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Dream Team Extreme

In winning first World Series, Angels were ultimate example of what it means to come together

October 29, 2002|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Twenty-five players ... one cab? You think of the 2002 Angels and that old circus act comes to mind, the one where a Volkswagen Bug pulls up, one clown gets out, then another dozen clowns follow, as if they were all squeezed into the tiny car.

But it was no illusion with the close-knit Angels, who took team harmony to another octave throughout a season that ended with a thundering climax in Edison Field on Sunday night.

It took a village to raise a championship trophy, and never was that more apparent than in the World Series, when the whole of the Angels was far greater than the sum of their parts; when a band of brothers won out in a thrilling seven-game series over baseball's only child.

"I tell you what, Barry Bonds is the best hitter I've ever seen," Angel closer Troy Percival said of the San Francisco Giant slugger, who will go down as one of the most dominant offensive forces in World Series history. "But we threw nine clutch hitters at them. We had nine guys who wouldn't quit."

That did not make this reporter's job as a member of the small panel chosen to select the World Series most valuable player any easier.

A strong case was made for Glaus, who hit .385 with three home runs, three doubles, eight runs batted in, seven runs and knocked in the tying and winning runs with a two-run double in the eighth inning of Game 6, as the Angels overcame a five-run deficit for a dramatic 6-5 victory that forced a Game 7.

The award could have gone to first baseman Scott Spiezio, who hit .281 but knocked in eight runs, three of them on his seventh-inning home run that resuscitated the Angels in Game 6, turning a 5-0 deficit into a 5-3 game, and two on a third-inning triple that jump-started the Angel offense in a 10-4 Game 3 victory.

Or it could have gone to right fielder Tim Salmon, who hit .346 with two home runs and five RBIs, two of them coming on his eighth-inning home run that broke a 9-9 tie and lifted the Angels to an 11-10 victory in Game 2.

Though they may not have been MVP candidates, center fielder Darin Erstad hit .300, made two spectacular diving catches, one of them in the fifth inning of Game 7, and inched the Angels ever closer to their Game 6 victory with a leadoff homer in the eighth inning that trimmed San Francisco's lead to 5-4.

Shortstop David Eckstein hit .310 with three walks and three RBIs. Garret Anderson, relatively quiet most of the Series, broke a 1-1 tie with a three-run double in the third inning of Game 7, sending the Angels on their way to a 4-1 Series-clinching victory. Reliever Brendan Donnelly threw 7 2/3 scoreless, one-hit innings in five appearances, and Percival had three saves.

Ultimately, Glaus was named series MVP, which he called a great honor.

"But we play for the big trophy with the pennants on it, not for these," Glaus said, comparing the World Series and MVP trophies. "No one guy on this team has gotten us to this point or carried us through this point. It's been a team effort all the way through, 25 guys."

And it was that way against the Giants in the World Series. Every night, it seemed, there was a different Angel hero, and the cumulative effect of so many contributions from so many sources was to offset Bonds, who hit .471 with four homers, six RBIs, 13 walks and eight runs and reached base 21 times in 30 plate appearances.

Bonds made an immediate impact, smashing the second pitch he saw in the Series far over the Edison Field wall in right field, giving the Giants a 1-0 lead in the second inning of Game 1, and two batters later, Reggie Sanders homered to make it 2-0.

Glaus hit two solo homers in the game, but he was trumped by San Francisco first baseman J.T. Snow, whose two-run homer in the sixth was the difference in the Giants' 4-3 victory.

The resilient Angels rebounded in Game 2, pounding Giant starter Russ Ortiz for five runs in the first inning, but they blew the lead and were trailing, 9-7, in the fifth. Spiezio's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth and Anderson's RBI single in the sixth tied the score, and Salmon's second two-run homer of the night won it in the eighth.

Though the game will long be remembered for Bonds' 485-foot homer off Percival in the ninth, the Angels had tied the Series, 1-1, and it was on to Pacific Bell Park.

The Angels batted around in consecutive innings in Game 3, scoring four times in the third and fourth innings on their way to a comfortable 10-4 victory, but David Bell's eighth-inning RBI single off Angel reliever Francisco Rodriguez gave the Giants a 4-3 victory in Game 4.

San Francisco pummeled Angel left-hander Jarrod Washburn and several relievers en route to a 16-4 Game 5 victory that gave the Giants a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series, and San Francisco was eight outs away from its first championship since 1954 when the Giants had a 5-0 lead over the Angels with one out in the seventh inning of Game 6 at Edison Field.

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