In some ways, the California Angels were more successful than most expansion teams, putting up their first winning record in their second season (1962) and topping .500 four times in their first decade.
But it took the Angels eighteen seasons to finish runner-up in anything before they finally won the American League West division title in 1979.
A decade before that, the Angels spent the last season of the 1960s muddling along about 20 games under .500 in the first season of divisional play. As young and struggling teams tend to do, the Halos tried out a few non-household names that summer to see who might fit.
And, as sometimes happens, a couple of those guys who got their cups of coffee in Anaheim in 1969 also landed on baseball cards — or baseball card — in 1970.
There are on card #74 in the 1970 Topps set, collectors got a first glimpse of the 1970 Rookie Stars Angels (according to Topps, at least).
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Savvy collectors were sure to look fast, because it was a look that couldn’t last long.
Not when the bottom half of the card was occupied by 28-year-old Wally Wolf who got his first taste of the Major Leagues in September of 1969 and put up an 11.57 ERA in two appearances.
At least the top half appeared more promising …
Greg Washburn was a first-round pick for the Halos back in 1967 out of Lewis University, and he posted gaudy winning percentages and sub-3.00 ERAs all along his fairly quick rise through the minors.
A June 1969 call-up and (very) occasional use through the rest of the summer left Washburn with an 0-2 record an 7.94 ERA.
Clearly, more seasoning was needed for the 23-year-old in 1970, and he began the new campaign at Triple-A Hawaii.
Wolf would join him there in May after four appearances for the big league Angels to start the season resulted in an 0-0 record with a 5.06 ERA.
When an “aging” pitcher puts up those kinds of numbers in just his second go-round in the bigs and then gets sent down, you gotta figure his days in The Show are numbered right?
Well, you’d be right in Wolf’s case, as he never did make it back to the Angels, or any other MLB team.
Neither did Washburn.
While Wolf stepped away from the game after that 1970 season, Washburn kept plugging away, at Triple-A Salt Lake City, for the next three years.
It’s what you do when you’re a young baseball player and have had an oh-so-brief taste of life in the big leagues.
You try to get back.
Finally, after posting ERAs of 6.47 and 5.02 in 1972 and 1973 for the SLC Angels, though, Washburn followed his two-times teammate into baseball’s sunset, never to step foot on a professional diamond (as a player, at least) again.
They were two ships passing in the night who got caught up in each other’s wake and ended up charting the same course.
You can still catch them, though, in the dark recesses of the 1970 Topps baseball card set.
If this trip down memory lane has you in a 1970 Topps sort of mood, you might want to adjust your Christmas wish list … or at least whet your appetite with a perusal of this choice eBay lot:
That’s a complete 1970 Topps set, graded to the nines (or at least the 8s and the 7s).
Get your mouth watering by checking out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).