Monday, July 11, 2011
Angels Moment No. 11: Tim Salmon's Rookie of the Year
By Mark Saxon
ANAHEIM -- With all the attention on Angels rookies lately, between Mike Trout's debut, Mark Trumbo's hot hitting and Jordan Walden's All-Star selection, it's a good time to stop and ponder the greatest Angels rookie of them all, at least according to the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1993.
I was standing behind the batting cage Friday and watching Trout take batting practice alongside Salmon.
He shared the story of his major-league debut at Yankee Stadium, in 1992. What helped alleviate butterflies, he recalled, was the fact he had to travel all day to get there. He got to the historic old ballpark and manager John Wathan told him he was batting cleanup, because that's what he had been doing every day in the minor leagues.
No pressure, or anything.
Salmon said the frenetic pace of the day finally came to an end when he got in the on-deck circle.
"It was like, 'Woosh,' and everything just slowed down and got quiet," Salmon said. "Before that first at-bat, I was so calm, it was unbelievable."
Things didn't start speeding up until Salmon took the field and Yankees superstar Don Mattingly hit a deep drive to right field. Salmon went back on it, jumped at the wall and caught it... for a second or two. His impact with the wall jarred the ball loose, and over the fence.
"I thought, 'Oh my God, I just gave Don Mattingly a home run.' " Salmon said. "The crowd was going crazy. They loved me after that."
Salmon would play in just 23 games that season, preserving his rookie status for the following April. In 1993, he .283 with 35 doubles and 31 home runs. The balloting for Rookie of the Year was unanimous. Salmon got all 28 first-place votes, easily beating out a weak class that included Jason Bere and Aaron Sele.
Of course, he would go on to have a remarkable career, one that was rare for having been played all for one team. Mr. Angel was able to retire an Angel.
Of course, this time of year always raises the quirkiest aspect of Salmon's career: He finished in the Top 7 in MVP voting twice, but never made an All-Star team. In fact, 1993 might have been his best first half -- he had mashed 17 home runs by the All-Star break. Who knew that good start would be so difficult to duplicate all those years?
This story is part of an occasional series of Angels Moments which, when it's complete, will -- we hope -- add up to 50. The Angels are celebrating their 50th anniversary this season. These are not intended to be an exhaustive list, but simply an assembly of scenes and anecdotes that are part of the team's colorful past.