His smile as he high-fived third baseman Doug DeCinces said it
all: Veteran second baseman Bobby Grich was finally headed to
his first World Series. Or so it seemed, after his two-run,
sixth-inning homer put the California Angels ahead of the Boston
Red Sox 3-2 in Game 5 of the 1986 American League Championship
Series. But three days later, the Angels had blown that game and
their 3-1 series lead. A shaken and teary Grich announced his
retirement in the locker room after California's 8-1 loss in
Game 7. "That series was an emotional roller coaster for
everyone involved," he says. "I thought we had it."
For 17 seasons the 6'2", 190-pound Grich blended power and grace
as one of baseball's best second basemen. He won four straight
Gold Gloves (1973 to '76) as a Baltimore Oriole before signing a
five-year, $1.5 million deal with California in November 1976 as
one of the 25 players in baseball's first class of free agents.
In the strike-shortened '81 season, Grich belted 22 of his 224
career home runs, becoming the first second baseman in 80 years
to lead the league in homers. Four years later he committed just
two errors in 606 total chances to set the then major league
record for fielding percentage (.997) at his position.
In retirement Grich, 49, has whittled his golf handicap down to
plus-one while serving as assistant general manager of the
Mission Viejo (Calif.) Vigilantes of the independent, Double
A-equivalent Western Baseball League. The first inductee into
the Angels Hall of Fame a decade ago, he lost touch with the
team after Disney took it over in May 1996. On April 1, however,
Grich and three other former California stars threw out the
ceremonial first pitches at Edison International Field, the
stadium formerly known as the Big A. As his family--wife Zetta,
stepson Brandon, 9, and daughter Brianna, 3--watched, Grich also
put his handprint in a concrete walk outside the park. Returning
to the site of many of his greatest triumphs reminded him of his
most heart-wrenching defeat, in '86. "I had been thinking about
retiring for a while," Grich says, "but when we lost, I'd had
enough. I was just ready to try something else."
COLOR PHOTO: JERRY WACHTER [Cover of October 20, 1986 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED featuring high-five slap between Doug DeCinces and Bobby Grich]
COLOR PHOTO: JASON M. GROW/SABA [Bobby Grich holding golf club]
For 17 years he blended power and grace as one of baseball's
best second basemen.