A brief trip back to “Wally World.”
23-year-old first baseman Wally Joyner was probably the biggest story of the early part of the 1986 season, hitting homer after homer on his way to becoming the first rookie voted into the All-Star Game.
And it was a big surprise. Joyner was well regarded as a prospect after being taken in the third round in the 1983 draft, but he hit exactly 12 homers in both of his full seasons in the minors. In the PCL in 1985, he finished with a modest .283/.363/.440 line and 73 RBI in 477 at-bats.
That kind of line probably wouldn’t have gotten him a gig in 2011. The Angels, though, believed the power spike he experienced in Puerto Rico over the winter was for real and chose to have him replace future Hall of Famer Rod Carew as their first baseman headed into the 1986 season.
Joyner was a star from day one. He homered in his second game as a major leaguer, and he ended April with a .333-6-16 line. The first half of May proved even better: he followed his two-homer game against the Red Sox on May 12 with another one four days later. 36 games into his rookie season, he was hitting .316/.361/.645 and leading the majors with 15 homers and 37 RBI.
Joyner, though, was unable to maintain the pace. He hit just seven homers over the rest of the season and finished second to Jose Canseco in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting. Worse, after a great start in the ALCS against Boston, he went down with a leg infection, preventing him from playing in the final four games as the Angels were eliminated. He was 5-for-11 with a homer and two doubles in the first three games.
Joyner went on to have his best season as a sophomore in 1987, finishing with 34 homers and 117 RBI. He remained a valuable player in subsequent seasons, particularly in 1991, his last year with the Angels before he signed with the Royals, and in 1997, when he hit .327 for the Padres. However, he never went to a second All-Star Game.
Also, while Joyner was thought of very highly as a defensive first baseman, he failed to win a Gold Glove. The Yankees’ Don Mattingly had a stranglehold on the award at the time.
In 2001, Joyner returned to the Angels for a farewell tour and hit .243 in 161 at-bats. He ended his career with a .289/.362/.440 line, 204 homers and 1,106 RBI in 16 seasons.