The ball, driven into the Arizona sky like a well-stroked tee shot, landed in a vacant lot almost 500 feet away. The home run was Rick Reichardt's first hit of spring training, and if the fact that the California Angels gave him $175,000 to sign two years ago didn't give it significance, its distance did. "That," said Manager Bill Rigney, "is another Angel first. We've never had a player who could hit a baseball that far."
Armed with a new name—remember, they're the California Angels now—and one of the foremost collections of pitchers in the American League, the Angels have moved into brand-new $24 million Anaheim Stadium, their third home in six years. Unfortunately, they have brought with them the least effective offensive lineup in the league, based on last year's performance—a collection of hitters who were delinquent in every department involved in the production of runs. Seventh in the American League standings, the Angels were dead last in runs scored, runs batted in, home runs and total bases. "We were bad," admits Coach Salty Parker, "but if we'd gotten just a few run-producing hits—just a few—we'd have been much, much better."
How much better the Angels will be this year depends—perhaps too much—on three young outfielders: Reichardt, 23, his 21-year-old sidekick, Ed Kirkpatrick, and 22-year-old Jack Warner. All three have demonstrated in the minors an ability to hit sharply and with power. Reichardt, 6 feet 3, 215 pounds, was a pass-catching end on the University of Wisconsin football team who chose to play professional baseball. He hit 13 home runs and batted .280 at Seattle last year, and he has impressed Rigney. Kirkpatrick played alongside Reichardt at Seattle, hitting .291 with 20 homers and 82 RBIs. Signed in 1962, he has made four brief trips to the Angels, each time showing more promise. This year the Angels think he is ready. Warner hit 38 homers in the minors in 1964 and was a sensation in training last year, but he got hurt and wasted most of the season. Now the Angels think he, too, is set to go.
Rigney says, "I look out there and see them cavorting around in the outfield, and I think of how many managers wait their whole careers to have kids like these. All I thought of this spring was, 'If they're ready, there's just no telling how high we can go.' "
With Reichardt, Kirkpatrick or Warner joining another fleet youngster—22-year-old Jose Cardenal (37 stolen bases as a rookie last season)—in the outfield, the Angels will be more than just a novel attraction for their new fans in Anaheim, where advance ticket sales have guaranteed the club a minimum of 700,000 paid admissions. The pitching staff is youthful, hard-throwing, has good overall control and is remarkably experienced for its age. At 24, right-hander Dean Chance is the California ace. Plagued by an abscessed tooth through most of last year, Chance closed strong to finish with a 15-10 mark and a 3.15 earned run average. "He has been in the league four full years now," says Shortstop Jim Fregosi, "and he's still surprised when someone gets a hit off him." Says Rigney: "All I know is, every time I look his way he nods O.K."
Backing up Chance in the rotation are lefthanders George Brunei, 30, and Marcelino Lopez, 22, both of whom gave up less than three runs per game last year. Lopez, one of the league's future stars, has polished his curve ball to complement his speed. Right-hander Fred Newman, 24, worked complete games in his last five starts last year and had a 2.93 earned run average. Rigney expects him to start this season right where he left off. A possible fifth starter will be rookie John McGlothlin, a stocky, 22-year-old redhead who throws the ball hard and has lots of poise. "I've got to have middle men," Rigney says. "That is, relievers to keep things in order until Bob Lee [240 pounds, 1.92 ERA] can lock things up in the eighth and ninth." Rigney may have them in veterans Jack Sanford and Lou Burdette.
The Angel infield, built around Fregosi at short and Bobby Knoop at second, is solid. Fregosi hit .277 with 15 homers and Knoop batted .269. Defensively, they form a rare double-play combination. At third base Paul Schaal, 23, fields along the lines of Brooks Robinson but needs to improve his .224 batting average. In training he was trying to learn how to drive outside pitches into right field. Rigney is perfectly content to alternate left-handed-hitting Norm Siebern, obtained from the Orioles, with right-handed Joe Adcock at first base because, as he puts it, "either way I've got one hell of a pinch hitter there on the bench."
And if any of the youngsters make it in the outfield, he'll have a lot more than one pinch hitter. In fact, all of a sudden the Angels seem to have a lot of bench: Vic Power, Frank Malzone, Ed Bailey, Jim Piersall, Albie Pearson and Willie Smith.
Rigney is hoping for some improvement at the plate from his catchers. "It was ridiculous last year," he says—and it was. Bob Rodgers hit .209 and Tom Satriano .165.
The Angels have a few things going for them this season—a new ball park, promising young sluggers and a deep pitching staff. For all of Manager Rigney's bubbling enthusiasm, however, the Angels are not quite ready to challenge for the pennant.