Monday, December 10, 2012

Angels in the Outfield, the Infield, behind the Plate and on the Hill

The 1978 California Angels spent a lot of Gene Autry's bucks, but still could not topple the KC Royals in the AL West.  Don Baylor (39) was the only player to hit more than 17 homers.  In fact only 3 players, including Baylor wound up with double digits for long balls.  Their pitching wasn't much better.  In fact, no hit ace Nolan Ryan had a sub .500 season with an ERA close to 4.00, which was well below his normal standards while toiling in Anaheim.  Somehow this team remarkably finished in the 1st division, 5 games back of the Royals.  With a bit more power and some better pitching they could have won the division (fast forward to 1979...)

To update their card set for ARAIG play I had to add 13 new cards.  Chad and Erik (those photo elves) supplied me with the photos and I plugged in some additional pics to the mix as well.  My preference is to use player photos that I find on the net or had in my collection.  If those can't be found then we dip into a previous or future baseball card.  When that doesn't work, we head to the airbrush or colorize a black and white photo.  I will credit accordingly as I post to the blog.

After 8 solid seasons in KC, Fitzmorris wound up in Cleveland, where all good baseball careers died during the 1970's.  After a 6-10 season with an era of 5.41 he was on notice.  Midway through the 1978 campaign the Tribe cut him loose and the Halos picked him up.  In 9 games in Anaheim he went 1-0 with a 1.79 ERA.  On the surface it looked like he resurrected his career, but the Halos must not have seen much so they gave him his release after the season concluded.  The Padres signed him but he never pitched again in the majors.  The photo pictured here is from his '79 card.  His smile must indicate that he just found out he wouldn't have to pitch in Cleveland anymore.
Traded by the Chicago White Sox with Dave Frost and Chris Knapp to the California Angels for Bobby Bonds, Thad Bosley and Richard Dotson.  Downing turned out to be a steal for the Angels.  While his catching ability (not so good) and his 1977 stats (.255-7-46) might have indicated otherwise, Downing improved in time once moved from behind the plate to left field and the DH spot.  In 13 seasons in Anaheim he would hit .272 with over 200 homers and 800+ RBI's.  This card was created with the photo used for the 1980 Topps super size set.
Lansford would finish 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1978 as the Halo's freshman thirdbaseman.  He would only last 3 seasons in SoCal before being dealt to Boston where he would hit .336 and win a batting title.  He would eventually hit his stride when he arrived in Oakland to anchor their infield as the team won 3 pennants.  My guess is that the Halos expected more power from their corner infielders and needed to deal one of them.  Since the other corner infielder was high price free agent / future HOF'er, Lansford was the odd man out.  The photo used here was a stock photo found on an Angels fan site.
Frost arrived as part of the Downing trade from the Chisox.  In 10 starts he logged 80 innings and posted a 5-4 record with an impressive 2.58 ERA.  He was a 25 year old righty with lots of upside.  The following year he was 16-10 with a 3.57 ERA.  He logged over 200 innings and looked like he was going to be a solid number 2 or 3 starter, but the injury bug hit him as well as ineffectiveness.  After 2 seasons of limited action and a 5.00+ ERA he wound up in KC, where he performed just as miserably and wound up being released.  This photo came from his 1981 Fleer card.  Not easy to google search pictures for a guy named Dave Frost.  Somehow google thinks he's the British dude who interviewed Nixon..
Nobody had a better mustache than Don Aase.  It is rumored that on nights when he slept in his 'stache still went out an had a good time.  Aase came over from Boston during the offseason in exchange for the "Rem-Dog".  He was a below average starter with a low 4.00 ERA.  Eventually he moved to the pen and became an above average reliever, especially when he moved over to Baltimore.  In total, Aase had himself a fine 13 year career.  This card was one of my favorites to create.  I found a photo of him with a blue background and removed the background and superimposed Anaheim Stadium behind him.
At first I thought this guy was that guy who came in 3rd during the 1980 presidential election.  Upon further review I realized that was John Anderson.  I should have realized that considering the fact that a 20 something year old baseball player can not run for president.  I blame this thought process on my 4 sports related concussions.  In any case, Anderson was a journeyman infielder.  Not many photos of him are available in an Angels uni'.  This came from his 1980 card that Chad sent me.  I toyed with the idea of colorizing a B&W photo of him that I found, but I figured "how much action is he going to see anyway ?"
A career minor leaguer who pitched in just 2 games for the Halo's in 1978 and was farmed out after posting a 7.04 ERA.  Laziness and apathy forced me to reuse the 1977 airbrushed photo I created for his Topps card that we used last season.
Landreaux was a speedy outfielder who didn't have much pop.  The Halos didn't have much patience for this youngster to develop.  After spending 2 seasons as their 4th or 5th outfielder he was dealt to the Twins, where he quickly developed into an All-Star.  To add insult to injury 3 years later he wound up across town playing for the hated Dodgers and winning a championship.  In 1978 he would play all 3 outfield positions and hit .223.  I found this photo on ebay and cleaned it up a bit before using it for his '78 card.
Signed in the offseason as a Free Agent Rettenmund was the quintessential 4th outfielder.  He could play all 3 outfield positions capably plus he could hit in clutch spots.  He just never hit for the kind of power a good corner oufielder was expected to post.  In his early years in Baltimore he racked up post season appearances and clutch pinch hitting at bats.  He would get nearly 300 at bats filling in for an aging Frank Robinson or Don Bufford.  My guess is that he was brought to Anaheim to do the same.  In 3 seasons with the Halo's he hit .266 in limited action.  This photo came from his 79 Card.
In 1978 Rick Miller won the gold glove for his fielding prowess as the California Angels centerfielder after signing as a Free Agent in the off season.  Miller had to be a gold glover, because no other major league team sported a centerfielder who hit just 1 home run in over 400 AB's.  Miller's career before and after 1978 was that of a late inning defensive replacement.  In total he would spend 15 years in the majors doing what he did best, tracking down long fly balls in the gap.  I found this signed photo on ebay for his 78 Card.
39 year old Ron Fairly was in the final year of a pretty good 21 year career.  He was coming off an All-Star season as a member of the expansion Toronto Blue Jays.  The Angel brass figured he had something left in the tank and could recreate his '77 campaign as a lefty bat off the bench and a part time starter at 1st or DH.  Fairly aged terribly right before their eyes and hit just .221 with limited power.  Fans never took to him as an Angel and would always remember him as a Dodger, where he spent 12 seasons and won 3 World Championships.  I found this signed photo on ebay.
Coming off a 6-9, 4.46 season in San Diego the Angels rushed to sign Griffin as a free agent and expected big things.  Ok, that's a huge stretch considering the 30 year old Griffin was never more than a .500 pitcher at best.  In his one season in SoCal he would pitch 56 innings in 24 games and post a 3-4, 4.02 record, which corresponded with his career averages.  At the end of the season he was released.  He caught on with the Giants and had 3 pretty good season over in the Bay Area before imploding in Pittsburgh in 1982, where his career ended with a 8.82 ERA season.
One of the forgotten guys acquired in the Downing trade, Knapp actually made it into the Halos 1978 rotation and won 14 games.  Over the next 2 seasons his ERA would go up 1 point per year, which facilitated his exit from baseball.  He would tool around in the minors for the next 4 seasons with his stats getting worse and worse, until he finally called it quits.  At 6'5" and 190 lbs Knapp must have looked like a bespectacled bean pole on the mound.
Danny Goodwin was know as "the Black Johnny Bench" when he was drafted #1 overall twice.  He hurt his shoulder in the minors and could never throw like a major leaguer again.  He was moved to 1st and DH, but didn't hit enough at either slot and was eventually moved to the Twins.  Sports Illustrated has an interesting article on Baseball Draft Busts and he's featured prominently.  I found this great photo there.
Homered in his first at bat for the Angels in 1978 and hit .278 in 22 games during his cup of coffee with the big club after spending 6 years in the minors.  He moved on to the Tigers chain the following year and hit .192 in limited action with the big club before being farmed out for good.  He tooled around he minors until 1982 before hanging it up after being a career AAA player.  This card took some fine cut and paste along with airbrushing to make.  It started as a minor league card.  I added an Angels cap and Nolan Ryan's warmup jacket (why not borrow from the very best).

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