Alice Cooper (Trading Card DB)

May 15, 1977: First-pitch flinger Alice Cooper welcomes Yankees to nightmare

This article was written by Kurt Blumenau

Alice Cooper (Trading Card DB)On June 19, 1977, theatrical rock singer Alice Cooper played his first live concert in almost two years, headlining a five-performer bill at California’s Anaheim Stadium before 40,000 fans. Cooper focused on songs from his recently released Lace and Whiskey album, on which he portrayed a hard-drinking private detective named Maurice Escargot.1

It was Cooper’s second appearance at Anaheim Stadium in the span of about a month. In his first showing, Cooper had been an “opening act” of sorts – warming up the crowd for stars such as Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, and Don Baylor. On May 15 the singer promoted his album, his single “You and Me,”2 and his upcoming concert by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before a game between the California Angels and New York Yankees.3

It was not the snake-toting singer’s first encounter with the national pastime. In August 1973, Cooper – whose real name was Vincent Furnier – met with Yankees players at Yankee Stadium, who presented him with a bat. The following year, he told a newspaper in Nebraska he collected baseball cards. In April 1975 a reporter in North Carolina interviewed Cooper as he watched an Oakland A’s-Texas Rangers game on TV. And in May 1977, about two weeks after his first pitch, Cooper played on a celebrity baseball team that defeated a team of Las Vegas media members in a benefit for the Nevada Special Olympics. “I may be one of the world’s biggest baseball fans,” he told a reporter in 1978.4

Once Cooper left the pregame spotlight, attention shifted to another hurler who, like Cooper, had roots in Detroit.5 Lefty Frank Tanana, Motor City born and raised, was on his way to leading the American League with a 2.54 ERA and making his second of three All-Star teams. Scattering five hits and striking out 10, Tanana led the Angels to an 8-2 whipping of the Yankees before a Sunday afternoon crowd of 27,260.

Manager Billy Martin’s Yankees, defending AL champions, entered the day with an 18-12 record and a slim half-game lead on the perennially strong Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. New York had played three previous games against California that season and had won them all, outscoring the Angels by a combined 15-2.6 In the previous two days, New York’s Ed Figueroa, a former Angel, had humbled the Angels with a three-hit shutout, followed by a four-hit, complete-game 4-1 win by Don Gullett.

Starting for the Yankees on May 15 was veteran righty Mike Torrez, in just his third start after being obtained in a trade with Oakland on April 27.7 Torrez had won 15, 20, and 16 games in his previous three seasons, pitching for a different team each season. He entered the game with a lifetime 0.81 ERA against California.8

Norm Sherry’s Angels came into the game in sixth place with a disappointing 14-19 record, leading only the expansion Seattle Mariners in the AL West. The Angels had signed big-name free agents Baylor, Rudi, and Bobby Grich in the offseason. All three were in the lineup on May 15, though Baylor was struggling with a .220 average. Grich’s season was ended by a herniated disk on June 8; Rudi departed with a broken finger on June 26. Baylor continued to have difficulty at the plate for much of the season,9 and manager Sherry was fired on July 11 with a 39-42 record.

After the Yankees went down in order in the first, the Angels fired up a run of hits that would have made any rock star envious. Rookie Gil Flores led off his eighth big-league game with a single; Jerry Remy followed with a triple, misplayed by Roy White in left field, for an immediate 1-0 lead.10 After Bobby Bonds’ walk, a single by Rudi – a teammate of Torrez in Oakland in 1976 – scored another run. The Yankees finally got their first out at second base on a groundball by Baylor, but Bonds scored. Later in the inning, Tony Solaita’s11 single brought home Baylor to run the lead to 4-0.12

Frank Tanana (Trading Card DB)The game quieted down for the next three innings then reawakened in the fifth. The Yankees collected a run before Tanana collected an out: Chris Chambliss doubled off the right-center-field wall, White beat out a bunt to move him to third, and Tanana wild-pitched him home.13 Tanana settled down and retired the next three Yankees on two strikeouts and a groundball.

The Angels’ big bats responded immediately. Bonds doubled down the third-base line and Rudi tripled, making the score 5-1 and chasing Torrez from the game. His replacement was righty Dick Tidrow, who picked up six wins in 42 relief appearances in 1977.14 Tidrow was not destined to pick up a “vulture” relief win on this day, however. Baylor grounded a single through the infield to score Rudi and extend California’s lead to 6-1. Two strikeouts later, Tidrow intentionally walked Solaita to get to Terry Humphrey, who entered the game hitting .209. Humphrey bounced a bad-hop single off Bucky Dent’s glove at shortstop that brought home Baylor for a 7-1 advantage.15

Once again the game went quiet for several innings, then stirred itself with a final flurry of offense. Graig Nettles’ eighth-inning leadoff homer for the Yankees, his seventh of the season, made the score 7-2. In the bottom half, Fred Stanley – freshly entering the game at shortstop16 – committed a two-base error on Humphrey’s groundball. Flores hit still another triple off Sparky Lyle, New York’s third and last pitcher, to make the score 8-2. Flores was later retired trying to score from third on a groundball by Bonds.

Paul Blair, one of several Yankees substitutes seeing playing time, led off the ninth with the team’s fifth and final hit. Tanana then struck out replacement catcher Fran Healy and got Jackson and Chambliss to fly to left, sealing the win in 2 hours and 10 minutes. He became the AL’s first six-game winner of the season.17

Healy had replaced a banged-up Munson at catcher in the sixth inning. Munson’s hitless day, including two strikeouts, brought his lifetime batting record against Tanana to 0-for-34.18 More successful at the plate was Rudi, whose two RBIs gave him the AL lead with 35. Nineteen of those RBIs had come in Tanana’s nine starts. “I don’t know what it is,” Tanana said. “Joe is always going to give his best. I’m just on the receiving end of it.”19 “Purely circumstantial,” Rudi added.20 News accounts also noted that the Angels had achieved their success at the plate without pregame batting practice.21

The loss, coupled with Baltimore’s win over Oakland, dropped the Yankees into second place. It was a temporary setback for New York, which closed the season 2½ games ahead of the Boston Red Sox and Orioles in the AL East. The Yankees knocked off the Kansas City Royals in the AL Championship Series, then defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to win Martin’s only World Series title as a manager.22

As for Alice Cooper, Lace and Whiskey became the first Cooper LP since 1970 to miss the Top 40 album chart, ushering in a period of slower sales that continued for more than a decade.23 By Thanksgiving of 1977, the singer had entered a treatment center for alcoholism.24 Since achieving sobriety in the mid-1980s, Cooper has enjoyed a second wave of success as a singer, a restaurant owner, a celebrity golfer, and an amiable rock ’n’ roll eminence grise. He has also maintained a connection to baseball, coaching his son’s Little League team in the early 1990s; talking hardball with other celebrities at charity events; and – with evident pleasure – throwing out ceremonial first pitches at professional baseball games.25



This story was fact-checked by Bruce Slutsky and copy-edited by Len Levin.


Sources and photo credits

In addition to the specific sources cited in the Notes, the author used the and websites for general player, team and season data and the box scores for this game. The author also referred to various news stories to compile the list of Alice Cooper’s more recent first pitches that is presented in the endnotes.

Images of 1977 Kellogg’s card #45 and 1973 Monty Gum Hit Parade Stickers #33 downloaded from the Trading Card Database.



1 Robert Hilburn, “Alice Plays Mr. Nice Guy at Big A,” Los Angeles Times, June 21, 1977: IV:1; Anne Junak, “Cooper OC Show: Viva Las Vegas,” Santa Ana (California) Register, June 23, 1977: C4; “Alice Cooper in Anaheim,” San Pedro (California) News-Pilot, June 14, 1977: A11. The other performers on the bill included Sha Na Na, Nazareth, the Tubes, and the Kinks.

2 “You and Me” was Number 67 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the week ending May 21, 1977. The single peaked at Number 9 during the weeks ending August 13 and 20. Billboard Hot 100 listing for the week of May 21, 1977, accessed via March 2024,; American Top 40 charts for the weeks of August 13 and 20, 1977, accessed online via, March 2024: and

3 Sportswriters covering the game did not mention the first pitch in their coverage. But it was announced in advance in news stories, including “Cooper in Anaheim,” Cucamonga (California) Times, May 12, 1977: 15; “Angel Notes,” Los Angeles Times, May 15, 1977: III:6; and Bob Cox, “Green Yanks Top Green Angels,” Torrance (California) Daily Breeze, May 15, 1977: E1.

4 Joe Sullivan, “A Happy Switch for the Yanks,” Bridgewater (New Jersey) Courier-News, August 14, 1973: D1; Holly Spence, “Play Time,” Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star, January 10, 1974: 12; Bobbie Calhoun, “’Shock Rock King’ Is, Well … Normal,” Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer, April 13, 1975: 1C; “People,” Van Nuys (California) Valley News, May 31, 1977: 4:1; Dick Richmond, “Alice,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 21, 1978: 1D. It should be noted that Cooper – known in the 1970s for his outlandish songs and violent stage show – loved to portray himself as a quiet, normal person when offstage. Playing up his baseball fandom was in line with this “ordinary guy” image.

5 Cooper was born in Detroit in 1948. He formed the original Alice Cooper band while attending high school in Phoenix, Arizona. Cooper and the band moved from Los Angeles to the Detroit area in 1970 and achieved their first significant commercial success while based there.

6 The first of these games, played on May 3, marked the final major-league appearance of Mike Cuellar, a mainstay of the Baltimore Orioles’ pitching staff in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Cuellar pitched in two games for the 1977 Angels. On April 26 he faced three Oakland A’s batters in relief and retired none; on May 3 the Yankees knocked him out of the game in the fourth inning. Cuellar took the loss in the latter game, giving him an 0-1 record and an 18.90 ERA for his final season.

7 The full terms of the trade: Torrez to New York in exchange for Larry Murray, Dock Ellis, and Marty Perez.

8 Jack Wilkinson, “Tanana Stops Yanks, 8-2; Graig HR,” New York Daily News, May 16, 1977: 46.

9 Baylor was hitting under .200 as late as May 30, and only .230 at the All-Star break. He rallied somewhat in the second half, but at only one point after April 30 did his average top .260. (It reached .262 after the first game of a September 8 doubleheader.) He ended 1977 at .251 with 25 home runs and 75 RBIs. Baylor also did not rank among the top 12 Angels players for Wins Above Replacement that season. (Frank Tanana was first, with 8.3 WAR.)

10 Wilkinson, “Tanana Stops Yanks, 8-2; Graig HR.”

11 Solaita was technically a former Yankee, though by the skinniest of margins: He’d played a single game with New York back in 1968.

12 Yankees center fielder Mickey Rivers, a former Angel, was charged with an error for fumbling the ball on this play. The error allowed Dave Chalk, who had walked, to move to third.

13 Wilkinson, “Tanana Stops Yanks, 8-2; Graig HR.”

14 Tidrow also made seven starts near the end of the season, winning five.

15 Wilkinson.

16 Veteran slugger Jim Wynn, struggling through a difficult final season in the majors, had pinch-hit for starting shortstop Dent in the eighth inning. Wynn drew the only walk Tanana issued but was erased on a double-play grounder.

17 Associated Press, “Yankees Bow to Angels’ Tanana,” Syracuse (New York) Post-Standard, May 16, 1977: 15.

18 United Press International, “Rudi and Tanana Get It ‘Together,’” Kingston (New York) Daily Freeman, May 16, 1977: 9. Munson finished his career 4-for-44 against Tanana, for a .091 batting average.

19 Paul L. Montgomery, “5-Hitter Paces Angels – Ailing Munson Is Out,” New York Times, May 16, 1977: 37.

20 John Stellman, “Tanana Tames Yankees, 8-2,” Santa Ana (California) Register, May 16, 1977: 25.

21 Dave Distel, “Tanana Keeps Winning, Stops Predicting,” Los Angeles Times, May 16, 1977: III:1.

22 The Yankees repeated as World Series champions in 1978, but Martin was fired in late July with the team in third place. New York went 48-20 under Martin’s replacement, Bob Lemon.

23 Online Billboard magazine album charts from 1977 indicate the album peaked at Number 42. One example is this chart from the week of July 23, at which point the album held the Number 85 position. Accessed October 28, 2022.

24 Associated Press, “Rock Star on Leave for Filming,” Torrance Daily Breeze, November 20, 1977: 3.

25 Dustin Schoof, “Alice Cooper On Coaching Little League, Paying Tribute to His ‘Dead Drunk Friends,’ and More,”, October 18, 2013; Gary Graff, “Jack White and Alice Cooper Trade Stories, Talk Baseball at Special Parkinson’s Benefit in Detroit,” Billboard, October 30, 2019. Other major-league games at which Cooper has thrown out the first pitch include the Milwaukee Brewers-Kansas City Royals game in Kansas City on June 14, 2012; the Detroit Tigers-Los Angeles Angels game in Detroit on July 17, 2012; the Toronto Blue Jays-Tigers game in Toronto on July 3, 2013; and the Cincinnati Reds-Seattle Mariners game in Cincinnati on July 6, 2013. He has also done the honors for at least one minor-league game, ceremonially opening the June 10, 2012, game between the Charleston (South Carolina) RiverDogs and the Savannah (Georgia) Sand Gnats of the Class A South Atlantic League.

Additional Stats

California Angels 8
New York Yankees 2

Anaheim Stadium
Anaheim, CA


Box Score + PBP:

Corrections? Additions?

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1970s ·