Anaheim Angels on cloud nine

Monday, October 28, 2002

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- This is definitely movie material -- and the stars are the never-say-die Anaheim Angels.

They came out of nowhere to reach their first World Series, rallying past every team in their way.

Their rookie pitcher wins Game 7.

And the best hitter in the world watches from the losers' dugout, knowing he was once just six outs away from winning the only title he has ever wanted.

John Lackey, Garret Anderson and the Angels made it all come true, beating Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants 4-1 Sunday night for the franchise's first championship in 42 years.

Plus the most amazing thing -- the Angels didn't even need to rely on their Rally Monkey. Anaheim third baseman Troy Glaus was voted MVP after hitting .385 with three home runs and eight RBIs.

"I can't believe it, man," Anderson said. "It's been a long year -- a testament to the guys who never gave up."

Still, the highest-scoring Series in history came down to pitching, as it always seems to do in October. Behind Lackey and the bullpen, Anaheim had too much to win baseball's first all wild-card matchup.

The Angels became the eighth straight home team to win Game 7 of the World Series. History was on their side from the start and so was an omen -- a skywriting plane put a gigantic halo over Edison Field before the first pitch.

A day after it blew a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning, San Francisco never got close to winning its first title. Bonds went 1-for-3 with a walk to close out one of the most dominant Series performances ever, yet it wasn't enough.

When it ended, Bonds walked down the dugout and picked up his glove. He walked back, tapped his son on the back and walked down the runway as the Angels celebrated on the field.

Lackey wasn't even with the Angels, stuck in Triple-A, when they went 6-14 for the worst start in team history. But with both staffs worn down, the 24-year-old righty gave Anaheim exactly what it needed with five innings of one-run ball.

Anderson, finally due to get the recognition he's always deserved, hit a three-run double off Livan Hernandez in the third for a 4-1 lead. The monkey mascot made a brief, early appearance on the video board to celebrate the moment, then sat back and let the sellout crowd of 44,598 bang their ThunderStix like crazy.

"Well, I just wanted to get into a situation where I'd be able to hit my pitch, not do too much," Anderson said.

Brendan Donnelly, Francisco Rodriguez and Troy Percival closed it for manager Mike Scioscia's bunch. Percival escaped a two-on, one-out jam for his third save of the Series.

"Unbelievable for us, for our fans," Percival said. "This team has worked as hard as any team ever. We deserve it."

And when it was over, Southern California, the land of celluloid stars, had just added a whole teamful of them while Hollywood luminaries Pierce Brosnan and John Travolta watched from the stands.

Before this year, the Angels were known mostly for heartbreak. Beloved owner Gene Autry never saw his team get this far before passing away, and it didn't look like these guys would do it, either, especially after finishing 41 games out of first place last season.

Somehow, the Angels pulled it together. They led the majors in hitting, overwhelmed the New York Yankees and Minnesota in the AL playoffs and then knocked out Bonds and Co.

"Somewhere, Gene Autry is smiling right now," commissioner Bud Selig said as he presented the trophy.

Owned by The Walt Disney Co., the Angels are still for sale. Before then, though, they can certainly travel the three miles or so to Disneyland to enjoy this most improbable championship.

Bonds wound up 8-for-17 (.471) with four homers, a .700 on-base percentage and 1.294 slugging percentage.

Anaheim and the Giants combined for a record 85 runs and 21 homers.

The game might have been the last for San Francisco manager Dusty Baker in the Bay. There are growing indications he'll soon leave, possibly to take over the Chicago Cubs or Seattle.

Tears streamed down the face of Darren Baker, the 3-year-old bat boy son of the Giants' manager, as he was carried from the dugout by his father.

Anderson doubled in the third to make it 4-1, and Angels fans went wild. A little too much, maybe.

David Eckstein made up for a rare baserunning mistake in the first by leading off the third with a single and Darin Erstad also singled. Tim Salmon came up and Hernandez cost himself, hitting the Angels star in the right hand.

No outs, bases loaded. The at-bat of a lifetime for Anderson, drafted by the California Angels in 1990 and out of the postseason until this year.

Unsung despite a stellar career, Anderson got the hit that will put him in highlight reels for a long time, sending a line drive into the right-field corner that easily scored all three runners.

As Reggie Sanders tried to corral the ball along the low wall, an Anaheim fan got into the act, bopping the right fielder on the back with a pair of red ThunderStix. There was no interference called, properly, although two security guards were soon standing in the area when Hernandez, who lost for the second time in the Series, was pulled.

Hernandez seemed uncomfortable from the start, constantly pawing at the mound while trying to find his control. He looked nothing like the MVP of the 1997 World Series for Florida and instead resembled the pitcher who tied for the NL lead in losses this season, which he did with 16.

A surprising lapse by Eckstein, who took off Anderson's liner to center field and was doubled off, enabled Hernandez to overcome two walks in the first.

Hernandez was not so lucky the next inning when he walked Scott Spiezio with two outs and Bengie Molina followed with a double that tied it at 1.

Molina added another double, and the hits were his way of honoring his father who was faraway. Earlier Sunday, former amateur outfielder Benjamin Molina Santana was in Puerto Rico, where he was inducted into the island's hall of fame.

The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the second on singles by Benito Santiago and J.T. Snow and a sacrifice fly by Sanders.

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