Los Angeles Angels: Dean Chance
June, 1, 2011
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
AP PhotoDean Chance struck out 207 batters in 1964, the year he won the Cy Young Award.
When Bartolo Colon won the Cy Young award in 2005, Dean Chance lost his status as the answer to a trivia question for more than 40 years running.
He had been the only Angels pitcher to win the most coveted pitching award. Unlike Colon, who was near the end of a strong career -- until his out-of-the-blue resurgence with the New York Yankees this season -- Chance was just getting started, and nobody knew how good he would be.
He was 23 in 1964. He doesn't think he would have won the award if Sandy Koufax hadn't gotten hurt. In those years, only one pitcher from both leagues could win the Cy Young. Koufax pitched, but a troublesome left elbow meant he wasn't quite as dominant. He won 19 games. He would win the Cy Young in 1963, 1965 and 1966, effectively surrounding Chance.
"You can talk all you want about all these other pitchers, Roger Clemens, guys like that," Chance said a few years ago, when I caught up with him. "The only one was Koufax. He was so much better than anybody else, it's unbelievable."
Chance had a strong right arm and an unusual corkscrew delivery, in which he turned his back on the hitters, unnerving some. He struck out 207 batters that year and won 20 games.
Years later, he still recalled the tiniest details of that season. He would never quite live up to it, though he did win 20 games and pitch a league-high 280 innings in 1967 with the Minnesota Twins.
Chance remembers all seven home runs he gave up in 1964: Some were hit by sluggers (Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson). Some were not (Dick McAuliffe). He won six games by the score of 1-0 that year. He remembers Bobby Knoop snaring a hard-hit liner to start a double play.
Chance's 1.65 ERA was the best in the AL since Walter Johnson posted a 1.49 ERA in 1919. He made $18,000 that year. Colon made nearly $600,000 per win in 2005.
Who knows, maybe Jered Weaver or Dan Haren will win the Cy Young this season, pushing Chance further into obscurity. Before Colon won the vote of the Baseball Writers Association of America, the Angels had been through plenty of near-misses. Nolan Ryan went 22-16 with a 2.98 ERA in 1974 but lost out to Jim "Catfish" Hunter. Chuck Finley and Jim Abbott each won 18 games in 1991, but Clemens won his third Cy Young that year.
Saturday, Chance, who later worked in the boxing industry, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Angels play the New York Yankees.
This 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.