Saturday, August 3, 2013

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After watching JB Shuck's amazing robbery of Jose Bautista last night and recalling Peter Bourjos' incredible leap over the fence to take a home run away from JJ Hardy earlier in the season, it got me thinking. What Angels player had the most amazing catch of all time? 

Below you'll see this videos of Bourjos and Shuck's amazing catches this season, but also our own pieces on current and former Halos who made incredible grabs as well from our Top-50 Greatest Moments in Angels Baseball feature. Be sure to cast your vote on the greatest catch in Angels Baseball here

Pete Bourjos

Peter Bourjos races to the wall and makes an unbelievable leaping catch, robbing J.J. Hardy of a home run. (June 16th, 2013)

JB Shuck


J.B. Shuck runs back to make an amazing grab, robbing Jose Bautista of a home run in the top of the fourth inning in last night's Angels vs. Blue Jays contest. (August 2nd, 2013)

Downing and Lynn crash and catch

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.

Jim Edmonds makes “The Catch.”

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.

Mike Trout's Catch of the Ages

Of all the superlatives that can be lavished upon Mike Trout’s rookie season, perhaps the simplest and most appropriate is “unprecedented,” because no rookie in Major League history reached the statistical heights Trout achieved. For that matter, no second-, third- or even 20th-year player did so, either.

And he did it all as a 20-year-old.

.326/.399/.594, 129 runs, 27 2B, 8 3B, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB

Trout led the American League in runs scored and stolen bases and finished second in batting average, despite starting the year at AAA Salt Lake and missing the first 20 Major League games. As for “unprecedented,” no player in Major League Baseball’s 141 years had ever surpassed 125 runs, 30 home runs and 45 stolen bases in the same season. Not one. Furthermore, he became the youngest player in history to record a 30 HR-30 SB season and the first rookie to combine 30 HR and 40 SB. Only two rookies scored more runs: Joe DiMaggio (132 in 1936) and Ted Williams (131 in 1939). 

He was named an American League All-Star, American League Rookie of the Year, won a Silver Slugger and finished second in the American League MVP balloting to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

And, oh, all of those gravity-defying catches…

After making his celebrated, but far-from-polished big league debut as a 19-year-old in 2011 (batting just .220 and coming within a couple plate appearances of qualifying as a rookie), Trout was no sure bet to make the Angels 2012 roster out of spring training, especially not with an outfield/DH picture crowded by big contracts (Albert Pujols, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells), big emergences (Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos) and big question marks (Kendrys Morales). When Trout missed almost all of the spring with an energy-sapping illness, his fate was sealed — he would start the season in the minors.

While the “Millville Meteor” was batting .403/.467/.623 for the Bees, the Angels were woefully matching the franchise’s worst start (6-14) and falling nine games behind the Rangers for the division lead. In the midst of a five-game losing streak, the Angels recalled Trout on April 28 with the team in Cleveland. He went 0-4 from the leadoff spot, but the Angels won, 2-1.

With Trout setting the table, the Angels fortunes quickly turned. The team went 18-11 in May and climbed back to .500 for the first time since the season’s fourth game. Trout batted .324/.385/.556, but continued to fly under the radar of a baseball world that seemed preoccupied by Nationals rookie Bryce Harper. He was even better in June, posting a .372/.419/.531 line and helping the Angels to a 17-9 record in the month to pull within 4.5 games of the division-leading Rangers.

It was what he did on June 27 in Baltimore, however, that finally made the baseball world truly sit up and take notice. With his family and friends watching at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Trout made an unbelievable leaping catch in center field to rob shortstop J.J. Hardy of a first-inning home run. The catch was replayed for weeks and when people started to look at what he was doing with his bat and on the bases, as well, the youngster was not only a lock for the All-Star game, but suddenly in the discussion for AL MVP.

In July, Trout moved from “discussion” to “front runner,” posting an astounding .392/.455/.804 line. Comparisons to baseball’s immortals — DiMaggio, Williams, Mays, Mantle, even Ruth — became commonplace as statistical projections started to paint a picture of accomplishments matched only by the greatest of all-time — or no one in some cases.

Though he “slumped” to .287/.383/.500 from Aug. 1 on, and the Angels were ultimately unable to keep up with the Rangers and surprise division-winning Athletics, Trout made three more remarkable HR-robbing catches and sold more merchandise in the Angels team store than Pujols and all of his teammates combined. 

At 10.7, he led the Major Leagues in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a “new-age” unit of measure that combines all conceivable statistical information — offense, defense and base running — into the number of victories a player is worth over a league-average alternative. Only three players in history posted a higher WAR before the age of 25: Ruth (11.6 in 1920), Gehrig (11.5 in 1927) and Mantle (11.1 in 1957 and 11.0 in 1956). His season ranks 20th all-time and every player ahead of Trout (Ruth, Hornsby, Yastrzemski, Bonds*, Gehrig, Ripken, Wagner, Cobb, Mantle, Mays, Morgan, Musial and Williams) is in the Hall of Fame.

For Angels fans, it was a rookie campaign for the ages, only the franchise’s second ROY (Salmon, 1993) and left just one question: What will he do for an encore?

Erstad The Incredible


Few who are familiar with recent Angels history would be surprised that the man at the center of the team’s most memorable comeback of the 2000 season was Darin Erstad. Even though his teammates were hitting home runs at a record pace, there was never any question about who was that season’s MVP.

And no game better illustrated the magic of that year than this shocker in the Bronx.

Early on, it was like so many Angels/Yankees games of the past, with the Angels scoring one run and the Yankees answering with two. And two more. And two more. After the sixth inning, New York led, 8-3, and Roger Clemens found his groove, retiring the Angels in order in the seventh and eighth.

And though he’d already thrown 119 pitches, Clemens came out for the ninth. Singles by Troy Glaus and Bengie Molina sent him to the showers, however, and reliever Jeff Nelson was summoned to quell this minor uprising. Nelson retired Adam Kennedy on a flyout, but walked Kevin Stocker to load the bases, convincing Joe Torre to go to his bullpen ace, Mariano Rivera. And when Erstad hit into a fielder’s choice at third, the Angels gained a run, but were now down to their last out against the game’s premier closer.

But then the Angels grabbed a bit of that Yankee Stadium “mystique and aura” for themselves when Orlando Palmeiro laced a double into right field to score Stocker and cut the Yankees lead to 8-5. Two pitches later, Mo Vaughn launched an 0-1 Rivera cutter into the upper deck in right field, tying the game and bringing the Angels all the way back from an 8-3 ninth inning deficit.

"Until the game is over, you keep battling," Erstad said. "How many times are you going to see that kind of comeback in your career, against one of the best pitchers ever and one of the best closers in the game? That's why we play until the last out."

The Yankees didn’t quit, either, and appeared poised to snatch back the victory in the bottom of the tenth when pinch runner Luis Polonia reached third with two outs and Derek Jeter was intentionally walked in favor of Jorge Posada. Posada smashed a drive into the left-center gap that had walk-off written all over it. Somehow, Erstad, motoring from over near the left field line, managed to get close enough to make a full-extension dive on the ball already past him, reaching out and hauling it in before crashing violently onto the outfield grass.

"I thought it split the gap when he hit it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "All I can say is incredible."

Many Yankees had already spilled out of the dugout to celebrate, most then lingering in amazement that they had not just won the game.

"I thought the game was over," Clemens said. "That was one of the top three catches I've seen in my years in the game."

Instead the Angels players were the ones celebrating, greeting Erstad in foul territory and mobbing him in the dugout.

"They wouldn't leave me alone, and I'm like, 'I've got to go hit, leave me alone,’“ Erstad said.

Due up second in the eleventh, the Erstad Show was primed for an encore. After Stocker’s failed bunt attempt, Erstad lofted a Mike Stanton offering high into right field and just over the fence to give the Angels a 9-8 lead. The Yankees went 1-2-3 in the bottom half and the Angels won a game they twice seemed sure to lose.

"Posada smoked that ball,” Erstad said of his catch in the tenth. “It was just one of those things. You just react and let your ability take over.”

Whether it was ability, luck, grit or some combination of all three, Erstad’s 2000 season is arguably the greatest offensive (and defensive) performance in franchise history. He batted .355 with 240 hits (No. 13 all-time), 121 runs scored, 39 doubles, six triples, 25 home runs, 28 stolen bases and an unprecedented 100 RBI, all from the leadoff spot, the first player ever to reach the century mark from the top of the order.

He was eighth in the A.L. MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger award.

In a word, Erstad in 2000 was incredible.


Love to hear what you think!

Listen to "A Fish Like This" Tribute song to Mike Trout's Greatness

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