The First Time the Angels Played the Royals

…was way back in 1969.  This was the first year of existence for the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots, San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos.  This second round of expansion in 1969 created two twelve team leagues, which were reorganized into Western and Eastern Divisions in order to ease the bloat.  Kansas City was given their new franchise as consolation for losing the Kansas City A’s who had moved to Oakland in 1968.

The first ever meeting between the Angels and the Royals happened early in the ’69 season, on April 25th, a Friday night, at Municipal Stadium.

The game was a tight one.  The two teams had battled each other for a 3-3 tie through seven innings.  In the top of the eighth, The Angels had their best shot at breaking the tie when they had the bases loaded with two outs and their best hitter, shortstop Jim Fregosi, coming up to bat.

Royal manager Joe Gordon called for a timeout and brought in Dave Wickersham, who would be the third pitcher of the inning for KC, to face Fregosi.  This was looking like a good call, as the right-hander worked Fregosi into a full count, just one strike away from ending the inning. 

Fregosi would win this coin-flip, however, and with the runners moving on the pitch, Fregosi dumped a fortuitous single into left field.  The ball was picked up by Lou Pinella (who would win the Rookie of the Year Award that season), and he fired it home, hoping to stop the speedy Jay Johnstone as he was chasing the two teammates in front of him who had already scored on the play, but the ball was too late, and the Angels had broken the tie to take a 6-3 lead.

Hoyt Wilhelm took the mound for the Angels in the bottom of the eighth, and although the knuckleball wizard hit a batter, gave up a single, and threw a wild pitch, he somehow kept the Royals from scoring.

Wilhelm then sealed the deal by retiring all three Royals he faced in the ninth to give the Angels the win, improving the club’s record to 5-8.

Also of note for this game, Angel left fielder Rick Reichardt reached base safely all five times he came to bat, drawing four walks and hitting a single. Paul Schaal, the long time Angel third baseman who was taken by the Royals in the expansion draft, did not play in this game. He would become a fan favorite in Kansas City. He is not related to Kristen Schaal, but a teenaged Bobby Grich enjoyed going to Angel games and watching Schaal play defense.

The manager for the Angels for this game was the popular Bill Rigney, the only manager the Angels had ever known, but his time helming the team was soon to be up.  One month later, after the team had lost ten consecutive games and compiled an 11-28 record which was good for last place, Gene Autry decided to make his first ever managerial change.

The man who took Rigney’s place was Lefty Phillips, the Angels’ director of player development.  Phillips had zero experience as a manager, either in the Majors or the Minors, but he had been the Dodgers’ pitching coach from 1965-1968.  Before that, he was a scout for the Dodgers who had signed Don Drysdale and Ron Fairly, among others.

Before that, he was a minor league pitcher who developed a sore arm just a handful of games into his MiLB career and never pitched again.

He righted the Angel ship in 1969, however, taking them out of the cellar and guiding them to a third place finish. 

The following year, Phillips’ Angels finished ten games over .500, but then in 1971 the Halos finished ten games under .500 and Phillips was relieved of his managerial duties and given a scouting job.  He shockingly passed away in June of 1972 at only 53 years of age due to a severe asthma attack.

On a lighter note, Rigney finished out the rest of the 1969 season as a radio broadcaster for the San Francisco Giants (he had played for the Giants and managed them prior to becoming the Angels’ first skipper), and then he got a three year gig managing the Minnesota Twins.  They won the AL West in 1970 and lost to Frank Robinson’s Orioles in the ALCS.

The Angels and the Royals both came of age in the late seventies and had an intense rivalry as they fought each other tooth and nail from 1978 through 1986 for supremacy in the AL West, as the second place team in those days had to go home and sulk as they watched the playoffs from their living rooms.  No wildcards back then.  Those George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Dennis Leonard, Dan Quisenberry led Royals were a formidable bunch and made it extra fun to be an Angel fan back then.

tERA Update

With ERA, when a run scores the credit is given to the pitcher who allowed that runner to reach base and not to the pitcher who allowed the runner to score. That means that since it is the rule book, and not an actual pitcher, that allows a runner to reach second base during extra innings, if that runner scores, the run will always be unearned.

tERA doesn’t see it that way since it reports what actually happens in the games. With tERA, if a pitcher starts the tenth inning and gives up a double that scores the runner on second base, that pitcher will be credited for having given up half a run.

Here are the tERAs for Angel pitchers as of Saturday morning. Their ERAs are in parentheses.

  • 3.75 Bundy (3.75)
  • 4.35 Ohtani (1.93)
  • 4.50 Cobb (4.50)
  • 5.00 Heaney (7.00)
  • 6.75 Canning (6.75)
  • 11.61 Quintana (10.80)
  • 0.00 Watson (0.00)
  • 1.59 Mayers (1.59)
  • 1.78 Rodriguez (1.42)
  • 2.25 Slegers (2.25)
  • 3.07 Guerra (0.00)
  • 6.33 Cishek (4.91)
  • 7.65 Iglesias (7.20)
  • 8.69 Claudio (7.71)

As you can see, ERA has grossly misrepresented the actual performance of pitchers like Ohtani and Guerra at this point in the season.

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Super Member
7 months ago

Interesting that Lou Pinella was originally selected by the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft but was judged too difficult to manage so the Pilots traded him to Kansas City to start the 1969 season.

There is a great synopsis of the 1969 season and 60′ Baseball in Jim Bouton’s Ball Four book where he spends part of the season with the Pilots (and their AAA team) only to get traded to the Astros at the deadline. if you’ve never read it ( I think Most have but I was late to the party ) I highly recommend it

Super Member
7 months ago
Reply to  BoyWithApple

BBB is definitely a must-see documentary. Kurt Russell’s Dad, Bing was a bad ass.

Last edited 7 months ago by Cowboy26