Friday, December 28, 2012

By Rob Goldman - Historical Writer

With the acquisition of Reggie Jackson in 1982, the Angels drew closer to the to top then they ever had. The four team MVP’s- Jackson, Don Baylor Fred Lynn and Carew-proved a diverse and potent mix. While they were putting up big numbers in the box score, their equally big egos had to share space in the clubhouse, Carew says the clubhouse banter was vicious at times. Carew wasn’t intimidated by Jackson and visa versa. They respected one another, but that didn’t keep them from, in Carew’s words,  “circling around each other like lions in the same den.”

But even big personalities could be tamed when the team was winning, and the ’82 Angels did plenty of that.

Carew considers the Angels failure to close out the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1982 Playoffs one of the two biggest let downs of his career. After the team won the first two games of the series in Anaheim, Carew says he left the clubhouse quickly after seeing his teammates acting as if they had it all wrapped up.

The most climatic moment of the series came in the fifth and final game in Milwaukee.  With a trip to he World Series on the line and the Angels trailing by a run heading into the ninth inning, Carew came up to bat wit two outs and the tying run on second. Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn had hard throwing right-hander Pete Ladd in the game to get the final out.

Ladd’s first pitch was a fastball. Carew swung late and fouled it down the left field line.  Carew figured shortstop Robin Yount, having seen him swing late, would move to his right, opening a bigger hole towards centerfield; but for some reason Yount didn’t move.  The next pitch was an outside fastball just where Carew liked it. He hit it well, but right at Yount. “It was a hard one-hop groundball,” Carew recalls, “and if Yount had moved like I thought he would, it would have gone through for a hit and we would have tied it.”

 Some disappointed Angels fans have never forgiven Carew for not getting the job done in that situation but he says,” All I can do is hit the ball hard and I did. If Yount had been over another foot or so it would have been a different story.”

The bus ride back to the Milwaukee airport was grim and messy, thanks to Brewers fans who pelted their vehicle with fruit and beer as it headed out of the County Stadium parking lot. The post season collapse – coupled with the loss of Baylor to free agency in the off season put a damper on the club, and according to Carew the rest of his stay in Anaheim was mostly a haze. In 1983, at the age of 37, Carew posted his last great season, hitting .339 to finish second in the batting race to Boston’s Wade Boggs. The following season Carew saw his average dip below .300 for the first time since 1968.

Carew was on the last year of his contract and with rookie first baseman, Wally Joyner waiting in the wings, and Buzzie Bavasi set to retire, Carew realized his days on the Angels were numbered. But one major goal remained, 3,000 hits. Heading into the ’85 season, Carew was only 71 hits shy of that milestone and by August he was closing in on that magic number.

To be continued….

Purchase a copy of Rob Goldman's book "Once They Were Angels" at his website today! An amazing historical piece on the Angels over the years for just $19.95.
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