This is the first article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Los Angeles Angels. In this installment are catchers and managers.
The Los Angeles Angels have had the same nickname since their inception but have still gone through many name changes in their 63-year history. The Angels joined the Senators in the first test of expansion in Major League Baseball, and the teams came about during the rivalry between leagues.
In the fall of 1960, the National League set up expansion franchises in New York (to replace the Dodgers and Giants, which moved to California in 1958) and Houston that would begin play in 1962. Not to be outdone, the American League voted to expand to Washington (with the “new” Senators replacing the previous team, which was moving to Minnesota) and Los Angeles, with the team rosters thrown together in just a few months in order to play in the 1961 season.
Hank Greenberg, a Hall of Fame first baseman who was a part-owner of the White Sox, tried to get a group of investors together and gain the rights of the new West Coast franchise but decided to back down when Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley tried to exert territorial control of Southern California.
Enter Gene Autry, an actor and “singing cowboy” (singer of the popular holiday song, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer“) who made his money owning oil wells, radio and television stations and other real estate. Autry-owned KPMC had recently lost the radio rights to broadcast Dodger games and Autry went to the owners meeting trying to get the rights to the Angels but instead ended up owning the team.
Autry and O’Malley struck a deal, with the Dodgers owner giving up the rights to the name Angels, which he had acquired when he moved his team to Los Angeles and bought the minor league team in the area. Autry would not let his new club play in the L. A. Coliseum, would pay the Dodgers to invade their territorial rights and would give rent to O’Malley for the four years the teams would share the new Dodger Stadium (which the Angels would call Chavez Ravine for their games). In all, the oil magnate spent about $750,000 even before his team began play.
On the field, the Angels went 70-91 in 1961, which is still the best record for a baseball expansion team. The club played in Wrigley Field (named after the Cubs owner who also owned the minor league Angels before the Dodgers came to town), which was a batter’s paradise that surrendered a then-record 248 home runs. After moving into Chavez Ravine the following year, the Angels were in first place in the 10-team American League on July 4 and finished with an 86-76 record, good enough for third place, 10 games behind the Yankees.
Wanting to appeal to fans outside of the Los Angeles area, Autry changed the name to the California Angels in 1965. The team moved into Angels Stadium, complete with a 230-foot-high A-shaped scoreboard, the following year. California hovered around .500 and had two more winning seasons before finally earning its first division title and playoff appearance in 1979. Despite having Don Baylor, the American League’s Most Valuable Player, on their roster, the Angels fell to the Orioles in the American League Championship Series. Three years later, California won the division again, but they lost to Milwaukee in the five-game ALCS after being up 2-0 in the series.
After two more second-place finishes, the Angels returned to the playoffs and were up 3 games to 1 on the Red Sox in the ALCS. Winning 5-2 heading into the ninth inning of Game 5, former Angel Baylor hit a two-run home run. With California still in front, closer Donnie Moore came into the game and was one strike away from setting up a World Series date with the Mets when Dave Henderson hit a two-run homer to give Boston the lead. The Angels managed to tie the score in the bottom of the inning, but the Red Sox won in the 11th and then ran away with the final two games to take the series.
Autry and later his wife, Jackie, ran the team until he passed away in 1998. The couple had sold 25 percent of the team in 1995 to the Walt Disney Company, which took over full control in 1999. California had a few close calls after the loss to Boston, but did not return to the playoffs until 2002, when the team went 99-63 and finished four games behind the Athletics in the division. Oakland and New York both won 103 games, but both lost in the Division Series, and the now-Anaheim Angels (they were renamed in 1997) beat Minnesota to reach their first World Series.
The Angels came from behind in all four of their victories against the Giants, including rallying from 5-0 down to win Game 6. The following night, Garrett Anderson hit a two-run double in the third inning, and Anaheim went on to win 4-1 and earn the franchise’s only championship to date.
Disney stated the company was suffering heavy losses due to the Angels and sold the team to billboard company executive Arturo “Arte” Moreno in 2003 for $180 million. The move made Moreno the first Latin American to own a major sports team in the United States. In the 21 seasons since Moreno took over, the Angels have gone to the playoffs six times, with four losses in the Division Series and two in the ALCS.
The team tried to change its name to harken back to its original Los Angeles roots, but the stadium lease demanded that Anaheim be featured in the name, thus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were born in 2005. Moreno was finally able to drop the “of Anaheim” in 2016, but the team has had little success since. Despite having players such as Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani on the roster, the Angels have failed to crack .500 or get within 10 games of first place in the past eight seasons.
The Best Catchers and Managers in Los Angeles Angels History
Honorable Mentions – Mike Napoli spent his first five seasons with the Angels (2006-10), reaching the 20-homer mark three times. His best season was 2010, when he hit 26 home runs and drove in 68 runs. Napoli amassed 246 runs, 389 hits, 92 homers and 249 RBIs in 506 games. He appeared in 14 postseason games with the Angels, hitting two home runs and driving in four runs against the Red Sox in the 2008 Division Series. Napoli earned his only All-Star selection with Texas in 2012 and won a title with Bost the following year.
Known more for his time with the Rockies (including winning a fielding title in 2008), Chris Iannetta spent four seasons with the Angels (2012-15). The 2005 MLB Futures Game participant had 254 hits, 37 home runs and 142 RBIs in 394 games. Iannetta went 1-for-10 with a home run in a loss to the Royals in the 2014 Division Series.
Like so many others before him, Martin Maldonado was a catcher who is solid defensively but has not hit for a high average. He had his best season on both offense and defense in 2017, when he had 14 home runs and 38 runs batted in. He won a gold glove and was named a Wilson Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league in putouts, assists, runners caught stealing and fielding percentage. Maldonado is in his fifth season with Houston. Entering this year’s playoffs, he has played in 52 postseason games with the Astros and been a part of three World Series teams, winning the title in 2022.
5. Lance Parrish – While he did not have the offensive production he did in Detroit, he still was solid during his four seasons in California (1989-92). Parrish earned All-Star and silver slugger honors in 1990 after posting a .268-24-70 stat line at the plate, and he also led the league with 55 runners caught stealing and 15 double plays turned by a catcher. The 1984 champion with the Tigers had 335 hits, 64 home runs and 182 RBIs in 400 games.
4. Brian Downing – He was a catcher with the White Sox for five seasons before coming to California in a six-player deal that sent Bobby Bonds and Richard Dotson to Chicago. Downing spent three more years as a catcher with the Angels (1978-80) before converting to left field. He earned his only All-Star selection in 1979 when he hit a career-high .326 (tied for the ninth-best single season mark in team history) with 166 hits, 12 home runs and 75 runs batted in. Downing played 311 games at the position, batting .294 with 298 hits, 21 homers and 146 RBIs. The 1978 fielding champion appeared in all four games with the Angels during their loss to the Orioles in the 1979 ALCS, going 3-for-15 with a run scored.
3. Bob “Buck” Rodgers – He was an original Angel and spent his entire nine-year career with the franchise (1961-69), leading the league in runners caught stealing three times. Rodgers had his best season in 1962, when he set career highs with a .258 average, 65 runs, 146 hits, 34 doubles and 61 runs batted in. Overall, he had 704 hits, 114 doubles, 31 home runs and 288 RBIs in 932 games. Rodgers had a 784-774 record in 13 seasons as a manager with the Brewers, Expos and Angels. He led Milwaukee to the playoffs in 1981 and won the Manager of the Year Award with Montreal after a 91-71 season in 1987.
2. Bengie Molina – He comes from a family of three brothers who all became big-league catchers. Although he is overshadowed by his younger brother, Yadier, who earned 10 All-Star selections, nine gold gloves, four platinum gloves and two titles in his 19-year career with the Cardinals, Bengie was no slouch at the plate or behind it.
Molina spent his first eight seasons with the Angels (1998-2005), winning two gold gloves and starting all seven games in the 2002 World Series (while being backed up by his other brother, José). He led the league with 40 runners caught stealing in 2000 and won a fielding title two years later. At the plate, his best season was actually two, posting identical .281-14-71 stat lines in 2000 and 2003.
Molina batted .273 with 250 runs, 678 hits, 108 doubles, 65 home runs and 362 RBIs in 716 games. In the playoffs, Molina scored seven runs, had 24 hits and drove in 12 runs in 29 games. He had six hits and two RBIs in the title-winning series against the Giants and hit .444 (8-for-18) with five runs scored, three home runs and five RBIs against the Yankees in the 2005 Division Series.
1. Bob Boone – Speaking of baseball families, Boone was the son of Ray, a two-time All-Star infielder, and the father of Bret (three All-Star selections, four gold gloves and two silver sluggers) and Aaron (2003 All-Star and current Yankees manager).
Bob Boone came to the Angels after earning three All-Star selections and two gold gloves in 10 seasons with the Phillies. He was even better defensively once he came to the West Coast, winning four gold gloves in seven seasons (1982-88), with his last with California coming in 1988 at age 40, making him the oldest non-pitcher to win the award. He led the American League in assists five times, double plays by a catcher three times and putouts and runners caught stealing twice each.
He was an All-Star in 1983, when he hit .256 with nine home runs and 52 runs batted in. Overall, he had 286 runs, 742 hits, 115 doubles, 39 homers and 318 RBIs in 968 games. He also caught Mike Witt’s perfect game on the final day of the 1984 season. Boone batted .368 in 12 ALCS games, amassing 14 hits, seven runs scored, two home runs and six RBIs in losses to the Brewers in 1982 and Red Sox in 1986.
Boone passed Al Lopez to set a record for most games caught with his 1,919th on September 16, 1987. He finished his career with 2,225, which is third-most all-time behind Hall of Famers Ivan Rodriguez and Carlton Fisk. Boone tested free agency and signed with the Royals in 1989. He played two seasons with Kansas City, winning a seventh gold glove, before retiring. Boone managed the Royals in the mid-1990s and the Reds in the early 2000s, posting a 371-444 record in six seasons.
Honorable Mentions – Harold “Lefty” Phillips became the second manager in franchise history when he took over early in the 1969 season. He went 222-225 in three seasons (1969-71), with the 86-76 mark in 1970 tying the franchise record at the time.
Terry Collins left the Astros and came to the Angels, posting a 220-237 record, despite having two winning seasons and two second-place finishes in his three at the helm (1997-99). He went 84-78 in his first year and the team improved by a game the next season before plummeting in the standings. Collins was let go after starting 1999 with a 51-82 mark.
5. Doug Rader – He was one of just three managers in franchise history to lead the time to a 90-win season with the Angels going 91-71 in 1989. The former Astros third baseman hovered around the .500 mark in each of his next two seasons before being let go with a 61-63 record in 1991.
4. Jim Fregosi – He is best known as the centerpiece of the trade with the Mets that sent Nolan Ryan to the Angels. After an 18-year playing career, with 11 coming with California, Fregosi spent four years at the helm of his former team (1978-81), amassing a 237-248 record. His highlight season was 1979, when he led the Angels to an 88-74 mark and their first playoff appearance in franchise history, which ended with a loss to the Orioles in the ALCS.
Fregosi spent three years as a manager with the White Sox, six with the Phillies and two with the Blue Jays, posting a 1,028-1,094 overall record in 15 seasons on the bench. His only other postseason experience came when he led Philadelphia to the World Series in 1993 and finished second in the Manager of the Year voting.
3. Gene Mauch – He ranks third in franchise history in manager victories, posting a 379-332 record in five seasons over two stints (1981-82 and 85-87). Mauch led the Angels to 90 or more wins three times, first falling to the Brewers in the ALCS after a then-record 93-69 mark in 1982. Despite winning 90 games, California finished a game behind eventual champion Kansas City in 1985. The following year, the Angels went 92-70 but suffered another heartbreaking loss in the American League Championship Series, this time to the Red Sox.
Among the four teams Mauch managed, he spent the fewest number of games with the Angels, yet they were the only ones with which he had a winning record or led to the playoffs. He also managed the Phillies for nine seasons, the Expos for seven and the Twins for five, and he finished his 26-year career with a 1,902-2,037 record.
2. Bill Rigney – The bespectacled Rigney earned one All-Star selection during an eight-year playing career as an infielder with the Giants. He managed his former team for five seasons before moving down the California coast to take over the expansion Angels. Rigney was a model of consistency for the young franchise, amassing a 625-707 record in nine seasons at the helm (1961-69).
Rigney led the team to three winning seasons, including an 86-76 mark and a third-place finish in just its second year of existence in 1962, which earned him the Sporting News Manager of the Year Award. Despite the early success, the Angels were withing 10 games of first place just once (an 84-77 record in 1967, and a fifth-place finish, 7½ games behind the penning-winning Red Sox).
After leaving the Angels, Rigney led the Twins for three years and ended his career where it began, with San Francisco in 1976. He went 1,239-1,321 in 18 seasons as a manager and appeared in his lone postseason in his first season with Minnesota, a sweep by Baltimore in the 1970 ALCS.
1. Mike Scioscia – After a 13-year playing career as a catcher spent entirely with the Dodgers, he remained on the West Coast and had an even longer career as a manager. Scioscia was the Angels manager for all 19 of his seasons on the bench, overseeing the team from Anaheim back to Los Angeles.
The two-time All-Star and two-time champion as a player (1981 and ’88) won two Manager of the Year Awards with the Angels (2002 and ’09) and led the franchise to its only championship. Scioscia led Los Angeles to 12 winning seasons and seven playoff appearances during his time on the bench. The Angels have won 90 or more games 11 times, and he has been at the helm in seven of those seasons, including the top six winning seasons in franchise history.
Although it doesn’t top that list, the 2002 season was when the franchise had its most success. Anaheim went 99-63 that season but finished four games behind Oakland. The league’s top teams, the Athletics and Yankees, both won 103 games that season but both were knocked out in the Division Series. The Angels dispatched the Twins, then snuck past Barry Bonds and the Giants for their first World Series title.
The team continued its success, even after converting to the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” name in 2005, with Scioscia leading the franchise to five more playoff appearances under that name. In 2008, the Angels set a club record with 100 wins but fell to the Red Sox in the Wild Card round. Los Angeles reached the ALCS two more times since its World Series win but fell to the White Sox in 2005 and the Yankees in 2009.
Scioscia stepped down from his post after the team missed the playoffs in his final four seasons. He went 1,650-1,428 with the Angels, and his .536 winning percentage is the best in franchise history. Los Angeles has not been to the playoffs nor has posted a .500 record in the five seasons since his departure.
Los Angeles Angels Catchers and Managers
Los Angeles Angels First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters – coming soon
Los Angeles Angels Second Basemen and Shortstops – coming soon
Los Angeles Angels Outfielders – coming soon
Los Angeles Angels Pitchers – coming soon
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Kansas City Royals Second Basemen and Shortstops
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Kansas City Royals Pitchers
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A look back at the Chicago Cubs
A look back at the Boston Red Sox
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Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers
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Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
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Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers