Top 100 Angels: #39 Gary Pettis

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!


Since I was born over a decade after Gary Pettis played his last game in an Angel uniform, I only know him as the third base coach down in Houston, down with those baseball players who may have used a little extra help to reach said third base. In looking up Pettis’s stats, I found a decently valuable player who played a pretty mean center field and ran like the wind.

By traditional metrics, Pettis was a prototypical player. He couldn’t hit much, but he stole bases at a ferocious rate back in the 80s, when everyone was running. Compiling 186 stolen bases during his Angel career, he checks in at 3rd on the all-time list, only behind Chone Figgins and Mike Trout. He stole those bases at a 79.8% clip, higher than the mark required to ensure the running was worth it. And frankly, as much as decry Trout stealing bases, because he has gotten a little thicker, and because the injury risk is too great, I do miss a good, solid base stealer, and Pettis is one of those.

From 1982-1987, Pettis slashed .242/.332/.319/.651, good for an OPS+ of 80. His OBP is high for someone of that OPS+, and he used this above-average OBP and speed to his advantage. In fact, his oWAR totals were all positive save that final season in 1987, when he suffered a down year offensively and on the basepaths. After the season, the Angels shipped Pettis off to Detroit.

A good chunk of Pettis’s value, however, came with the glove. As the LA Times puts it, “Defense was never a problem. Pettis could always make the running catch, the diving catch, the silky-smooth spectacular catch. He has won five Gold Glove awards.” Combining his defense and the fact that the position was offensively-starved, Pettis managed 13.2 bWAR in essentially four full seasons, topped by an amazing 5.1 bWAR 1986 campaign, proved to be especially impressive. He hit well in the postseason series against Boston that year.

Fun facts: His 1985 baseball card did not feature him. His son plays in the NFL.

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red floyd
3 years ago

Trout stealing bases, because he has gotten a little thicker,

So what you’re saying is that Trout is Leon from Airplane!?

Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  red floyd

How about some more coffee, Johnny?

Jeff Joiner
3 years ago

Pettis was in centerfield the first time I went to the Big A.

Dude could run like the wind and he also got great reads. Remember when we all wanted Fleet Pete to run more? Pete didn’t get the reads Pettis did.

3 years ago

Pettis caught more balls that I thought were probably going to fall in for a base hit than any other defender I have ever watched play baseball.

Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to 

Pettis was indeed an incredible outfielder. And it went beyond pure speed. He was incredibly athletic, could jump like a basketball player and got excellent reads consistently.

He also made what is surely the best catch I have ever witnessed in person, and perhaps ever period including tv.

Ironically it came as a member of the Tigers. He had come back to the Big A to play his former team, and is so often the case in these scenarios he exacted a little revenge.

It was the middle innings of a close game and Brian Downing was at the plate with a couple runners on. Downing worked the count for a few pitches, then he drove a ball high and deep into left-center.

It looked surely like it would be a three run HR, giving the Angels the lead and breaking it open.

Just as soon as I jumped out of my seating cheering I was sitting back down in stunned disbelief; Pettis had sprinted like a gazelle into the gap, had leaped high into the air, throwing literally half of his body over the wall, and with left arm fully extended went OVER the fence and brought that ball back.

I was so impressed that I did not booo. Oddly I was not even sad. For I had witnessed an amazing baseball play, the likes of which I would surely never see again.

I immediately said, “That’s the best catch I’ve ever seen,” stood back up and gave Pettis a standing ovation..

Charles Sutton
Super Member
3 years ago

The Angels sure have had a lot of good fielding center fielders. Gary Pettis was out there when I first moved to the Los Angeles Area.

3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Sutton

somewhere there’s a sad photo of Pettis and McCaskill saying goodbye at season’s end. Two of my favorites.