Tuesday, November 22, 2011

1977 California Angels

As mentioned before the Angels put all their hopes in their 3 prized free agent signings + their top 2 starters Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana.  Injuries and ineffectiveness limited the stars and so relegated the team to a 5th place finish and a 74-88 record.  Their lackluster finish cost their manager (Norm Sherry) his job as well.  The "Cowboy", Gene Autry, would have 2 wait two years to see his team win the division title.  They would do it again with basically the same core players in 1982.  Unfortunately it would be 20 years after that 2nd division title before the Halos would win their first world championship.  Unfortunately Mr. Autry would not be around to enjoy that championship celebration, but his legacy lives on in this organization...even today.

Let's break the team down, so we can see how they underachieved.

After Ryan (19-16, 2.77) and Tanana (15-9, 2.54), the rotation was sub par at best.  23 year old Paul Hartzell (8-12, 3.57) pitched both out of the pen and in the rotation.  His records should have been reversed if the team was able to score runs.  Ken Brett, Wayne Simpson and Gary Ross basically threw BP every time out.  Dave LaRoche (13 saves) and Dyar Miller (4 saves) were the bullpen, once Hertzell became a full fledged starter.

The pressure on the staff to keep games close was enormous thanks to the lack of runs being scored by the offense.  The Angels finished 10th in runs scored in a 14 team league, of which 2 of those teams were Expansion teams.  This lack of production was not expected back in December of 1976 when the big 3 (Baylor, Grich and Rudi) were signed as free agents.  Many predicted the Angels to dethrone the Royals as AL West Champs.  Nobody could foresee Grich's back injury, or Rudi's slow decline.  They did however get a nice comeback season from Bobby Bonds, who hit 37 homers and drove in 115 runs.  The bench got pressed into frontline action way too much, and while they performed admirably there wasn't any depth left.  A young Bruce Bochte hit .290, but was out of place in centerfield, where Gil Flores played regularly for over 100 games and hit just one homer.  Coach Andy Etchebarren was pressed into action as the backup behind the plate and glove man Rusty Torres was given some time as a starter, where he failed  horribly.  All in all this team was a bad mismatch of talent, that was hit hard with the injury bug as well as under performance.  Firing Norm Sherry (39-42) didn't help one bit.  His replacement, Dave Garcia (35-46), didn't improve the team one bit.

I created 27 cards to round out the set for the Angels.  I updated the Airbrushed cards for the "Big 3" free agents as well as added newer, and IMO better, cards for Bobby Bonds and Bill Melton.

Melton was dealt by the Angels to the Indians in December of 1976.  His Topps card for that season had this weird profile view.  I found this neat autographed photo of him while searching for some other players, so I decided to create the card.  Call this a "lost treasure" or maybe a "buried treasure" depending on how you look at it :) !

When I think of Bobby I think of 3 things:  Dad of Baroid, feast or famine at the plate, and the song "Willie, Mickey and the Duke".  In that song there was a line, "and Bobby Bonds can play for everyone", which after 7 years with the Giants seemed like the truth.  Bonds played for the Yankees in 1975 and had an All-Star season, but was dealt to the Angels for Mickey Rivers.  He stayed 2 seasons in Anaheim (1976 & 1977) then hit the road and moved to the White Sox, Rangers, Indians, Cardinals and the Cubs in a 4 year period.  This great talent was finished at the age of 35 after hitting .215 at Wrigley.  In 1977 he had a great comeback year for the Angels and was truly their one reliable offensive threat hitting .264 with 37 homers and 115 RBI's.  At the end of the season he would be dealt to the Chisox in a 6 player trade that would bring Brian Downing to Anaheim.  Downing would go on to be one of the best Angels ever.  Bonds' original 1977 card was exceptionally grainy.  It had him kneeling with a bat in his hand and not looking all that happy.  This updated card features a tighter photo that I found while Google searching photos for Carlos May.

Cuellar's stock fell faster than Solyndra's.  In 1974 (3 years earlier) he won 22 games and led the league in winning percentage.  After a 4-13 (4.96) season in 1976 the Orioles released their 4 time All-Star and 1969 Cy Young Award winner.  The Angels hoped to catch lighting in a bottle by signing the 40 year old Cuellar in January.  By May 16th, Cuellar was released.  After just 2 games it was obvious that the "crafty lefty's" gas tank was empty.  After 15 seasons he proudly left a 185-130, 3.14 career record.  He won 20 games three times.  During his 8 prime years in Baltimore he was an off the charts 143-88.  There were no known photos of Cuellar as an Angel.  Even the Angels media guide had a picture of him in an Orioles uniform with the O's logo airbrushed off his cap.  I used his 1974 Topps photo and changed the colors from Orange to Red and added the Angels profile logo, which I copied from Bill Melton's '77 card.

Walker was a solid second tier bullpen guy for 6 seasons with the Expos, Tigers and Cardinals.  His ERA steadily rose year in and year out and after posting a 1-1 (4.74) record in 11 games with the Expos was put on waivers in July and claimed by the Angels.  He pitched in just 1 game and gave up 2 runs in 2 innings of work and was released at the end of the season.  His son, Neil Walker, plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates and actually lives at home since he grew up in Pittsburgh and his parents still live there.  Since there were no photos of Walker with the Angels I took his 1977 card and cropped out his Cardinal cap and pasted an Angel cap in it's place.  I darkened the jersey collar trim to reflect Angels blue.

Simpson burst onto the major league scene as a hard throwing rookie sensation in 1970 with the Cincinnati Reds.  Simpson went 14-3 (3.02) and made the All-Star team.  He tore ligaments in his pitching arm and did not get to play in the post season.  His arm never really healed and his career plummeted into mediocrity.  It must be a tough pill to swallow when you peak at the tender age of 21.  His next 2 seasons saw his ERA balloon and his wins go down.  The Reds traded him to KC in 1973 and things got worse.  A trip to the minors didn't help much.  After spending all of 1974 in the minors and most of 1975 down there he got a 7 game reprieve with the Phillies where he showed some promise.  The Angels bought his contract, but assigned him to Salt Lake City (AAA), where he went 13-6 (4.24).  That performance earned him, what turned out to be his last shot at the Big leagues.  In 23 starts he went 6-12 (5.83) for the Angels and was released at the end of the season.  At 28 he picked up the pieces and signed with the Dodgers, but was released after going 8-10 (6.18) at Albuquerque (AAA).  I found this updated photo on the OOTP site.

In just his 3rd year of professional ball, 22 year old Aikens was killing Triple A pitching (.336-14-73).  The Angels were hurting for some offense, so they rushed him to the big leagues and almost crushed his confidence.  He hit .198 with no homers in 101 plate appearances.  Management was smart to realize that he needed more seasoning, so he spent the whole 1978 season at Salt Lake City, where he hit .326 with 29 homers and 110 RBI's.  By 1979 he was ready to go and hit .280 with 21 homers.  The Angels packaged him in a deal with Rance Mulliniks at the end of the '79 season and sent him to KC for some burnt out veterans.  He had 4 borderline All-Star seasons in KC, before being shipped to Toronto where his drug abuse problems took its toll and ended his career.  In 1994 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for dealing crack.  He was released early (2008) and has been working hard to restore his reputation.  I used his 1980 Topps card photo for this updated card.

Torres hit just .156 in 77 at bats as the 5th outfielder on the '77 Angels.  He was know primarily for his glove and his ability to play in forfeit games.  In 1971 he was on deck to pinch hit for the Yankees vs the Senators when the fans bum rushed the field and tore it up, thinking the second out was the third out.  In 1974 He played for the Indians when they had to forfeit thanks to 10 cent beer night and finally in 1978 he was with the White Sox on Disco Demolition Night.  Torres spent 9 season in the big leagues and played for 5 different AL franchises.  He was a stickball legend as a kid in the Bronx and was elected to the Stickball HOF in 2002.  He works with at risk kids in Oyster Bay Long Island.  I took his '77 card and pasted a cap on his head, since the original was a BHNH.

Lee May's younger brother had some really good years with the Chisox.  He came in 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1969 and was a 2 time All-Star despite blowing off his thumb while in the Marine Corps.  May started 1977 as the Yankees' regular DH, but after hitting just .227 became expendable.  California purchased his contract late in the season and he got into 11 games and hit .333 (6-18) for the Angels.  After the '77 season he left for Japan and played the next 4 seasons for the Nankai Hawks.  With no known pictures of him in an Angel uniform I took his '77 Topps card in a Yankee Uni and bleached out the lines and colored the brim of his cap to Angel Red and added the Angels logo to it.

California was the third stop on Kingman's 4 team rotation during 1977.  He played only 10 games in an Angel uniform and batted .194 (7-36) with 2 homers before being dealt to the Yankees in September.  Interestingly I was able to find an autographed photo of him in an Angel uniform while doing a Google search, so I used it for his 3rd (of 4) card in the '77 updated set.

Goodwin DH'd in 35 games for the Halos in 1977 and hit .209 (19-91) with 1 homer and 8 RBI.  The following season he hit .276 in 30 less at bats.  He was traded to the Twins in '79 for Dan Ford and was a part time DH there for 3 years, before moving over to Oakland for one final season.  He spent the next 4 years at Tacoma (AAA) and hit .301, .305, .296 and .291 before being released.  He was a career .313 hitter in the minors.  In 2011 he was elected to the National College Baseball HOF.  He played collegiately at Southern A&M, which is where Lou Brock and Rickie Weeks played.  I used his '79 Topps card photo for this updated card.

Landreax was a local High School hero from Compton, who went to Arizona St then came back home and made good of himself.  His true fame would come during his 7 year tenure playing for the crosstown Dodgers, but in 1977 he got his first taste of major league baseball by playing 23 games for the Angels.  Landreux patrolled centerfield and hit an even .250 (19-76).  After hitting .223 in 1978 he was shipped to the Twins where he hit .305 and had a 31 game hitting streak in 1980.  The following season found him traded to his hometown Dodgers where he had the honor of catching the final out of the 1981 World Series.  Landreaux was an excellent defender and a career .268 hitter in 11 big league seasons.  While searching ebay I found this unsigned photo and used it for his retro "rookie" card.

Bosley was called up to the Angels after hitting .326 in 69 games for the Salt Lake City Gulls of the Pacific Coast League, and made his Major League debut on June 29, 1977.   He hit .297 (63-212) with no homers and 19 RBI's, while playing all 3 outfield slots.  Bosley was traded in the off-season to the Chicago White Sox with Richard Dotson and Bobby Bonds. He remained with the White Sox organization for three years and later played for the Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, and Chicago Cubs, distinguishing himself as one the best pinch hitters in the majors. During the 1985 season, Bosley hit .328 and was voted the best pinch hitter in baseball. After being traded to the Kansas City Royals in 1987, Bosley returned again to the California Angels in 1988. In 1989, he signed with the Texas Rangers and ended his playing career on June 1, 1990.  I used his 1978 Topps Card photo for this updated card.

Flores was given the starting centerfield job in 1977 and did hit .278 (95-342), but due to his limited range and lack of power (1 homer) he found himself relegated to the 4th outfielder slot as the season wore on.  After the season the Angels didn't think to protect him on their 40 man roster and he was claimed off waivers by the Mets.  He hit .276 in limited action in '78 for the Mets then hit .194 in extended action in 1979, which led to his demotion to the minors.  Flores spent the next 4 seasons at Tidewater (AAA), but never received a return call up to Flushing.  At the age of 31 he was released by the Mets after having hit .246 in Triple A.  I used his '78 Topps card photo for this card.  It's a strange looking photo.  He looks like he's either stretching or fighting a cramp.

During spring training of 1975, he was traded to the Angels for relief pitcher Ken Sanders.  Hampton's best year in the big leagues was 1977, when he stayed with the Angels for the entire season. In 52 games he batted .295 (13-for-44) with 3 home runs and 9 runs batted in.  Career totals include 113 games played, a .207 batting average (28-for-135), 4 HR, 18 RBI, 15 runs scored, and a .341 slugging percentage. He had a strong arm, and threw out 18 of 48 stolen base attempts. (37.5%).  He was released by California on April 1, 1980. In 1981, he played for the Kintetsu Buffaloes in Japan.  I used his 1978 Topps card photo for this updated card.
Originally drafted as a shortstop, Mulliniks made his major league debut in 1977 for the California Angels, batting .269 in 78 games. He saw limited playing time over the following years with the California Angels until 1979 and with the Kansas City Royals in 1980 and 1981.  Mulliniks' luck changed when he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, just before the start of the 1982 season. He was converted to third base and appeared in over 100 games each year through the 1989 season. He batted over .300 three times (1984, 1987 and 1988) and demonstrated great patience at the plate, regularly posting on-base percentages near .400. In 1984 he was named to Sports Illustrated's Dream Team as a utility infielder.  For this updated card I used his 1978 Topps photo.

Moore hurt his ankle during Spring training 1974, and his arm shortly into the season. He went 0-3 with a 10.20 ERA in six rehab for the triple A Memphis Blues before getting elbow surgery during the off-season.  Moore returned in 1975, but never was the same. He was 1-3 with a 4.00 ERA for Memphis when his contract was sold to the California Angels. He earned a September call-up to the Angels in 1977, going 0-2 with a 3.97 ERA. After just one season in California, Moore's contract was sold to the Toronto Blue Jays.  Moore spent the final three seasons of his career with the Blue Jays, going 12-17 with a 4.96 ERA. He earned a four inning save for the only save of his career on April 27, 1980 against the Milwaukee Brewers. He spent 1981 in the minors with the Brewers and Houston Astros before retiring.  I used his 1978 Topps Card for this updated photo.

LaRoche made his debut for the California Angels in 1970 and went on to pitch 14 seasons in the major leagues. LaRoche is most famous for throwing his own variant of the eephus pitch, which he called 'La Lob'. Over his career, LaRoche went 65-58, with 819 strikeouts in 1049 1/3 innings pitched. He has a career 3.53 ERA.  He is the father of current Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche, and Oakland Athletics third baseman Andy LaRoche.  On May 11, 1977 LaRoche was traded by the Cleveland Indians with Dave Schuler to the California Angels for Bruce Bochte, Sid Monge and $250,000.  During his 2nd tour of duty with the Halos he spent 3 1/2 seasons before being released in 1981.  In 46 games with California in 1977 he worked exclusively out of the pen and went 6-5, 3.10 and saved 13.  He saved 25 the following season, but dropped to 10 saves in '79 and 4 in '80 before being picked up by the Yankees for the final 3 years of his career.  His 2 All-Star appearances were in 1976 and 1977.  The picture that I found was definitely taken before the All-Star game in 1976, because it was at Yankee Stadium, where the game was hosted and LaRoche was wearing his home uniform.

Miller was the epitome of a journeyman pitcher.  First off he didn't even get to the majors until he was 29, then once he got there he bounced from team to team.  On June 13, 1977 he was traded by the Orioles to the Angels for Dick Drago.  After a shaky start in '77 win Baltimore he finished up nicely by going 4-4 (3.02) in 41 games (92 innings) for the Angels.  He had a better season in '78 and was going well in '79 when he was dealt to Toronto.  He wound up wit the Mets for his final two season (1980-81).  The Mets released him after two solid seasons and he spent the next 3 years at Louisville (AAA) in the Cardinals chain.  At the age of 38, and with no chance of making it back to the majors, he retired after 6 games at Louisville.  I used his 1979 Topps card photo for this updated card.

Hawaiian born Kuhaulua made his major league debut in relief on August 2, 1977 against the New York Yankees at Anaheim Stadium. He pitched 2.1 innings and gave up five hits (including a Chris Chambliss home run) and three earned runs. Kuhaulua struck out Willie Randolph to end the 6th. He appeared in three games for the Angels that month and had an ERA of 15.63, earning himself a trip back to the Salt Lake City Gulls of the Pacific Coast League.  He was released by the Angels during spring training of 1978 and signed with the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese Central League. After a season in Japan he was signed by the Padres on March 1, 1979.  I took his 1980 Rookie Panel card with the Padres and pasted on an Angel cap and modified the collar colors to be more "Angel-like"

Nolan was a mainstay on the Reds staff during their Big Red Machine run of the early to mid 1970's  He made his major league debut in 1967 as a 19 year old rookie and finished 3rd in ROY voting.  His fastball was top notch and his control was even better, but arm trouble got the best of him.  He missed the entire 1974 season due to arm trouble.  He returned to win 15 games in bot 1975 and 1976 as the Reds won back to back championships.  Arm trouble caught up to him in 1977 and after 8 starts he was traded by the Reds to the Angels for a minor leaguer.  His days were numbered as a major leaguer.  In 5 starts for the Angels he went 0-3 and had a huge 8.84 ERA.  Rather than suffer through arm pain and diminished skills he chose to retire before the 1978 season began.  His 110-70 (3.08) career numbers in just 10 seasons show just how great he could have been if he stayed healthy.  I found this autographed photo while doing a Google search.

Caneira logged 28 2/3 innings in 6 games during the '77 season for the Halos.  He compiled a 2-2 (4.08) record.  He pitched in just 2 regular season games in '78 and spent the rest of his professional career in the minors.  This photo came from his minor league card while with Salt Lake City (AAA).  I airbrushed his cap from orange to close to Angels blue and added the Angels logo.  I attempted to change the jersey color from Orange to red, but it didn't convert all that well.

The well traveled older brother of George Brett played for 10 teams in his 14 major league seasons.  California was his 7th stop along the way.  After playing in 13 games for the Chisox to start the season he was dealt to the Halos on June 15th and went 7-10 (4.25) in 21 starts.  He played the full '78 season in California then moved on to Minnesota, LA and finally KC, where he got to play with his famous little brother.  As a cocky 19 year old with only 2 major league innings under his belt he pitched for the Red Sox in 2 games during the '67 World Series.  Originally drafted as a centerfielder.  He hit .262 over his career with 10 homers.  I used his 1979 Topps photo for this card.

Barlow arrived from Houston on June 6, 1976 along with catcher Terry Humphrey in exchange for Ed Herrmann.  He was immediately assigned to Salt Lake City (AAA) and went 5-1 (3.60).  1977 was a strange year for him, because he actually pitched better on the major league level than he did in the minors.  In 20 games he went 4-2 (4.50) for the Angels, while in comparison he was 3-5 (6.71) at triple A.  Barlow spent most of 1978 at Salt Lake City then returned for 35 games in 1979.  He was traded after spring training in 1980 to the Blue Jays.  He made 133 appearances during his career with all but 2 as a reliever.  I used his 1978 Topps card photo for his updated 1977 card.


  1. You should probably update your Rusty Torres blurb-- he doesn't work with at-risk kids anymore since he was charged with child sex abuse.