In 1961 the newborn Angels won 70 games, lost 91 and felt pleased about finishing in eighth place. In 1963 they won 70 games, lost 91, and felt terrible because their fall from third in 1962 to ninth was the worst in the major leagues.
No American League team had less success on the bases (43 stolen bases in 73 tries) last season than the Angels, and only one scored fewer runs. A prime reason for the team's fall from fifth in scoring was a drop-off of more than 50% in home runs during the last half of the season (LA tied for last with 95). Manager Bill Rigney feels he can perk up the Angels' attack if his players run more this season. His big experiment is to turn loose speedy 6-foot-2, 190-pound Jim Fregosi (.287), who tied for second in the league with a dozen triples but stole only two bases. Rookie Dick Simpson, a 9.8 sprinter, also will be an asset on the bases, if he hits enough to make the team. Another speedster is Albie Pearson, who led the club with 17 stolen bases. Getting on base and getting home is lead-off man Pearson's specialty. He was second in the league in both walks and runs (92 in each case) and his .304 batting average was fourth-best in the league. Billy Moran won't steal anything (one stolen base in 1963), but he is a dependable .270 hitter. Joe Adcock, acquired from the Indians for Leon Wagner, is aiming for at least the 17 home runs he needs for a career total of 300. Spelling Adcock at first will be Charley Dees, a willowy left-hander, who batted .307 in 60 games last year. With Wagner gone, the only left-handed slugger-of-sorts around is Lee Thomas, who dropped from being the club leader in hitting (.290) and runner-up in home runs (26) and RBIs (104) in 1962 to .220, 55 RBIs and nine homers last season. It was the worst slump by any American League regular. Switch-hitting Bob Rodgers also must rebound if the Angels are to improve. A broken finger and a severe ankle sprain left him with a badly bruised average (.233).
As loss piled upon loss last season Dean Chance became more and more disheartened. Often after a teammate erred, he would stand on the mound and glare at him. In high school he had pitched 18 no-hitters; last year he lost 18 games. Instead of going home to Wooster, Ohio and the 83-acre farm he bought with the $30,000 bonus the Orioles gave him in 1959, Chance wintered in Palm Springs, Calif. ("He was so anxious to be traded that he called me an average of twice a day all winter to see if I had heard anything," says Dick Miller, a Los Angeles sportswriter.) From time to time teammate Bo Belinsky got together with Chance to cheer him up and to play pool. When the winter of his discontent was over, Chance told the Angel management, "Pay me, trade me or get me some runs." He had complaints, too. "One thing that burns me," he said, "is that they gave raises to some of our guys who hit .220. I had a better year in '63 than in '62, but they didn't give me any raise. I pitched 248 innings last year, led the club in strikeouts, earned run average and tied for the most wins  with Ken McBride. He got a nice raise. Know how many runs they got for me in my 18 losses? Twenty-two, that's how many. That's 1.22 runs a game. Only two pitchers in the league have had a lower ERA than me for the past two years. I'm worth more than the $18,000 they're paying me. The club slipped, not me. I get along fine with Rig and the rest. It's just that one guy [General Manager Fred Haney]. He's a dandy." ("Chance has been in the majors two years and he's making $18,000." said 42-year-old Pitcher Art Fowler resentfully. Fowler, after 20 years in baseball, is making $15,500. "He should drop to his knees and thank God," Fowler added.) Chance, 22, has much to be thankful for, including one of the best arms in the game and, some say, the best spitball. "He should coast to 15 wins with his arm," says former teammate Leon Wagner. "This boy has a good fast ball, curve and, ah, spitball. But he doesn't take the game real serious sometimes. He'll be leading like 3-1 late in a game, and he'll walk a man and the next batter will be a real good fast-ball hitter. Chance, he's sure this guy can't hit his fast ball, so he throws it in and there it goes. He could've won 10 more games. Rigney took him out because he wasn't serious enough." Rigney admits that "Chance is in a hurry to get a game over with sometimes, and it hurts him. Now he's at the point where he has to come around in his thinking so he can be a complete pitcher. Because he has all the equipment he feels he doesn't have to do any extra. When the other players stop running laps, he stops, too." The top right-handers behind Chance and Curve Bailer McBride are Barry Latman (7-12, 4.95 with Cleveland), Paul Foytack (5-6) and Fred Newman (8-6 with Hawaii, 1-5 for the Angels). Latman, 20 pounds lighter this season, has shown better control and more determination than he has in years. The only starting left-hander will be Bo Belinsky (2-9, 5.76 ERA) unless rookie Danny Rivas (13-7 with Tacoma) sticks. Manning one of the best bullpens extant will be Fowler (5-3, 2.43, 8 saves); Julio Navarro (4-5, 2.90, 8 saves); Dan Osinski (8-8, 3.28); Jack Spring (3-0, 3.08); and Bob Duliba (6-5, 2.91 for Hawaii).
April 13, 1964
A team that scores infrequently must field well, but last year the Angels gave away 90 unearned runs, next to the worst in the league. Much depends on whether rookie Bobby Knoop, a questionable fielder but a good hitter in the minors (.283, 20 home runs for Hawaii), can tighten the defense around second base. If that is taken care of, it will free Moran, who made more errors than any other second baseman in the league, to take over at third, where he fits in better. Only two regular shortstops had more errors than Fregosi, but he has the arm, range and hustle to become one of the best fielders in either league. Outfielders Pearson, Thomas and Jimmy Piersall and First Basemen Adcock and Dees are usually capable, rarely spectacular. Rodgers is one of the best defensive catchers around.
A woeful offense will nullify good pitching and keep the Angels deep in the second division once again.