Halo Trivia: Who’s the Only Angels Batting Champ?

By Mike Greyshock
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Alex Johnson – 1970 .329

The Angels felt they were in need of offense during the 1969/1970 offseason and made a trade to acquire Alex Johnson from the Cincinnati Reds. He had batted .312 and .315 the prior two seasons and went on to have a terrific first season in Anaheim. He played left field and swung a sweet stick. Approaching the end of the season it was clear that it was down to either Johnson or the great Carl Yastrzemski to claim the batting title crown.

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On the last day of the season Yaz had already played and finished with a .3286 batting average. Johnson needed to go 2 for 3 or better if he was to claim the personal victory. Johnson was a brash player who would take batting practice from forty feet instead of sixty. He owned the motto “You hit when you can; I hit when I want.” It was that attitude that led to his downfall in baseball as he would never again bat anywhere near .300. It also culminated in his suspension from the team the next season for not hustling or playing hard. But, for this one game he showed that he could hit at will.

His first at bat ended with a ground out and then the pressure was on. Next time up he singled. After that he chopped a ball to third base and showed what he could do when he wanted as he flew down to first and got an infield hit. Those two consecutive hits to end the season gave him the title by edging out Yaz by .003 points. It also gave the Angels their first batting title. Forty-Four years later and he remains the only Angel to ever achieve the feat. A remarkable fact when you consider Rod Carew, Vladimir Guerrero and Mike Trout have all flirted with the title.

As for Johnson, the rest of his career was a disappointment as he lost interest in the game. He played for 4 more teams after the Angels and was done by age 33. For whatever reason, he simply didn’t show any real interest in playing and that’s a loss for all baseball fans. His talent was great and while we can be thankful he gave the Angels a batting title we’ll alway wonder what more he could have done?

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