By Ross Newhan
In the first year of the expansion Angels the press corps could be excused for applying any kind of embellishment to enhance a story, so it may have been the late Bud Furillo or John Hall or even this then rookie writer who dreamed up T 'N T for the unrelated Lee Thomas and George Thomas.
It was a half truth at best.
George Thomas lacked any real explosiveness, but Lee Thomas hit 50 home runs and drove in 174 runs in those first two years with the Angels, the best of his eight major league seasons.
Fifty years later, having spent all or parts of the half century covering or watching the Angels, I can say without embellishment that they now have a true T 'N T in Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo.
And beyond that it can be safely said they have never produced a more exciting young duo than rookie Trout, 20, or sophomore Trumbo, 26, or a player with more natural athletic ability and the widely acknowledged capability to fulfill the expectations that accompanied Trout's selection in the first round of the 2009 draft, when it was as if he was every one's Minor League Player of the Year before he had even played a minor league game.
"I'm not sure we've had anyone with the national hype," Vice President of Communications Tim Mead, who is in his 33rd year with the organization, said.
They have certainly had no one who scouts compared to a young Mickey Mantle, sans the switch hitting but with the size, power and sprinter's speed.
Not to mention now, after an aborted trial last year and a re-start this year as the Angels sorted out a convoluted roster, that "at 20 he knows he belongs and has a confidence beyond his years," said Tim Salmon, who now works on the Angels' pre- and post-game TV shows and remains the only Angel to have been elected American League Rookie of the Year, although Wally Joyner was unjustly edged by Jose Canseco in 1986 and Trumbo, with 29 home runs and 87 RBI, should have been selected ahead of Tampa Bay pitcher Jeremy Hellickson last year.
Salmon won in 1993. A little more than a year later he and Garret Anderson started to form a pretty exciting duo themselves, Salmon pointed out with a smile. But in the period since '93 "the only guy I would compare athletically to Trout is Darin Erstad, but Ersty was 23 or 24 and pretty much kept his head down and stayed to himself his first couple of years. This kid carries himself as if he's been here and this is where he belongs."
In addition, Salmon said, despite their youth and limited experience, both Trout and Trumbo have demonstrated the ability to adapt from at bat to at bat, pitch to pitch.
"They have an approach, a game plan, and they use the whole field," Salmon said.
In the fifth inning of Wednesday night's 6-5 loss to the New York Yankees, the Angels were trailing, 5-1, when Trumbo, batting .338 and leading the Angels in virtually every offensive category, rifled a two run homer into the right field pavilion, the opposite field. Moments later, Trout rifled a game tying, two run double to right center, the opposite field.
Size and power are sweet, and a lineup in which opposing pitcher have to remember Albert Pujols in the middle is a benefit, but it took awhile for the Angels to sort out their lineup, to plug in Trumbo and Trout.
Some fans will say that the firing of batting coach Mickey Hatcher ignited the Angels and then set them off on an eight game win streak that ended Wednesday night, but that is a stretch.
The firing may have been a wake up call and prompted some people to ask themselves if they were doing everything they could do.
Of more significance, however, was that the Angels had consecutive series against three of the weakest teams in baseball (San Diego, Oakland and Seattle) and that the release of Bobby Abreau, the injury (convenient, if you will) to Vernon Wells and the departure of Torii Hunter for personal reasons enabled Manager Mike Scioscia to establish a regular fit. He put Peter Bourjos back into center field flanked by Trout and Trumbo, a defensively strong unit, and then there was Pujols finding a measure of his Hall of Fame form. Hunter is back now and will have to get some playing time, but Trout and Trumbo are in to stay.
"I'd hate to box either in to numbers," Salmon said. "With that kind of talent you would probably be dead wrong.
"However, the one thing this park has shown to Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols is that you've really got to hit it to get it out.
"I've told (owner) Arte Moreno that he should bring the fences in."
Salmon smiled, knowing he would be dead wrong to think that might happen.