The baseball on the official Angels' insignia has a pair of wings sprouting from it but, to be more faithful to the record, it should be weighed down by an anchor. The club was last in homers, last in runs batted in and only slightly better (eighth) in team batting average. But because of five young hitters, the Angels may earn their wings this season.
All-Star Shortstop Jim Fregosi is one of the speediest men on the club and has hovered near the .300 mark in each of his three major league seasons. There is no reason to suspect he will slip now that he has passed his 23rd birthday. Right Fielder Lou Clinton hit .311 in the last six weeks of the season, and he may keep it up. Costen Shockley (36 home runs at Little Rock) came from the Phillies' organization in the Bo Belinsky trade, and what he lacks in Bo's technique with cues and cuties he makes up for in left-handed power. He hit so well in spring training that he probably will be platooned at first base with elderly Joe Adcock. In center field, where little Albie Pearson seems to have had it, the Angels have a racing rookie from Cuba named José Cardenal, who blazes around the bases as if the Fidelistas were in pursuit. Some people doubt he can hit a curve (the Giants gave up on him), but there is no doubt he can field, throw and steal bases. Fifth of the young Angels is Wonderful Willie Smith, ex-amateur boxer and ex-Detroit pitcher. The latest Willie to crash big-time sports was taken off the mound for good in mid-June after Manager Bill Rigney had made a regular use of his beautiful swing as a pinch hitter (10 for 22). He finished with a .301 average and is unlikely to be doing any more throwing except from left field. It may have been the happiest pitcher-to-hitter conversion since a minor leaguer named Stan Musial fell on his shoulder in 1940 at Orlando, Fla.
The power of Adcock, Clinton, Fregosi, Shockley, Smith and former Wisconsin football star Rick Reichardt, who may be recalled from the minors early, is useless much of the time in spacious Chavez Ravine. The Angels can't wait to get into their new park in Anaheim next year. "This is just a question of mathematics. Take Adcock, for instance," says Fregosi. "Last year Joe hit 15 home runs on the road and only six at home. If he had been able to stay in the same groove away and at home, he might have had 40 homers."
The Cy Young Award rests someplace back home in Wooster, Ohio, but Wilmer Dean Chance will have to work hard to keep his position as undisputed king of the Angels' pitching staff, never mind the major leagues. There are some members of the team who think another right-hander, Fred Newman, can win as many games as Chance this year. Newman (13-10, 2.75 ERA) has fine control with his breaking stuff (1.8 walks a game in 1964, second best in the American League) and has gained 20 pounds, which should add more speed to his already effective repertoire. Rigney will have yet a third top right-hander to call on if one of his question marks, Ken McBride, turns into an exclamation point. McBride was 11-5 in 1962, 13-12 in 1963 (when he was the starting pitcher in the All-Star Game), then dipped to 4-13 last season. He worked in the Arizona instructional league in the winter, studied motion pictures of himself and discovered that his delivery was slipping from three-quarter to sidearm. The Angels hope he has corrected the fault.
Like most managers, Rigney could use more left-handers. Marcelino Lopez, a Cuban who had a bad record on a bad team last season in Chattanooga, looks good. He has a sinking fast ball and a fair curve. Another possible left-handed starter is George Brunet, who has played for 20 teams since 1953, mostly in the minors and mostly without success. Big Bob Lee, built along the lines of the Red Sox' Dick Radatz, had 17 saves and a 1.51 ERA in 64 games last season, all but five in relief, before he broke his hand slugging a heckler. Rigney likes to go to the bullpen, and Lee is the man he goes to most. When Lee gets tired, Rigney will go to rookie Dick Wantz, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound right-handed sidearmer who reminds everyone of Ewell Blackwell.
The Angels are strong up the middle—and not too bad on the sides. Switch-hitting Catcher Bob Rodgers is so-so at the plate but invaluable behind it. Last season he had more assists and fewer passed balls than any other first-string catcher in the league. Fregosi at shortstop and Bobby Knoop at second form one of the best double-play combinations in baseball. Rigney can afford to keep Knoop in the lineup even if he hits .216—which is what he hit last season. Perhaps he should swing at the ball with his glove. If Cardenal plays center he will cover several acres of ground and show a terrific arm. Good-fielding rookie Paul Schaal won the job at third.
Distant fences or not, the Angel batters must give the Angel pitchers some support for the club to stay in the first division (if you call fifth place the first division). With a nice mixture of good young ballplayers and still-capable veterans Los Angeles might even make another 1962-type run at the pennant. But more than likely it will be no higher than fifth again and then on to Anaheim for brighter summers.