LA Angels History

The LA Angels have been snakebit for decades

By Craig Tyson Adams
New York Yankees v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Game 3
New York Yankees v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Game 3 / Stephen Dunn/GettyImages
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The LA Angels have had more than their share of misfortune over the many years of the club’s existence.

The tale of Tyler Skaggs is another tragic reminder that even in an idyllic profession like baseball, catastrophe can shockingly bring life back into focus. 

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been an LA Angels fan for many seasons. That being said, I’ve witnessed many setbacks that the club has endured. And there have been many. 

Whether it’s a curse or a run of bad luck, the Angels have had an inordinate amount of misfortune compared to most clubs of the same age or older. 

The LA Angels have had the heartache with untimely losing players too young with unmatched frequency. 

It seemed to start almost from the very beginning with the LA Angels franchise. 

Donnie Moore delivers a pitch
Donnie Moore delivers a pitch / Rick Stewart/GettyImages

For starters, in May 1965, pitcher Dick Wantz died of an inoperable brain tumor one month after his major league debut, when he was just 25 years old.

In March 1968, reliever Minnie Rojas was paralyzed in a car accident that also took the lives of two of his three children. Rojas set the Angels’ franchise record with 27 saves in 1967. 

Moving on to the 1970's, even more inexplicable tragedies took place. In February 1972, infielder Chico Ruiz was killed in a car crash in San Diego at the age of 33.

In March 1974, during spring training,  left-handed pitcher Bruce Heinbechner died in a car crash near the Angels’ spring training hotel in Palm Springs. Heinbechner, 23, was competing for a spot on the Angels’ roster that year.

Moving on to the later part of the decade, things didn't get any easier. In January 1977, infielder Mike Miley, the Angels’ No. 1 draft pick in 1974, was killed in a lone car crash in Baton Rouge, La. Miley was only 23.

In September 1978, outfielder Lyman Bostock, 27, was visiting family and friends in his hometown of Gary, Ind., following an Angels game in Chicago, when he was shot and killed while sitting in the back seat of a car stopped at an intersection in a case of mistaken identity.

Thankfully, these terrible instances stopped happening for quite some time, but then ended up picking back up again in the late 80's and early part of the next decade.

In July 1989, Donnie Moore shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself. In May 1992, during an East Coast road trip, the Angels were traveling by bus from New York to Baltimore when the driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed. Thirteen members of the Angels’ traveling party were injured, including manager Buck Rodgers, who spent three months in the hospital recovering.

Before Skaggs, the last Angels player to pass away during a season was pitcher Nick Adenhart, 22, who was killed by a drunk driver while driving home after a home game in Anaheim in 2009. Hours earlier he pitched six shutout innings in a loss to the Oakland A’s.

In November 2015, two years after pitching his last major league game as a member of the Angels, Tommy Hanson, 29, died at a friend’s home in Atlanta after falling into a coma with catastrophic organ failure.

In December 2018, infielder Luis Valbuena returned to his native Venezuela and was playing in the Winter League when he was ambushed by highway robbers. Valbuena crashed while trying to evade the robbers. He was 33 years old. 

dark. Next. 10 stars you forgot were LA Angels

LA Angels history has been beset by adversity that is almost unmatched in professional sports. Hopefully this season gets underway soon so that Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani can bring unmatched joy to long suffering LA Angels fans. The club deserves it. 

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