Besides JB Shuck's and Peter Bourjos' amazing catches this year, here's a look at catches that made their way onto our Top-50 Greatest Moments in Angels Baseball feature.
Another great catch in Angels history came down the stretch of the 1982 American League West pennant chase. Four days earlier, the Angels title hopes were looking grim, as a three-game losing streak dropped them two games behind the Kansas City Royals with 15 games remaining in the season.
But the Angels won the next two games of their series in Toronto and returned home to begin a critical three game series against the Royals, with the two teams now tied atop the division with identical 84-65 records.
The Angels took the opener, 3-2, behind Geoff Zahn’s eight strong innings and Reggie Jackson’s seventh inning RBI double.
Game two was another pitchers’ duel, this time between Ken Forsch and the Royals’ Dennis Leonard. In the fourth inning of a scoreless tie, Amos Otis drove a ball to the left center field gap, sending Angels left fielder Brian Downing and center fielder Fred Lynn on a collision course at the wall. The two fielders reached the fence at the exact same time, both leaping for the ball with no regard for their own welfare or each other. The impact was so powerful that the fence gave way, with Downing landing on the warning track and Lynn tumbling through the opening the collision had created.
For a moment, it was unclear which, if either, of the players had caught the ball. Then Lynn emerged from behind the fence, displaying the ball. The umpires conferred and ruled Otis out, reasoning that in effect the outcome was the same as if Lynn had made the catch and fallen into the stands.
The Angels took a 1-0 lead in the fifth, but Kansas City scratched across a tying run in the eighth.
In the bottom of the ninth, however, Bobby Grich and Bob Boone singled with one out off Royals closer Dan Quisenberry. Daryl Sconiers, who’d begun his sophomore season 0-for-8, slapped a 3-2 pitch into center field to score pinch runner Gary Pettis, giving the Angels a 2-1 victory and a two-game division lead they would not relinquish en route to their second division title.
If not for Lynn’s remarkable catch, it might have been an entirely different story.
No, “The Catch” will be remembered quite simply because it was an unforgettable display of physical prowess that might never be duplicated.
In the fifth inning of a 1-1 tie at Kauffman Stadium, David Howard came to the plate with two on and two outs. Howard lined a Jason Dickson fastball to straightaway center field on a frozen rope. Edmonds, who always played a shallow center, turned, put his head down and charged back to where his instincts told him the ball might land.
As the ball sailed over his head, Edmonds threw his body in the air and blindly reached out his gloved hand as far as he could and, as Angels television broadcaster Steve Physioc called it …
“A long run for Jim Edmonds … OH, HE MADE A CATCH! UNBELIEVABLE!”
Edmonds wound up on the edge of the warning track, rolling onto his back with his legs in the air, left hand reaching up to display the ball.
“I looked up and saw it come over the bill of my cap and thought I might as well lay out for this one, the game's on the line here,” said Edmonds, who doubled home the go-ahead run in the ensuing inning. “I heard (Tim) Salmon screaming and I saw Luis (Alicea) throw his glove up in the air and (Gary) DiSarcina had a blank look on his face.
“I'm thinking, ‘Man, I got the ball in my hand. Is there something else I've got to do?' I had to sit there for a second and think about it.”
What everybody else thought about it was they’d never seen anything like it.
"That was one of the greatest plays ever," veteran umpire Dave Phillips told the Kansas City Star. "That made Willie Mays' play look routine."
“It’s one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen, and 95 percent of the guys in here will tell you that,” Howard said. “People don’t just dive on their face with their back to the infield as they’re heading into the wall.”
“The angle of the ball directly over his head, diving away from home plate … tells you what a great player this guy is,” Angels manager Terry Collins said. “He's a brilliant outfielder.”
The play helped Edmonds net the first of two Gold Glove Awards he’d win for the Angels. He won six more playing for the St. Louis Cardinals.
USA Today in 2002 ranked the catch as the third-most amazing play of all-time, behind Mays’ 1954 World Series grab and Ozzie Smith’s barehanded magic in 1978.
And he did it all as a 20-year-old.
.326/.399/.594, 129 runs, 27 2B, 8 3B, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB
Trout led the American League in runs scored and stolen bases and finished second in batting average, despite starting the year at AAA Salt Lake and missing the first 20 Major League games. As for “unprecedented,” no player in Major League Baseball’s 141 years had ever surpassed 125 runs, 30 home runs and 45 stolen bases in the same season. Not one. Furthermore, he became the youngest player in history to record a 30 HR-30 SB season and the first rookie to combine 30 HR and 40 SB. Only two rookies scored more runs: Joe DiMaggio (132 in 1936) and Ted Williams (131 in 1939).
He was named an American League All-Star, American League Rookie of the Year, won a Silver Slugger and finished second in the American League MVP balloting to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
And, oh, all of those gravity-defying catches…
After making his celebrated, but far-from-polished big league debut as a 19-year-old in 2011 (batting just .220 and coming within a couple plate appearances of qualifying as a rookie), Trout was no sure bet to make the Angels 2012 roster out of spring training, especially not with an outfield/DH picture crowded by big contracts (Albert Pujols, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells), big emergences (Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos) and big question marks (Kendrys Morales). When Trout missed almost all of the spring with an energy-sapping illness, his fate was sealed — he would start the season in the minors.
While the “Millville Meteor” was batting .403/.467/.623 for the Bees, the Angels were woefully matching the franchise’s worst start (6-14) and falling nine games behind the Rangers for the division lead. In the midst of a five-game losing streak, the Angels recalled Trout on April 28 with the team in Cleveland. He went 0-4 from the leadoff spot, but the Angels won, 2-1.
With Trout setting the table, the Angels fortunes quickly turned. The team went 18-11 in May and climbed back to .500 for the first time since the season’s fourth game. Trout batted .324/.385/.556, but continued to fly under the radar of a baseball world that seemed preoccupied by Nationals rookie Bryce Harper. He was even better in June, posting a .372/.419/.531 line and helping the Angels to a 17-9 record in the month to pull within 4.5 games of the division-leading Rangers.
It was what he did on June 27 in Baltimore, however, that finally made the baseball world truly sit up and take notice. With his family and friends watching at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Trout made an unbelievable leaping catch in center field to rob shortstop J.J. Hardy of a first-inning home run. The catch was replayed for weeks and when people started to look at what he was doing with his bat and on the bases, as well, the youngster was not only a lock for the All-Star game, but suddenly in the discussion for AL MVP.
In July, Trout moved from “discussion” to “front runner,” posting an astounding .392/.455/.804 line. Comparisons to baseball’s immortals — DiMaggio, Williams, Mays, Mantle, even Ruth — became commonplace as statistical projections started to paint a picture of accomplishments matched only by the greatest of all-time — or no one in some cases.
Though he “slumped” to .287/.383/.500 from Aug. 1 on, and the Angels were ultimately unable to keep up with the Rangers and surprise division-winning Athletics, Trout made three more remarkable HR-robbing catches and sold more merchandise in the Angels team store than Pujols and all of his teammates combined.
At 10.7, he led the Major Leagues in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a “new-age” unit of measure that combines all conceivable statistical information — offense, defense and base running — into the number of victories a player is worth over a league-average alternative. Only three players in history posted a higher WAR before the age of 25: Ruth (11.6 in 1920), Gehrig (11.5 in 1927) and Mantle (11.1 in 1957 and 11.0 in 1956). His season ranks 20th all-time and every player ahead of Trout (Ruth, Hornsby, Yastrzemski, Bonds*, Gehrig, Ripken, Wagner, Cobb, Mantle, Mays, Morgan, Musial and Williams) is in the Hall of Fame.
For Angels fans, it was a rookie campaign for the ages, only the franchise’s second ROY (Salmon, 1993) and left just one question: What will he do for an encore?