Wednesday, March 5, 2008

By Adam Dodge, Senior Writer

It was a seemingly meaningless early season game for the Angels, who did as they had done so often under manager Mike Scioscia – won in front of their home fans at Angel Stadium.

In game No. 30 of the 2007 season, the Angels beat the Chicago White Sox, 5-1, to improve to 17-13 and maintain their one game lead in the American League West. Most of the 44,126 in attendance that night stayed for the fireworks show, which had become and remain a Friday night tradition at the Big A. But on this night, the brightly lit sky and deafening explosions were more fitting than arbitrary as the Angels, their fans and their field general celebrated a great feat: Mike Scioscia had become the winningest manager in franchise history, passing the team’s first skipper, Bill Rigney, with his 626th regular season victory.

Rigney managed the team for its first 1,333 games, spanning nearly the entire decade of the ‘60s (1961-1969) and compiling a 625-707 (.469) record during his tenure. While his steadying influence was a good match for the freewheeling Angels teams of his decade, the best Rigney could manage was the surprising third place finish of 1962. They never got higher than fifth in his subsequent seasons.

On the other bookend of Angels history stands Scioscia, manager for the entire decade of the ‘00s. During the first 1,296 games of Scioscia’s reign, the Angels have posted a 703-593 (.542) record, including four of the top-5 regular season victory totals in franchise history. The former all-star catcher has guided the Angels to three division titles, one wild card and, of course, the only World Championship in franchise history.

Ultimately, this one early season victory from 2007 will seem like little more than a footnote in Scioscia’s career, as it’s a safe bet he’ll win more than 1,000 games in an Angels uniform. But what victory No. 626 said in the midst of the greatest era in Angels history needs no further explanation than this: Mike Scioscia is the best to ever manage the Angels.

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