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Veteran Angels Team Returns to Playoffs

Maybe it didn't have the same impact as 1979, but that didn't make the Angels' division title any less sweeter...especially to manager Gene Mauch.

You would think after 22 years of being without a title, it wouldn't be unreasonable for Mauch to do a little cheerleading about himself, to say a few "I told you so's," and go on and on about how his managerial abilities sewed up the Western Division crown.

But that wasn't Mauch's style. If he was happy, he kept his satisfaction to himself, if he was proud of his accomplishment, he didn't admit it publicly.

"It's pretty obvious how I feel about it," Mauch stated on Oct. 2, 1982, shortly after the Angels had disposed of the Texas Rangers, 6-4, to capture the organization's second Western Division Championship.

"But when I tell you my emotions for myself are eighth or 10th on my list, I don't care what you think. That's how I feel."

By now the atmosphere in the locker room was delirious and champagne was stinging Mauch's eyes. A smile crept across his face, but it was a smile in honor of his players, not himself.

"This year we had so many good horses that I just hitched them up and they went along pretty well," he said.

Two games ahead with two to play, the Angels only needed a victory or a Royals loss to wrap up the title. With Ken Forsch on the mound, the Halos felt confident. But after the Angels jumped out to a 2-0 lead, the Rangers responded by chasing Forsch with a three-run second inning.

The Angels tied the score in the bottom of the second, but Texas came back with another run in the fourth, reclaiming the lead, 4-3. At the same time, news of the Royals' 5-4 triumph was being announced to the 33,405 fans in attendance at Anaheim Stadium.

Would the Angels be forced into a must win situation on the final day of the season? Tugging at the bill of their caps and hitching their belts, the Angels were determined not to let that happen.

In the fifth inning, Fred Lynn followed a Rod Carew walk with a blast into the right field seats - his 19th home run of the season. Three innings later, Tim Foli added an insurance tally with an RBI single.

The rest was left up to relief pitcher Luis Sanchez, who entered the game with one on and nobody out in the seventh. In quick order, the right-hander got the first out on a force play, another on an attempted steal and accounted for the inning-ending out by recording a strikeout.

He fanned two more batters in the eighth and issued a walk in the ninth before fielding a hard smash back to the mound and retiring the final batter at first.

The ensuing celebration, on the field and in the clubhouse, was reminiscent of 1979. Some faces had changed, but not the feelings that went with winning a title.

The Championship was accomplished by a team, "made up of veterans with sore muscles, with tired arms, with drained emotions. This team, more than any other I've played on, had to push itself to grind out wins," summed up second baseman Bobby Grich.

The Angels "pushed" themselves into producing 93 victories, a club record. And while the outcome of the championship series - Milwaukee winning three games to two - may have left a sour taste in the mouths of many, it did little to tarnish an otherwise banner year for owner Gene Autry, Gene Mauch, the players and the fans.

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