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Back in the Day: Angels in Heaven

August 26th, 2020 · No Comments · Angels, Back in the Day, Baseball, monkey

What a great time to be an Angels fan. A well-rounded team, a first World Series, one of the great comebacks in baseball history, leading to a championship.

The key game was Game 6, at Anaheim Stadium, I filed a comment piece. Here it is, under the headline: “Angels create an instant classic; Commentary: Game 6 magic will remain with fans forever”

October 26, 2002

By Paul Oberjuerge

ANAHEIM — Holy Rally Monkey!

What we have here now, friends, is a World Series for the ages. A classic. And your Anaheim Angels are one victory from winning it.

If the first five games of the 98th World Series weren’t scintillating enough, the Miracle on Katella in Game 6 took this event to another level. And to its absolute limit of seven games.

The Angels were down 5-0 in the seventh inning of an elimination game Saturday night and looked as dead as King Tut. They hadn’t scored a run in their previous nine at-bats, had gotten a runner in scoring position in only one of those and their chances of some 11th-hour resurrection looked as likely as world peace.

In the Giants clubhouse the Champagne was on ice, and in San Francisco tens of thousands of long-suffering Giants fans no doubt were ready to take to the streets of The City in celebration of the club’s first World Series championship since 1954.

It was just a matter of mopping up, really. Then for the bubbly!

Meanwhile, the Angels organization put up all its Rally Monkey videos, with an edgy Mel Gibson, in scenes from the movie “Signs,” fearfully discovering rally monkeys on his farm … and Bill Murray and the “Ghostbusters” crew watching the Rally Monkey rampaging through New York. Yes, cute, amusing, but also almost pathetic. More de rigueur than truly hopeful, it seemed.

I mean, it was 5-0 in the seventh, for goodness sakes, and in the previous 97 World Series no team had ever come from five runs down to win an elimination game. Not once.

Then it happened. And those who saw it will never forget it. Whether they be giddy Angels fans or crestfallen Giants fans. One of those now-classic rallies by this just ridiculously resourceful Angels team, and before it was over you probably could hear the roar of the Edison Field crowd in Yucaipa.

With one out in the seventh, Troy Glaus singled to left. A sort of lazy liner. Nothing special. Not alarming. Then Brad Fullmer drilled a single to right. First and second. Hmmm. Cue the monkey.

That brought up Scott Spezio and Giants manager Dusty Baker went for bullpen stalwart Felix Rodriguez to replace starter Russ Ortiz.

What ensued was one of those long, “quality” at-bats that are the hallmark of this Angels team.

Rodriguez got two strikes. Spezio started fouling off nasty pitches. Eventually, he worked the count full, and then Rodriguez threw a pitch that was a bit too high and on the inside-half of the plate.

Spezio turned on it, and there went a liner. Not one of those Barry Bonds rockets. Not one of those Mark McGwire moonshots. Just a fairly well-hit ball down the right-field line.

Memory is faulty at moments like this, but we believe the crowd went silent as 44,000 pairs of eyes watched Giants right fielder Reggie Sanders slide to his left and to the warning track. He seemed to have the ball lined up as he drifted, drifted, drifted — and then he ran into the hard reality of the right-field wall, and Spezio’s ball floated just over his head and two rows into the seats, maybe 340 feet from home plate.

The explosion of noise battered the eardrums and shook the stadium. Imagine 44,000 people shouting at the top of their lungs, at the same instant, and you begin to get an idea of the cacophony.

Fireworks shot into the sky. Spezio circled the bases. The Giants’ shoulders sagged. The monkey appeared on the video screen. It was 5-3, and the Angels in their death throes had just received an injection of adrenaline directly into their already oversized hearts.

In the eighth inning, Darin Erstad ripped a home run into the right-field seats, and it was 5-4, and the Angels were a runaway train careening down the Cajon Pass. Tim Salmon singled to center, Garret Anderson parachuted a single into left, and the runners moved up as Bonds overran the ball.

Baker, now desperate, went for closer Robb Nen to face Troy Glaus. Nen almost got Glaus fishing on a couple of bad sliders, but Glaus checked his swing and the count was in his favor, 2-1. Nen threw a fastball letter-high and middle-of-the-plate fat, and Glaus crushed it off the center-field fence for a double.

Edison Field’s crowd nearly went mad. Angels employees wept. The Angels led 6-5, and all that remained was for an amped-up Troy Percival to come in and blow away the Giants in a 1-2-3 ninth.

Now, both teams are spent. Both are exhausted. But they have to come back to Edison Field today or the absolute final act of the 2002 baseball season.

For the Giants, it will be particularly tough. They again will be confronted by that damn monkey and those damn Angels, neither of whom have gone away when common sense and baseball history. How this works out will be a capper in a World Series to remember.


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