Arizona State architect and former California Angels manager Bobby Winkles passed away this week.
Winkles, from Tuckerman, Arkansas, played seven seasons of minor league baseball in the Chicago White Sox farm system before retiring and becoming head coach of Arizona State’s baseball program in 1959. Only 29-years-old at the time, he quickly turned the state school into a national contender. Over eleven seasons as head coach, he won three national titles (1965, 1967, 1969) and posted a .751 winning percentage (524-173).
Winkles made the jump to the Major Leagues in 1972 when he was hired by the Angels to become a coach under manager Del Rice. Rice was promoted after being named the Minor League Manager of the Year in 1971 for his work with the Salt Lake City Bees.
It is a testament to Winkles that he was willing to leave an established position as one of the country’s leading amateur coaches to join a staff where he wouldn’t be first in charge. But after just one season, with the Angels sputtering to a fifth place finish, Winkles took the lead reigns.
With Winkles calling the shots, the Angels got off to a hot start in 1973, leading the American League West near the end of June with a 39-32 record. But the positive momentum quickly turned in July and the team ended up finishing 79-83, still an improvement on ’72.
Winkles remained manager of the Halos into the 1974 season when a contentious relationship with Frank Robinson, who Winkles wanted traded, along with a mediocre 30-44 start to the season, led to his departure.
The Arkansas native received a second chance in the Big Leagues with the Oakland Athletics, where he managed for parts of the 1977 and 1978 seasons. But after a 24-15 start in his second season, the Sun Devil icon decided to quit, tired of the antics by the A’s owner at the time, Charlie Finley.
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Winkles is a charter member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame and had his number 1 jersey retired by Arizona State in 1972. He will be missed.