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!
Of the entire history of major-league baseball players, Jim Abbott arguably had the most to overcome. Miraculously, he didn’t let his physical condition be an obstacle to his success.
Born with a stub for a right hand, Abbott starred on the diamond and played quarterback in his Flint, Michigan high school. Drafted in the 36th round in 1985 by the Blue Jays, Abbott opted not to sign and chose to attend college at University of Michigan, where he led the team to two Big Ten championships in three years. In 1988, Abbott recorded the last out in the final baseball game of the Summer Olympics, winning an unofficial (baseball was a demonstration sport) gold medal.
As if his talent wasn’t enough Abbott’s fielding ability was really something to behold, as Rev Halofan of Halos Heaven explains:
On grounders back to the mound, Jim Abbott would tuck his baseball glove between his right arm and torso, throw a pitch, put the glove on, field it, take the glove off and throw the ball to 1B. His range factor and fielding percentage were often above league averages over the ten seasons he played in the majors.
The Angels selected Abbott 8th overall in the 1988 draft, and he made the team out of camp the following spring. A crafty lefty, Abbott got by with plenty of movement at the expense of control and hittability and gave up just a 0.68 HR/9. In 1991, Abbott won 18 games with a 2.89 ERA and 243 innings of work. In 1992, the southpaw recorded another stellar year with a 143 ERA+ (43% better than league-average) and 5.8 wins above replacement.
The Angels, seeking salary relief, traded Abbott following the 1992 season in a package headlined by top first-base prospect J.T. Snow, who floundered below expectations in Angel red. Abbott, meanwhile, proceeded to throw a no-hitter with the Yankees.
If Abbott’s career were to have ended there, you’d have considered Abbott a superstar with the Angels–alas, it wasn’t so. Abbott was traded back to the Angels in ’95 and pitched fine in the 13 starts he made, but the team sunk late in the year. In 1996, Abbott put up what might just be the worst season of any Angels starter, ever (and there have been a lot of bad ones!). 2-13 with a 7.48 ERA in a disastrous 142 innings of work, surrendering more walks than he did punchouts. Yes, it was bad, though it didn’t detract from how marvelous that Abbott was even able to pitch so well in the first place with one hand.
For the transcendent memories to the Angels faithful and his inspirational ability in the face of great adversity, Jim Abbott stands at #33 on our top 100 Angels.
He is now a motivational speaker, as seen below.
Photo credit: John Traub / Albuquerque Isotopes Baseball Club, Wikimedia Commons