The book: “Always an Angel: Playing the Game with Fire and Faith”
The author: Tim Salmon, with Rob Goldman
The vital stats: Triumph Books, 212 pages, $19.95
Find it: At the publisher’s site (linked here)
The pitch: As we say in the headline, the Top 10 things we found out about the star (never an All-Star) right fielder for the Anaheim (now Los Angeles of Anaheim) Angels after reading this book:
1. He grew up a Dodgers fans and envisioned himself someday as being the next Steve Garvey.
2. He wanted to play college football out of high school but got no offers (unlike his younger brother, Mike, who played for USC)
3. Twice he was hit in the face by pitches in the minor leagues — his first year of Single-A ball in Bend, Ore., he broke his nose, and a year later in Single-A Palm Springs, he broke his jaw.
4. The Angels, so enamored with having converted Troy Percival from a catcher to a pitcher, considered doing the same with Salmon at one point during the 1990 Instructional League.
5. When Fernando Valenzuela signed with the Angels in 1991, they sent him to Double-A Midland to get into shape — the place where Salmon was playing. After a road game in Little Rock, Ark., Fernando “sneaked a case of Coronas” on the team bus adn “discreetly doled out the bottles, making sure to keep them hidden from our manager.”
6. From page 58: “Rod (Carew) was also one of the game’s great pranksters.” C’mon.
7. On Sept. 6, 1995, the night Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. broke baseball’s consecutive games played streak in a contest against the Angels at Camden Yards, before it became an official game, Salmon was a runner at first and broke for second on a missed hit-and-run. He got his spike caught in the webbing of Ripken’s glove on the tag. “As soon as I hit him, I thought, ‘Oh, God, please don’t let me be responsible for putting him on the DL. Not tonight!’ Fortunately, nothing happened.”
8. Former teammate Mo Vaughn used to call him “Fish Grease.” Not sure why. Nor is Salmon, who was called “Fish” but never explained who called him that first.
9. During the run to the 2002 World Series, Salmon kept a uniform patch in his pocket to remember the late hitting coach Jimmie Reese and former team owner Gene Autry.
10. He says he never took steroids. Page 188: “I have always been determined to never compromise my faith or my principles. I always relied on my God-given talent when I took the field. So the idea of using PEDs to enhance my performance was a line I choose not to cross. As I became more aware of the problem of steroid use, I discovered that for some players it wasn’t all black and whtie. Some of them were guys I respected on and off the field, player who were truely faced with career-jeopardizing decisions. To them, it wasn’t about becoming the league MVP or signing a huge free-agent contract. It was about trying to keep a job when you know your competition is on the juice because you’ve endured a career-threatening arm injury, or simply trying to stay in the lineup while hurt in order to fulfill your contract obligation. I would never make a blanket statement about steroid use. … It’s easy to condemn steroids, but the pressure to perform at a consistently high level is tremendous. Faces with losing the job, I can better understand their rationalization.”
But he names no names.
How it goes down in the scorebook: Angels fans will eat this up like a giant salmon steak dinner.
Also: Salmon will be signing his book:
Thursday, April 15, 7 p.m. at Borders in Brea
Saturday, April 17, noon at Costo in Fullerton
All book proceeds go to Salmon’s charity. More info at the Tim Salmon Foundation (linked here)
Post script: The Thousand Oaks-based Goldman, who also wrote “Once They Were Angels: A History of the Team” in 2006, says in the preface that he actually wrote the first draft of the book, which wasn’t long after Salmon retired that season. Two years later, after he showed Salmon the final edits, Salmon decided he wanted to write it in his own voice. So after all that, maybe that’s why it’s taken almost four years to come out after he quit playing.