Sunday, February 17, 2008

By Kurt Swanson, Contributor

#43 – July 6, 1983: Lynn simply grand in the All-Star Game

For the first 40 years of the Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Angels history, the 1982 season was arguably the franchise’s best – albeit one with a real stinker of an ending.

Preceding the collapse in Milwaukee, however, was a fine campaign. The Angels won their second division title with a 93-69 record; Reggie Jackson led the league in home runs with 39; and Fred Lynn, acquired the year before, but sidelined by injuries, had his best season with the Angels, batting .299/.374/.517 with 21 home runs and 86 RBI.

Though the Angels blew a 2-0 lead in the ALCS against the Brewers, Lynn was still named series MVP after batting .611 (11-for-18) in the five games.

On the heels of the 1982 season, 1983 was a season of great promise for the Angels. It was not to be, however, as the team slumped badly to a 70-92 record and a fifth-place finish in the division.

One bright spot was Lynn. The USC graduate, who had longed to play for a team in Southern California after beginning his career in Boston, was voted to start the All-Star Game in Chicago. Old Comiskey Park played host to the 50th anniversary of the mid-summer classic. The nod represented Lynn’s ninth consecutive All-Star game appearance.

In the third inning, with the National League trailing 3-1, San Francisco ace Atlee Hammaker elected to load the bases by intentionally walking Milwaukee’s Robin Yount, taking his chances instead with Lynn, who hadn’t seen the batter in front of him intentionally walked since becoming a professional. Big mistake.

Lynn took a 2-2 slider from the lefty and deposited it into the right field bleachers for the first grand slam in 54 All-Star Games. (And to this day the only such home run.)

The American League scored seven runs in the inning and cruised to a 13-3 victory, snapping an 11-game losing streak for the junior circuit.

“I hadn’t won a single All-Star Game in eight years up until that point,” Lynn would later say. “That grand slam put us up 7-1, and I knew we wouldn’t blow that lead. I didn’t care that they walked Robin to get to me. I wanted to win.”

It was Lynn’s final All-Star appearance. He finished with four home runs and 10 RBI in 20 career All-Star at-bats. At the time, only Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Ted Williams had more home runs and RBI, respectively. Musial finished with five homers and 10 RBI in 63 at-bats, Williams with four homers and 12 RBI in 46 at-bats.
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