Reconsidering History

Sunday, January 07 2007 @ 01:43 AM EST

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

Looking at the 1982 California Angels

Sometimes my Hall of Names travels and travails cause me to fall into "wander" mode on the greatness of; that happened to me tonight and at the end of it all, random clicking led me to the team page for the 1982 California Angels.

This was a good ball club -- they won 93 games (though their Pytagorean results called for 95) and the AL West pennant by three games over the Kansas City Royals ...

These were Gene Mauch's Angels, the first team in his then-23 years of managing that he took into the post-season. They won the first two games of the ALCS, played in Anaheim, then lost three in a row on the road in Milwaukee to send the Brew Crew on to an All-Midwest World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Really, it's the makeup of the California -- heh, I almost wrote "Los Angeles" after starting to type "Anaheim" -- roster that I find fascinating, given the retrospect of 25 years.

(Has it really been that long?)

The catcher was Bob Boone; around the infield, you had Rod Carew, Bobby Grich, Tim Foli and Doug DeCinces, while the starting outfield had Reggie Jackson and Brian Downing flanking Fred Lynn. The DH was none other than Don Baylor.

That's a starting nine featuring All-Stars at every position, two Hall of Famers and at least four others who can make a case that they deserved more consideration for Cooperstown induction.

You know what else they all have in common? Every single player in that lineup was at least 30, with Lynn, who turned 30 just before Spring Training started, the youngest of the group. The bench wasn't exactly packed with youngsters either, as the 30+ reps on the pine included 32-year-old OF Juan Beniquez, 35-year-old C Joe Ferguson and IFs Mick Kelleher (34) and Rick Burleson (31, but who missed much of the seaason with a torn rotator cuff). The only under-25 player on the team to get more than five at-bats was the immortal Daryl Sconiers, who was 2-for-13 as a 1B/DH for the '82 Halos.

Oh, but we haven't even addressed the pitching staff yet -- where the top four winners were 36-year-old Geoff Zahn (18-8); 35-year-old Ken Forsch (13-11), 37-year-old Steve Renko (11-6) and 32-year-old Bruce Kison (10-5). To be fair, the best pitcher on the team, at least in the second half of the season, was a baby-faced Mike Witt, who was 8-6 at the age of 21 for Mauch's men.

Also appearing on the mound for the Angels that year were 34-yeard-old John Curtis, 37-year-old Stan Bahnsen, 39-year-old Tommy John and the supposedly 41-year-old Luis Tiant. Those four combined to win 752 big league games, though admittely, just six (four by John, two by Tiant) came with the '82 Angels.

Now, the bullpen was a bastion of youth for this team, with Don Aase (age 27), Luis Sanchez (28), Doug Corbett (29), Andy Hassler (30) and Dave Goltz (33 -- that's more like it!) each saving at least three games, with Corbett's eight leading the team.

To be fair, the pitchers were actually younger than the hitters on average, with the latter at an average of 31.9 years while the former averaged 32.2 ... For context there, the '82 Blue Jays averaged 26.7 and 25.8 for hitters and pitchers, respectively, while the seemingly always-ancient Yankees (who finished one game ahead of the Jays that year, at 79-83) were at 30.3 and 29.0 in '82.

So yeah, these Angels were old-timers, relatively speaking. The next year, the 1983 Phillies won the NL Pennant with their "Geez House Gang" of Rose, Morgan, Carlton and more, but even they were younger -- at 31.9 for the hitters and 30.3 for the pitchers.

Sure, those Angels would be remembered more fondly -- maybe even have their own team nickname, "Mauch's Old Men" or something -- if they'd actually won the AL pennant and especially if they'd gone on to win the Series that Milwaukee lost in Game 7 to Batter's Box perennial favorite Joaquin Andujar.

But regardless, these old guys were pretty good.