There have been many outstanding catches made over the years in Major League baseball. Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series. Ozzie Smith’s barehanded diving stop. Jim Edmonds’ outstretched layout in Kansas City. Each among the best.
Another great catch in Angels history came down the stretch of the 1982 American League West pennant chase. Four days earlier, the Angels title hopes were looking grim, as a three-game losing streak dropped them two games behind the Kansas City Royals with 15 games remaining in the season.
But the Angels won the next two games of their series in Toronto and returned home to begin a critical three game series against the Royals, with the two teams now tied atop the division with identical 84-65 records.
The Angels took the opener, 3-2, behind Geoff Zahn’s eight strong innings and Reggie Jackson’s seventh inning RBI double.
Game two was another pitchers’ duel, this time between Ken Forsch and the Royals’ Dennis Leonard. In the fourth inning of a scoreless tie, Amos Otis drove a ball to the left center field gap, sending Angels left fielder Brian Downing and center fielder Fred Lynn on a collision course at the wall. The two fielders reached the fence at the exact same time, both leaping for the ball with no regard for their own welfare or each other. The impact was so powerful that the fence gave way, with Downing landing on the warning track and Lynn tumbling through the opening the collision had created.
For a moment, it was unclear which, if either, of the players had caught the ball. Then Lynn emerged from behind the fence, displaying the ball. The umpires conferred and ruled Otis out, reasoning that in effect the outcome was the same as if Lynn had made the catch and fallen into the stands.
The Angels took a 1-0 lead in the fifth, but Kansas City scratched across a tying run in the eighth.
In the bottom of the ninth, however, Bobby Grich and Bob Boone singled with one out off Royals closer Dan Quisenberry. Daryl Sconiers, who’d begun his sophomore season 0-for-8, slapped a 3-2 pitch into center field to score pinch runner Gary Pettis, giving the Angels a 2-1 victory and a two-game division lead they would not relinquish en route to their second division title.
If not for Lynn’s remarkable catch, it might have been an entirely different story.