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Anaheim Angels

For 40 years the Angels were victims of late season collapses, post-season chokes, personal tragedies, and mediocre teams, yet they always proved entertaining, and at times drew record crowds. In 2002 they won their first World Series title.

The American League's answer to Walter O'Malley's shift of the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958, the Los Angeles Angels were born out of the fear that a rival third league (Branch Rickey's short-lived Continental League) would reach the West Coast before the Junior Circuit could.

At the 1960 winter meetings, AL owners voted to award a franchise to Los Angeles, and compete directly with the immensely popular Dodgers. Ownership of the California franchise was awarded to a group led by Hollywood legend Gene Autry, an ardent baseball fan. The Los Angeles based team would play in Wrigley Field (named for the same owner that the Cubs field is named for) and be called the Angels. Billy Rigney was tabbed as the first Angel Coach.

Late in 1978 the Angels got Rod Carew (unhappy with Twins management as much as they were with him) from Minnesota, solidifying their spot as pre-season favorites for the 1979 division crown. They didn't disappoint, winning 88 games and unseating the Royals as leaders of the AL West pack. Autry was ecstatic. But the playoffs brought the Orioles, who beat the Halos in four games. That 1979 team was led by MVP Don Baylor, with great seasons from Downing and Grich. Carew, Ryan, and Tanana had average or sub-par seasons for them but it was enough to win. In 1980 the team fell apart, suffering injuries and terrible play that left them an embarrassing 6th, ahead of only the lowly Seattle Mariners. It was a case of the ups and downs again. Adding insult to those injuries was the loss of Ryan prior to the '80 season. He signed a lucrative contract with the Astros, primarily due to his loathing of Angel GM Buzzie Bavasi.

The later 1990s brought a youth movement with homegrown talent emerging in the names of Darrin Erstad, Jim Edmonds, Tim Salmon and Garrett Anderson. In 1995 the Angels led the AL West much of the season but were overtaken late, when the Mariners and Halos finished in a tie, the two played one game for the division title. The Angels bad luck continued, as they lost.

Mo Vaughn was signed as a free agent in 1999 but the slugger never panned out on the left coast. In 2000, Mike Scioscia was hired as manager, leading the team to a 12-game improvement. After a step back in 2001, the Angels rebounded in 2002 despite a 6-14 start. Anaheim hung with the Oakland A's, who won 20 consecutive games in August/September, battling until the final week for the division title. The Angels settled for a franchise-best 99 wins and the wild-card, surpassing all expectations.

Anaheim made history in the first round of the 2002 playoffs, dumping the favored Yankees in four games and winning the first playoff series in franchise history. Anderson, Salmon, Erstad, Troy Glaus, David Eckstein, Scott Speizio and Adam Kennedy formed an offense that set a post-season record by hitting .376 against the stunned Yankees.

In the LCS against the Twins, the Angels again lost the first game of the series before storming back to sweep the next four games. Second baseman Adam Kennedy made history in the fifth game when he blasted three homers to lead the Angels into their first World Series. 20-year old rookie phenom Francisco Rodriguez also emerged as a hero, supplying a steady diet of fastballs and wicked sliders to enemy batters as his legend grew. Rodriguez, who earned the nickname "K-Rod," hadn't been called up to Anaheim until the middle of September, but Scioscia placed him on the post-season roster based on his great stuff. The move paid off as Rodriguez helped the team win a thrilling seven game series against the Giants. The stars of the series were Gluas, who won the MVP honor, rookie starting pitcher John Lackey, who won two games, including game seven, and Darin Erstad, who hit in every post-season game but one.

In 2004 the Anaheim Angels won the National League West Division with a 92-70 record. They lost to the Boston Red Sox in the 1st round of the playoffs by a sweep losing 3 straight games in the best of 5 game series.

In 2005 the Anaheim Angels won the National League West Division with an even better 95-67 record. Won the 1st round of playoffs vs the Yankees but lost the in the 2nd round to Chicago.

In 2006, the Angels dropped off slightly to a 89-73 record and missed the playoffs.


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