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'The Kid' Is the Key to This Victory

October 28, 2002|DEAN CHANCE

Right-hander Dean Chance was an Angel for the team's first six seasons, then pitched five more seasons with the Twins, Indians, Mets and Tigers. His finest year was 1964 when, at age 23, he won the Cy Young Award by going 20-9 with a 1.65 earned-run average, 11 shutouts and 15 complete games. He was a 20-game winner with Minnesota in 1967. His career record was 128-115. Chance, now a boxing promoter, is guest analyst for The Times for this World Series.

As the game wore on, I started thinking about all the guys I played with and all the guys who ever wore the Angel uniform. I thought about Clyde Wright, Jim Fregosi and Buck Rodgers. I thought about Albie Pearson, Bobby Knoop and Bobby Grich.

I thought about my dear friend Bo Belinsky, who unfortunately didn't live to see this. You know, in 1962, when we moved into Dodger Stadium and were trying to compete with the Dodgers, look at all the ink he got us.

And, of course, I thought about The Cowboy, Gene Autry. It was so wonderful of the Angels to pay him tribute all through the playoffs and to have Mrs. Autry on hand for Game 7.

I remember being at The Cowboy's house in 1962. We were in third place and he told me, "I don't think we're good enough to win it all. Not yet."

He was always sure, though, that this day would come.

I wasn't sure how good this Angel team was until the Oakland A's won those 20 games in a row and only picked up two games on the Angels. Then, I knew they were for real.

But when this Series started, you remember, I predicted the Series would go seven games. I never doubted the Giants would be tough.

And I never relaxed during Game 7. It wasn't until [Darin] Erstad caught that final ball that I was able to feel relief.

I give all the credit to [Manager Mike] Scioscia. He pushed the right buttons. He started [John] Lackey with the idea of getting five good innings out of him and that's what he did. The key for Lackey was keeping the ball down.

But the key to the game was bringing the kid [Francisco Rodriguez] in for the eighth inning. You had the heart of the lineup coming up for the Giants, all dangerous hitters. Especially Barry Bonds. But I think the kid had them intimidated. He has a great arm, great stuff and great confidence. Nobody wants to hit against him.

Then Troy Percival came in for the ninth and he might have been overthrowing a bit, but he was able to bear down and close them out. How sweet that had to be for him after all the years he has been with them.

This is such a boost for the Angels. You know, we were always second to the Dodgers. They were there first and people got used to their success.

But now, for Orange County, it's the Angels' day. It's like the circus came to town for the first time.

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