RIP to Norm Angelini, who was a left-handed reliever in the majors for two years. He died on December 21, 2019 in Aurora, Colo., after battling cancer. He was 72 years old. Angelini played for the Kansas City Royals (1972-73).
Norman Angelini was born in San Francisco on September 24, 1947. The southpaw started raising eyebrows in California relatively early. While pitching for the Independents in the San Mateo City League in 1965, he threw back-to-back perfect games. The 18-year-old was pitching in a summer league with other high school students. During the school year, he was showing off his variety of pitches and good control at Serra High School.
“He makes the kids go fishing for that curve low and outside. He really fools ’em,” said his high school baseball coach Ken Houle. “He’s just coming into his own.”
Houle added that Angelini hadn’t faced stiff competition growing up in Half Moon Bay, but he came into his own while attending the College of San Mateo. Under the tutelage of baseball coach John Noce, he developed into a good prospect and was selected in three different drafts — The Orioles in the 1966 June draft (47th round), the Reds in the 1967 January draft (8th round) and the Yankees in the 1967 June draft (8th round). Angelini rejected those offers and chose to attend Washington State University. He and two other pitchers combined on a perfect game against Western Washington to give Washington coach Bobo Brayton his 200th career win. Angelini wrapped up his college pitching career by striking out 18 batters on May 22, 1969, while facing Idaho. He was named to the PAC-8 second team and signed as an amateur free agent with the Kansas City Royals.
Angelini made his professional debut with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Northern League in 1969. He went 5-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 13 games, 10 of which were starts, and was named to the league’s All-Star team. He struck out 74 batters in 72 innings and was promoted to A-ball San Jose in 1970. He started 17 games that season and went 8-8 with a 2.65 ERA. By 1971, though, the organization seemed to think that Angelini would be better as a reliever. He pitched for AA Elmira that season and made 20 relief appearances out of his 26 total games pitched. He completed 4 out of his 6 starts and had a 5-6 record and an outstanding 1.67 ERA. Again, he fanned more batters than innings pitched, with 79 K’s in 70 innings. The Royals added him to their 40-man roster as a result of his good work.
Promoted to AAA Omaha in 1972, Angelini was a lights-out reliever. He picked up 6 saves in 19 games and had a 1.41 ERA. His strikeout totals became even more impressive, with 66 K’s in 51 innings. He was brought to the majors in July after the club demoted starter Jim Rooker. Manager Bob Lemon said that Angelini could work either as a starter or reliever.
“We needed another lefty in the pen, but there’s a chance we’ll start him too. He’s leading the American Association in earned run average,” Lemon said.
Angelini was thrown right into the mix, appearing in relief on July 22 against the Orioles. As the third Royals pitcher, he worked 1-1/3 innings and gave up a home run to Boog Powell — the first strike he threw in the majors. The Royals rallied for 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning and won the game 8-5, giving Angelini a win in his MLB debut.
“[Powell] hit it and when I looked back it was like a knife in my back,” Angelini said. “But then I struck out Davey Johnson on four pitches and it pumped me up for the next inning.”
He didn’t get to start at all for the Royals, but he appeared in 21 games in relief. He ended the season with a 2-1 record and a 2.25 ERA, with 16 strikeouts and 12 walks in 16 innings. He also earned 2 saves. The first career save came against the Yankees on August 14, when he picked up the last 2 outs to preserve a 3-0 shutout.
The Royals were high on Angelini as a future mainstay of their pitching staff.
“Some day he might be a starter,” said pitching coach Galen Cisco, “and we’ll take him along slowly. He needs to work on his control, but he’s shown good control on trips lately.”
The Royals cut Angelini near the end of Spring Training in 1973, sending him to Omaha instead. He came back to the major leagues near the end of May and stayed with the Royals for about a month. He appeared in 7 games, but he struggled with his control. He walked 7 batters in 3-2/3 innings and had a 4.91 ERA. He was sent back to Omaha on June 24 when Fred Patek was activated from the disabled list. He never returned to the major leagues.
For his career, Angelini appeared in 28 games with the Royals. He had a 2-1 record and 3 saves, with a 2.75 ERA. He struck out 19 and walked 19 in 19-2/3 innings.
Angelini stayed with the Royals organization through 1975. He spent the last couple seasons as a closer and had 20 saves for Omaha in 1975. After that, he spent two seasons in the minor leagues with the Atlanta Braves and four with the Montreal Expos. In 13 minor-league seasons, he had an 81-67 record, 73 saves and a 3.31 ERA, with 949 strikeouts in 1,065 innings.
Angelini was inducted into the College of San Mateo Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012
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