It’s odd to think of a team that has been around for 53 years as an “expansion team,” but that’s what the Angels are. They, along with the version of the Washington Senators which became the Rangers, started play in 1961, representing the first expansion in Major League Baseball since the American League came online in 1901. Then came expansion in 1962 with the Mets and the Colt .45s (Astros) and 1969 with the Expos, Pilots (Brewers), Royals and Padres. Then 1977 with the Mariners and Jays, followed by the Marlins-Rockies in 1993 and the Devil Rays-Diamondbacks in 1998.
But despite all of that expansion history, no expansion team sat at .500 or above as play began last night. With their win over the Blue Jays last night, the Angels are now even at 4,272 wins and 4,272 losses.
Now, they aren’t the first expansion team to break .500. As Dbacks’ Vice President Josh Rawitch noted on Twitter last night, Arizona was 652-644 between 1998 and 2005, getting over the .500 hump and staying there for a time after their first couple of seasons. Such early success for an expansion team is unusual, however, and they have since sunk below sea level. The Angels were above .500 twice in their first four seasons, but they had not been at .500 in the aggregate since they were 1-1 following the second day of the 1961 season. They’ve spent over 50 years climbing out of the hole they dug. Pretty cool.
Also cool, at least if you’re an Angels fan: they have the second best record in all of baseball this year and, since May 7, they top everyone with a 36-19 mark. This is a very good Angels team right now, folks.
With the Dodgers trying to make it back to the World Series for the second year in a row — and trying to win it for the first time in 30 years — it’s worth looking back at the last time they won it. More specifically, it’s worth looking back at the signature moment from the last time they won it. Which, really, was one of baseball’s all-time signature moments.
Yep, I’m talking about Kirk Gibson’s famous game-winning home run off of Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, which happened 30 years ago tonight.
All playoff magic for anyone too young to remember Bill Mazeroski’s homer in 1960 is measured against Gibson taking Dennis Eckersley downtown to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 win. Heck, even if you were around in 1960, it’s far less likely that you saw Mazeroski’s homer than it was for you to have seen Gibson’s. Nationally broadcast in prime time to a nation of millions who had not yet fragmented into viewers of hundreds of obscure cable channels and various forms of streaming entertainments, it was a moment that sent shockwaves through the world of sports.
For my part, I was fifteen years-old, sitting in my living room in Beckley, West Virginia watching it as it happened. Like most of the rest of the country, I was convinced that the Dodgers had no chance to beat the mighty Bash Brothers and the 104-win Oakland A’s. Especially given that the Dodgers’ leader, MVP-to-be Gibson, was hobbled and not starting. Even when he was called on to pinch hit, I had no faith that he’d be able to touch Eckersley, the best relief pitcher on the planet, let alone hit the ball with any kind of authority.
But, as Vin said when he called it, the Dodgers’ year was so improbable that, in hindsight, it made perfect sense for Gibson to have done the impossible: