Thursday, February 21, 2008

By Geoff Bilau – Editor

Sept. 17, 1984: Reggie hits No. 500
Aug. 4, 1985: Carew collects No. 3,000
June 18, 1986: Sutton wins No. 300

For three consecutive seasons, one each year, Angels fans were treated to a player reaching a Hall of Fame milestone while wearing an Angels uniform. More impressively, each accomplished the feat at Anaheim Stadium.

First up was Reggie Jackson. The self-proclaimed “straw that stirs the drink” arrived in Anaheim two years earlier, signing as a free agent and bringing with him 425 home runs in 14 previous seasons.

Jackson immediately delivered to his billing, whopping 39 home runs in 1982 and helping the Angels clinch their second division title. Jackson slumped badly in 1983, batting .194 and hitting only 14 home runs. But he was now just 22 home runs shy of 500.

In the waning days of the 1984 season, with the Angels in a pennant chase with the Twins and Royals, Jackson’s pursuit of No. 500 gave the season some additional drama. In the seventh inning of a foggy Monday night game against the Royals, with the Angels trailing, 7-0, Jackson connected, driving Bud Black’s first pitch deep over the right field fence. (It was one of only three hits Black would allow the Angels on the night.)

“My first thought was, ‘That's it,’ “ Jackson told reporters after the game. "My second was, I wish we could be winning. I wished it could've been a seven-run homer to tie the score."

The home run came 17 years to the day that Jackson hit his first homer, as a member of the Kansas City Athletics against the Angels at Anaheim Stadium in 1967.

Jackson would hit 123 of his 563 career homers for the Angels, none more memorable than this one.

The following August, Rod Carew was also chasing baseball immorality. A seven-time batting champion in 12 seasons with the Twins, Carew came to the Angels in 1979 with 2,085 hits.

Though he was never a great run producer for the Angels as he had been with the Twins, Carew could still bat .300 in his sleep and his .339 average in 1983 was a team record that held up for 17 years.

As the 1985 season, and his career, wound down, Carew landed himself in the exclusive 3,000-hit club. With his patented slap swing, Carew lined No. 3,000 to left field off Minnesota Twins lefty Frank Viola. Most Angels fans can vividly recall the image of Carew reaching up to secure his helmet as he trotted to first base under a bright Sunday afternoon sky.

"He threw me a tough pitch (a slider down and away)," Carew said. "If I hadn't stayed with that pitch and taken it, I would have been called out on a third strike. Fortunately, I was able to get the bat on the ball and place it in left field."

Carew retired following the 1985 season with 3,053 hits. His .314 average with the Angels is second only to Vladimir Guerrero’s .327.

And finally, Don Sutton, in the midst of his 21st Major League season, was closing in on his own place in baseball history.

Acquired during the Angels ultimately fruitless stretch run in 1985, Sutton came to Anaheim having already won 293 games. He won two more in 1985 and entered the 1986 season five shy of the milestone.

On a Wednesday night against the visiting Texas Rangers, sitting on 299 victories, Sutton pitched like a man half his age. Through six innings, he’d allowed only one hit and carried a three-hitter (one run) into the ninth.

More than 37,000 fans climbed to their feet as Sutton took the mound for the ninth inning. He quickly retired Scott Fletcher and Oddibe McDowell on flyouts. In a fitting finale, Sutton struck out Gary Ward to end it. Sutton had pitched a complete game, three-hitter to win his 300th game.

"It's remarkable how time after time it's been proven how special people do special things," manager Gene Mauch said. "I imagine that Don is proud that No. 300 was this kind of game rather than just another win."

Sutton won 15 games in 1986 and 11 in 1987 before finishing his career back with the Dodgers in 1988, retiring with 324 victories.

Carew was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1991, his first year of eligibility. Jackson was enshrined in 1993, also his first eligible year, and Sutton in 1998. And though none of these players went in representing the Angels, their milestone moments will forever be part of Angels lore.
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