The Angels drafted Tim Salmon in the third round of the 1989 amateur draft. He played his entire 14-year Major League career with the Angels. He became the franchise’s first Rookie of the Year in 1993 at the age of 24 when he hit .283 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI and inspired hope in many Angels fans that one day their time would come, and when it finally did in 2002, Salmon was leading the way. By the time he retired at the end of 2006, he sat atop many of the team’s all-time leaderboards.
Yet, despite all of his achievements, one of the things about his career that was disappointing was that he ended his playing days one home run short of 300.
Tim Salmon was able to get to 299 home runs due to his strength, game plan, and patience. In the 35 years I have been watching baseball, I have never seen a player go from an 0-and-2 count and turn it into a walk as often as Tim Salmon did. His career on-base percentage (.385) is over one hundred points higher than his career batting average (.282) because of his patience and plate discipline. When he did swing, he made it count, and that led to five seasons of 30 or more home runs.
One of the reasons Salmon couldn’t get to 300 home runs was his health at the end of his career. In 2004, he handed right field over to Vladimir Guerrero and served the Angels as their DH instead, but his shoulder and knee were bothering him. After playing in 60 games and hitting only two home runs, he elected to have surgery that would sideline him for the rest of the 2004 season and all of the 2005 season.
In 2006, after working hard for a year and a half to rehab a body that had been ground down by a decade and a half of professional baseball, Salmon returned to Spring Training to try, at age 37, to win a spot on the Angels’ roster and retire from baseball on his own terms. Thanks to the World Baseball Classic, several of his teammates missed part of spring training, and that opened the door for more playing time for Salmon, which he took advantage of by having a productive spring.
He made the team, but served mostly as a DH or pinch hitter off of the bench. He played in 76 games and hit 9 home runs. His 299th came on a Wednesday night on September 27th. The Rangers were playing at Angel Stadium, and in the first inning, Salmon homered off of Adam Eaton to center field, scoring Maicer Izturis and Reggie Willits. Salmon went 3-for-4 that night, with a walk to boot, and the Angels won 6-5.
Manager Mike Scioscia penciled Salmon into the lineup for the rest of the season, hoping to see him launch number 300, but it was not to be. On the last day of the of the 2006 regular season, Tim Salmon walked up to the batter’s box for the last time in his career. It was the bottom of the 8th, in a 10-10 tie game against the Oakland A’s at Angel Stadium. Two men were on base for Salmon, and Huston Street was pitching. The fans started chanting “Let’s-go-Sal-mon!” Tim squatted way down into that awkward-looking batting stance he grew into later in his career and fouled the first pitch off. He took the second pitch for a ball, and then he put the third pitch in play. The ball went high into the sky, but it was just a pop up to the shortstop, Marco Scutaro. Salmon threw his bat down in disgust. He didn’t get on base, he didn’t drive in a run to help his team win, and he didn’t get home run 300.
He was upset with himself, and as he walked to the dugout, the fans started to rise. Salmon walked past his teammates and made it to the bench, but the applause from the fans boiled to a roar, and it wouldn’t stop until Salmon came out to acknowledge the appreciation of the fans he had thrilled season after season.
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Now here’s a crazy idea. Now that the Angels are out of the playoff race, why not offer to put Tim Salmon in an Angels uniform and put him back in the lineup again to try to get home run number 300? Salmon will turn just 45 on August 24. He looks like he is in great shape. He’s got one last home run in him, don’t you think? Carlton Fisk hit a home run at age 45. Heck, Julio Franco hit two home runs when he was 48. Salmon could be the DH and just go up looking for fastballs to drive. He’s got to still be able to hit an 88 mph fastball 366 feet down the right field line at Angel Stadium so he can round the 299 into a 300, can’t he?