October 20, 1986
His smile as he high-fived third baseman Doug DeCinces said it all: Veteran second baseman Bobby Grich was finally headed to his first World Series. Or so it seemed, after his two-run, sixth-inning homer put the California Angels ahead of the Boston Red Sox 3-2 in Game 5 of the 1986 American League Championship Series. But three days later, the Angels had blown that game and their 3-1 series lead. A shaken and teary Grich announced his retirement in the locker room after California's 8-1 loss in Game 7. "That series was an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved," he says. "I thought we had it."
For 17 seasons the 6'2", 190-pound Grich blended power and grace as one of baseball's best second basemen. He won four straight Gold Gloves (1973 to '76) as a Baltimore Oriole before signing a five-year, $1.5 million deal with California in November 1976 as one of the 25 players in baseball's first class of free agents. In the strike-shortened '81 season, Grich belted 22 of his 224 career home runs, becoming the first second baseman in 80 years to lead the league in homers. Four years later he committed just two errors in 606 total chances to set the then major league record for fielding percentage (.997) at his position.
In retirement Grich, 49, has whittled his golf handicap down to plus-one while serving as assistant general manager of the Mission Viejo ( Calif.) Vigilantes of the independent, Double A-equivalent Western Baseball League. The first inductee into the Angels Hall of Fame a decade ago, he lost touch with the team after Disney took it over in May 1996. On April 1, however, Grich and three other former California stars threw out the ceremonial first pitches at Edison International Field, the stadium formerly known as the Big A. As his family—wife Zetta, stepson Brandon, 9, and daughter Brianna, 3—watched, Grich also put his handprint in a concrete walk outside the park. Returning to the site of many of his greatest triumphs reminded him of his most heart-wrenching defeat, in '86. "I had been thinking about retiring for a while," Grich says, "but when we lost, I'd had enough. I was just ready to try something else."