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World Series | SPOTLIGHT

Finley Makes the Series, but Not as He Imagined

October 20, 2002|MIKE DIGIOVANNA and HELENE ELLIOTT

When Chuck Finley reached the playoffs with the Angels as a 23-year-old rookie in 1986, the left-hander figured it would be the first of many postseason appearances, with a World Series or two or three sprinkled in.

"I thought that was the norm," said Finley, who caught the ceremonial first pitch from former Angel owner Jackie Autry before Game 1 Saturday night. "I said, 'Wow, OK, that's good. Next year we'll just do it again, do it again.' Then there was a 16-year drought, and I'm still not here.

"I got here halfway, though. I had to drive my own truck in here and borrow a ticket from Jackie. That's how I got to the World Series. That's not quite the way I envisioned it."

Finley, a fan favorite during a distinguished 14-year career in Anaheim, left the Angels as a free agent to sign with Cleveland in 2000, and the Indians traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals in July.

Finley went 1-0 with a 3.18 earned-run average in two playoff starts for the Cardinals, who were eliminated by the San Francisco Giants in the National League championship series, one step short of a return to Anaheim this weekend.

"It would have been a great storybook ending," Finley said. "It probably would have given me closure of not only leaving Anaheim, but 17 years of baseball, just coming back to the place you started and loved, playing in a World Series, that would have been terrific....

"I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't a little envious of the fact I'm not playing in [the Angels'] first World Series. But I'm honestly happy for them.... These fans have been starving for this team. We teased them so many times, from 1982 to '86 to '95 and '97. It's just great to see a team that brought them to their feet and kept them on their feet throughout the whole year."

Finley, a free agent this winter, said he has "every intention of going back and playing next season," and St. Louis General Manager Walt Jocketty has told the 39-year-old he would like him to return.

The Angels have five starting pitchers under contract or team control, so there is virtually no chance of him returning to Anaheim to close out his career.

"I still feel like I can be very competitive and win a lot of games," Finley said. "I'm not going to the East Coast, though, I can tell you that. I'm either staying on this side of the line or I'm going back to St. Louis."

IN THE LIMELIGHT: Among the celebrities in attendance Saturday night were actors Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Tim Allen and David Hasselhoff, actress Bonnie Hunt, figure skater Michelle Kwan, singer Jessica Simpson, and Peter Chernin, president and chief operating officer of News Corp, which owns the Dodgers.

Laker fans, bring the binoculars tonight: Kobe Bryant, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, Robert Horry and Samaki Walker are scheduled to attend Game 2.

Mingling on the field during batting practice were Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and Montreal Manager Frank Robinson. Cardinal center fielder Jim Edmonds, a former Angel, and former Chicago Cub Manager Don Baylor, another former Angel, also were in attendance.

MO WHO?: Sign held by fan in Edison Field: "Hey Mo, Is That Couch Comfy?" Mo, of course, is Mo Vaughn, the former Angel first baseman who was traded to the New York Mets last winter.

Vaughn ripped Southern California fans for being passive, saying they "lacked that East Coast intensity." In a he-said, she-said spat with former teammate Troy Percival last spring, Vaughn ripped the Angels, saying, among other things, that "there ain't no flags flying over Edison Field."

Stoneman, when asked if he would invite Vaughn to hoist the Angels' American League pennant in Edison Field next season, grinned and said, "I'm not touching that one."

FEATHERED FRIENDS: Feeling a need to commune with a few thousand other Angel fans while the team travels to San Francisco this week? The Mighty Ducks, the city of Anaheim and the Arrowhead Pond have teamed up to allow fans to view Games 3, 4 and 5 from Pacific Bell Park on the Pond's Diamond Vision screens.

Tickets are $5 per person and will be sold at the Edison Field and Pond box offices only. Doors will open at 4 p.m. each afternoon. In addition, fans attending the Ducks' 1 p.m. game today against Colorado will be allowed to stay in the Pond and watch Game 2 of the World Series from Edison Field.

-- MIKE DIGIOVANNA

NO DICE: Giant Manager Dusty Baker was asked whether he's a betting man, and whether he'd bet on returning as manager next season.

Baker, accustomed to similar questions over his uncertain status, laughed.

"I don't bet. That's one of the vices my dad wouldn't let me do as a kid," he said. "My sister told on me when I was 12 years old that I had some dice beneath my pillow. My dad took them out in the driveway and broke them with a hammer. Broke my heart. I was going to get rich at school.

"My dad said no son of his was going to be a gambler."

-- HELENE ELLIOTT

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