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!
Pitcher Ken Forsch was one of the few strong arms on the staff of the 1982 A.L. Western Division Champion Angels. The cream of that team’s key players are represented much higher on this list, but that squad as a whole has been almost absent from the Top 100 so far.
The Angels acquired Forsch in 1981 on April Fools’ Day from Houston for Dickie Thon. He promptly tossed ten complete games (four of them shutouts), led the rotation in ERA, the staff in wins, and garnered an All Star selection in that weird, strike-shortened season.
In 1982 he pitched nearly 200 innings and won 13 games in a season that was crucial to the Angels – after assembling a free-agent juggernaut commencing with the 1977 season, all Gene Autry had to show for it was the 1979 divisional championship. 1980 and 81 were injury-marred campaigns with even bigger gaffes committed by the front office. That the Angels got to the 1982 post-season and within two innings of the World Series reaffirmed The Cowboy’s commitment to winning, at least for a few more seasons.
While he was in the twilight of an outstanding career for his stint as an Angel, Forsch was a big name, the type of marquee veteran that sells tickets through an implied franchise stability. For all of the intangibles of veteran leadership that stat-heads scoff at, the fact remains that for four seasons, Forsch anchored a staff that included a rookie Mike Witt. He is one of 31 Angels pitchers to toss over 600 innings and is in the top 25 for Pitching bWAR. His 34 complete games and nine shutouts are both ranked eleventh most for the club but his highest ranking achievement is fifth-place all time Angels BB/9 of 2.24 among the 41 Angels pitchers who have logged 500 or more innings pitched.
Ken also served for many years as the Angels’ Assistant General Manager under Bill Stoneman and Tony Reagins.
Ken Forsch had only one great season with the Angels, his first one with the club in 1981. That was followed by two mediocre seasons, and then he suffered a separated shoulder in the eighth inning of his second game of the 1984 season that pretty much ended his career (he was involved in a collision when both he and Blue Jay clean-up hitter Willie Upshaw were racing each other to first base).
Ken Forsch was, however, an integral part of manager Gene Mauch’s calculus for how the manager was going to attack the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1982 ALCS.
With a 2-1 series lead, Mauch had to make a decision about which of his pitchers was going to start Game Four. This was a crucial decision because a win in this game would give the Angels three in the best-of-five series and a ticket to the franchise’s first ever World Series. Tommy John, Bruce Kison, and Geoff Zahn had started the first three games, and Mauch had a fresh Ken Forsch ready to go for Game Four. Forsch had been a mainstay of the rotation that season, starting 35 games for the Angels, and he had yet to pitch an inning of the ALCS.
The problem churning around Mauch’s brain, however, was that Forsch’s final two performances of the regular season did not inspire much confidence — Forsch had failed to make it out of the third inning of either game and had posted a horrible 16.62 ERA. But on the positive side, in his three starts prior to that, Forsch made it into the ninth inning of each game and had a sparkling 0.66 ERA.
The decision Mauch finally came to, however, was to forgo Forsch and instead pitch Tommy John on just three days’ rest. John had been strong in Game One, where he went the distance and allowed the Brewers only three runs in the 8-3 Angel victory. In Game Four, though, Mauch’s decision to start John just didn’t work — he had to be pulled in the fourth inning after he had thrown three wild pitches, had walked five, and staked the Brewers to a 6-0 lead.
Would things have turned out differently had Mauch started Forsch over John? We’ll never know.
I bet Houston wanted to yell APRIL FOOLS at that trade.