The Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Angels have played almost 60 seasons of baseball. As the baseball world is suspended due to circumstances outside its control, it is time to look back at the history of this organization. There have been many talented players to put on the uniform, and we at Crashing the Pearly Gates wish to highlight the best who have ever represented the Angels. Without further ado, here we go!
The first Angel to be the starting pitcher in the All Star Game had to figure in this list. Beyond the legitimacy that honor conferred on his team (our team, this franchise), Righty Ken McBride pitched 780+ innings in five seasons with the club.
Selected from the White Sox by the Angels in their December, 1960 expansion draft, McBride would compile a 40 – 48 record for the team. Despite this, he was a three-time All Star, 1961, 1962 and the topper, starting the 1963 All Star Game in Cleveland Stadium. Although the National League won that day, McBride pitched the first three innings of the game, surrendering 3 runs on 4 hits, but he also hit a single to score teammate Leon Wagner for the American League’s first run.
Ken McBride’s 3.81 ERA as an Angel is tied with Ken Forsch and John Lackey for 23rd all-time as an Angel pitcher (of the 41 Angels pitchers who have thrown more than 500 IP with a Halo). His 780+ IP ranks 20th (just ahead of Garrett Richards, who tossed 744 innings with the team). In addition to being an innings-eating horse he ranks 8th all time in hits allowed per nine innings pitched. His 7.97 H/9 is just a smidge better than the 8.0 H/9 of #9 on that list, once again, Garrett Richards. His 28 Complete Games and 7 shutouts harken back to the era in which he pitched. Those were ordinary expectations of pitcher back then, but he got it done.
Positioning McBride’s ranking on this list is an exercise in methodology. Writing this during quarantine 2020, the 1960s may as well be the 1600s the lens of history has so warped. WAR and the Baseball Reference franchise standings are a godsend to compare players we never saw with players we did. But knowing some of their accomplishments – like McBride’s All Star Game start – assist in selecting and ranking players. Who they were as people come into it as well.
To digress… our former website has been demolished by corporate forces and is now run by Dodger bloggers. They too are running an offseason list of the team’s 100 best players ranked. Their methodology is simply adding up the WAR and making a list. There is no sensitivity to what a player meant to the team, to the fans and how that reflected on the legacy of the franchise and essentially shaped it. That is how they came to the conclusion that a former Angel best known as a Yankee and convicted sexual predator could by virtue of being in the top ten in franchise stolen bases make their top 100 list whereas I, a lifelong Angels fan, have compiled this list in 2005, 2008, 2011, 2013 and now, 2020 and have never included this molester on any of those lists. This player’s on-the-bubble contributions on the field in Anaheim are counterbalanced by his malcontent redassness in the clubhouse as well as the heinous crimes he committed. So the methodology used here is not myopically centered on statistical compilation. One’s role in the glory of the franchise plays a part. How big a part depends on the role of the lore. I feel lucky not to have to weigh the sins of a Pete Rose or the sleazy cokehead Dodger Maury Wills in compiling a list for my favorite franchise but am aghast at the audacity of a non-fan compiling such a list with no knowledge or care for the club at all on an alleged fan site.
With that off my chest before the offending bloggers get furloughed along with the rest of their corporation, let’s look at McBride’s ranking here. If ten more seasons of Angels baseball are played an there are ten pitchers as good as Brendan Donnelly (our #79 ranked Angel), if none of them pitch great in a World Series like Donnelly, or chalk up a W in an all star game like Donnelly, then the case for McBride on a list like this is still firm I would argue, by virtue of his being the first ever Angel pitcher to start an All-Star game. The context of 1963 becomes magnified. The Angels, along with the franchise that would become the Texas Rangers, were the first two expansion teams EVER in major league baseball. Like the Designated Hitter and Interleague play later and like racial integration before it, expansion was controversial. Disliked. Blamed for everything form ruining Babe Ruth’s single season homerun mark to making a mockery of tradition. For an expansion franchise’s pitcher to start a nationally televised game at a time when every sports fan in the country was watching that game was a legacy mark (again, context, players of old had the sustained focus of everyone on their every move, there was less overlap of sports seasons, fewer sports covered and fewer players in the league to cover). Maybe that legacy will eventually push sch a ranking as this down to below 100, but with the 24th most WAR by an Angels pitcher ever, Ken McBride is comfortably a Top 100 Angel by a rigorous statistical methodology that includes a true fan’s perspective. So there.
I wasn’t born when McBride pitched but I do know that the term All Star meant something far more in 1963 than it does today. That managers didn’t select a ton of guys they knew couldn’t play just so they got bonuses and everybody felt good.
I also know the game meant a lot more to the players back then than it does today. There was league pride at stake. Willie Mays took the wins and losses personally.
Given that backdrop and the fact players were expected to contribute significantly to the team, with position players often playing the full 9, it was a big deal to be named the starter in 1963. Angel fans back then had to have a sense of pride, of belonging on the big stage. That’s something only a fan of an expansion team would realize.
McBride’s 1961-63 seasons were his first as a regular member of an MLB rotation. During those three seasons, his ERA dropped from 3.65, to 3.50, to 3.26.
He was just 28 years old going into 1964, and Angel fans were excited to see if he could continue with his trajectory, but in his second start, according to his SABR bio, “he was ahead 2-0 against Detroit when rain interrupted the game in the fifth inning. After a long delay, the game resumed. Manager Rigney wanted to take McBride out but he insisted on going back in. After he did, he recalled years later, “I heard something pop” in his arm. His arm hurt so badly that he couldn’t even comb his hair. From that time on, McBride’s curveball and sinker were never the same. He lost 10 games in a row and finished the year with 4 wins, 13 losses, and a 5.26 ERA.”
Wow. Great addition to Rev’s post.
As someone who is way too young to be around when expansion happened or the DH introduction it is a bit odd seeing what has been seen as what is ruining baseball be part of what I appreciate most about it.
Which is why I am conflicted on current changes. Am I hating them because they are unnecessary or am I just stubborn? I don’t know. I want to think I am able to realize that but in the moment I can’t say.
As for Ken, first All Star Game pitcher should be remembered. Despite most of it being mediocre at best, the Angels have a history and part I f history is remembering things.
I am glad to take part in doing this with you Rev.