomes a huge grin.  Do these Sox not remember what happened the last time Vladdy came to bat in a do-or-die moment in this stadium with bases loaded?  I sure do.  And sure enough--

--CRACK! - Vladdy singles to knock in two runs, and the Angels take their first lead of the game.  Fuentes comes in and locks down the win.

7-6 Angels.

I hope Donnie Moore can finally rest in peace after this one.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2001 - Not Quite an Odyssey

Once again, a year ends in a 1, and the Angels didn't have a great year.  (I'd start to think that putting up the cards by alternating decades wasn't such a great idea; luckily years that end in 2 have been much nicer to the Halos.)  They went 75-87 and finished in third place, largely due to a ton of injuries and a Seattle Mariners team that won a Major League record 116 games.  But in spite of all this, the Angels drew over 2 million fans to the ballpark (then named Edison Field of Anaheim; man, I want to smack myself for calling it the Big Ed a couple of times).

Most of the cards here are Topps' "Home Team Advantage" variants, with an extra gold stamp.  I believe these were exclusive to hobby shops that year.  That's Bengie Molina's first card as an Angel at the bottom right, and he signed it for me at the Angels Fan Fest in 2004, as did Ramon Ortiz.  Jeff Mathis signed his card for me during Spring Training in 2008.

Man, 2001 was a great year for first-year Angels cards.  In addition to the Bengie, Ortiz and Mathis cards, Scott Spiezio and Mike Scioscia got their first regular Angels cards, and there were certifed auto cards of Scioscia and John Lackey (rookie auto!).

2001 was a great looking set, with the green borders being oddly evocative of the outfield wall at the Big A.

2001 was also the 50th year of Topps baseball cards. As such, the set included a bunch of reprints, including the oft-reprinted 1980 Nolan Ryan.

Topps inserts finally got interesting in 1996, but it wasn't until 2001 that the Angels got their first jersey card with the "King of Kings" Nolan Ryan card.  The "Who Would Have Thought" cards were great this year as well, covering two of the greatest acquisitions in team history, Ryan and Carew.

Although '01 wasn't a great year, the position players got a lot of experience working together, which would come in handy in 2002...

2001 Topps Angels

4 - Garret Anderson
39 - Shigetoshi Hasegawa
80 - Darin Erstad
87 - Scott Spiezio
161 - Benji Gil
175 - Troy Glaus
186 - Seth Etherton
251 - Scott Schoeneweis
271 - Bengie Molina
309 - Matt Walbeck
324 Mike Scioscia MGR
390 - Troy Glaus SH
392 Sammy Sosa/Troy Glaus HR Leaders
397 Todd Helton/Darin Erstad Hit Leaders
419 - Troy Percival
470 - Gary DiSarcina
484 - Tim Belcher
514 - Adam Kennedy
529 - Orlando Palmeiro
546 - Tim Salmon
586 - Kevin Stocker
604 - Jarrod Washburn
621 - Mo Vaughn
636 - Jose Canseco
722 - Ramon Ortiz
728 - Phil Wilson Angels - Jake Peavey (sic) Padres - Darwin Cubillan Rangers
729 - Steve Smyth Cubs - Mike Bynum Padres - Nathan Haynes Angels
731 - Pena - Larry Barnes Angels - Wise
745 - Joe Torres/Ben Diggins
752 - Anaheim Angels Team Card

Golden Anniversary Prospect Autograph
GAAJL - John Lackey
Golden Anniversary Great Autograph
GAARC - Rod Carew
Going for Gold
GA45 - Troy Glaus
GA48 - Mo Vaughn
Through the Years Reprints
39 - 1980 Nolan Ryan
A Tradition Continues
TRC17 - Mo Vaughn
Base Hit Base Card
BH1 - Mike Scioscia MGR
King of Kings Jersey
KKR6 - Nolan Ryan

2001 Topps Traded

T33 - Ismael Valdes
T38 - Pat Rapp
T104 - Reggie Jackson 82
T120 - Wally Joyner 86
T142 - 1995 Sexson, Arias, Sweeney, Schneider Reprint
T151 - Jared Abruzzo RC
T197 - Brian Specht RC
T227 - Alfredo Amezaga RC
T258 - Jeff Mathis RC

Who Would Have Thought?
WT1 - Nolan Ryan
WT12 - Rod Carew

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Let the Playoffs Begin!

Yes, I know five playoff games had already begun by the time the Angels' first postseason first game started, but let's face it - the playoffs don't truly begin until the Halos play their first postseason game. And what a game it was!

A game can't start any better than the wife giving Vladdy a beeg kees.

Not the best picture, but this is what we play for every year:

 And every year we play for Mr. Autry--

--and this year we also play for Nick Adenhart and his family.  I almost lost it when the Angels paid tribute to Nick in the pre-game video.

I was especially happy to see that the Angels included a clip of Jon Wilhite (the sole survivor of the accident that took the lives of Nick and his friends Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson) throwing out the first pitch on August 29.

I will never get tired of seeing an American flag this large stretched across the lawn of my favorite place in the world.

Eventually it was time for the lineups to be introduced--

 --and for John Lackey to throw out the first pitch. It was a strike.

Most of these pics were taken from our seats in the top deck, section 431.  Not very close to the action, which explains why I don't have more in-game pics, but it was a great place to get pics of the celebration after we won the game.

Nine innings of shutout ball.  John Lackey's first postseason victory since he won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series.  The first postseason shutout in Angels history.  Heck, it was the first time I've witnessed a playoff win at the Big A since the 2002 ALDS.  Here's hoping that we keep dealing more of the same.