Friday, April 10, 2009

Angels pitcher Dick Wantz

The untimely passing of Angel pitcher Nick Adenhart yesterday was tragic. Thanks to DirecTV's free week of Extra Innings, I watched some of Adenhart's performance while flipping around while watching the Dodgers-Padres game and listening to the brilliance of Vince Scully. Being on the East Coast, I don't hear Scully that much, and I take every opportunity to listen to Scully's words paint the unfolding story of a baseball game. However, I now wish I had paid more attention to that A's-Angels game.

The Angels went through a similar situation in 1978 with death of Lyman Bostock during that season, but unknown to most, another active Angels pitcher died young after making one appearance. I was not aware of this story until I began my replay of the 1965 baseball season. The pitcher was Dick Wantz who made only one appearance for the Angels on April 13, 1965 and one month later was dead of a brain tumor. This is from the Oakland Tribune, May 14, 1965:
Wantz, 25, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound right-hander who had appeared in only one game this season, had an operation Thursday to relieve pressure on the brain. He began experiencing severe headaches during a late April series between the Angels and Yankees in New York. When the club moved to Detroit, he was hospitalized there for a few days. He flew here (Englewood, CA) last week, and reportedly was feeling much better.

But last weekend he was hospitalized, given a spinal tap and X-rays, and a tumor was found. Wantz lived in nearby Artesia and has a young son. He was born in suburban South Gate and attended high school in Long Beach. He spent four years in the minors and had a 2-7 record as a reliever for Hawaii in the Pacific Coast League last year.

He made a strong impression on Angel pitching coach Marv Grissom, "He can be a great pitcher," Grissom said after the Angels decided to retain Wantz this year. He showed considerable promise in spring training.

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