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7th Heaven as Angels Win Series

October 28, 2002|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

Forget the decades of heartache. The big games that always ended in frustration. Forget all those wait-until-next-years.

The Anaheim Angels have won the World Series.

They won in nothing less than a deciding seventh game, with nothing less than a come-from-behind 4-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants.

To make the triumph sweeter, they won at Edison Field before 44,598 of the faithful who had suffered with them.

"These fans have been waiting a long, long time," third baseman Troy Glaus said. "And I know we're all happy to be part of the team to bring it to them."

For all the talk of a California rivalry, north vs. south, the Series was more about a ballclub confronting its own demons.

The Angels overcame 42 years of futility in storybook fashion.

They got off to the worst start in franchise history but rebounded with late-inning victories in dozens of games through the regular season and playoffs.

Their rallying cry was "Win One for the Cowboy," a reference to Gene Autry, who owned the team through lean years and did not live to see this title.

Even Orange County earned a bit of redemption, celebrating its first championship team, commanding a national spotlight while leaving glitzy Los Angeles and its Dodgers in the shadows.

But most of all, this victory was about fans who had watched their team reach the playoffs three times in the last two decades only to fall one game, one out, even one strike short of crucial victories.

Not this time.

After the final out, Edison erupted in a frenzy of cheering. Fans yelled and screamed but could not quite describe their joy, returning again and again to words such as "unbelievable" and "incredible."

From his seat in right field, Steve Deleon of Los Alamitos said: "The ghosts are gone."

They might have flown north to San Francisco, where the Giants have now lost all three of their Series appearances since moving from New York in 1958.

This time, they came within six outs of clinching the title in Game 6.

"It's a difficult time right now," San Francisco Manager Dusty Baker said. "Your heart is heavy."

Perhaps no one felt the pain more than Barry Bonds.

The last two seasons, the Giant outfielder has been historic at the plate. He hit a record 73 homers in 2001, then returned this season to lead the league with a .370 batting average and establish another record with 198 walks. The records continued to fall in postseason play, which had always been a bugaboo for the leftfielder.

But critics -- and with the prickly Bonds, there are many -- continued to ask: Can he lead a team to the championship?

Not this time, not against this Angel team.

Over the course of this hotly contested Series, fans in both cities watched the momentum shift in ways both subtle and powerful.

Subtle was the bunt that rolled foul, then curved back fair to ignite a Giant rally in Game 4. San Francisco won twice at Pacific Bell Park to lead three games to two. Powerful -- almost unbelievable -- was the Angels fighting back from a five-run deficit Saturday to tie the series at three games each.

The deciding game began in familiar fashion with the Giants taking a 1-0 lead in the second inning.

The Angels followed with their now trademark rally, tying the game on catcher Bengie Molina's double in the bottom of the inning.

They scored the decisive runs in the third, Garret Anderson nailing a high fastball down the right field line for a three-run double and a 4-1 lead.

That was all the offense his team needed. Pitcher John Lackey became the first rookie starter to win a seventh game in 93 years, and reliever Francisco Rodriguez added another strong performance.

But no Angel game would be complete without a little anxiety. The Giants put two runners on base in the ninth before closer Troy Percival ended the game by inducing a fly out to center field.

At a park in San Francisco, a giant screen showing the game went blank as fans walked quietly away. Rory Davis, 17, bemoaned the Giants' collapse.

"We had it in the bag," he said. "This was the one chance for our generation to get the Series, and now we'll have to live with this."

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown had confidently predicted victory two days ago but now has lost a wager with Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly and must wear a cowboy hat in the style of Autry.

"The first thing my staff will do in the morning will be to confirm Mayor Brown's hat size," Daly said. "I have a feeling it may have shrunk a little bit."

Meanwhile, Anaheim fans will get a chance to celebrate with the team Tuesday during a parade that begins at 11 a.m. at the Arrowhead Pond and travels west along Katella Avenue. There will be a ceremony in front of Edison Field lasting until 1 p.m.

"I hate to use a Disney line, but it's definitely a Cinderella story," said Greg Parham, 42, of Glendora. "Coming from the absolute worse start in franchise history to this victory, this team is nothing short of magical."

Glaus, named the Series' most valuable player, will be on hand to address the crowd but might not have much more to say than the cheering masses at Edison on Sunday.

"At this point," he said after the game, "I don't know how I'm feeling except ecstatic."


Times staff writer Kimi Yoshino and correspondent Chris O'Connell contributed to this report.

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