As an Anaheim Angels fan (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, whatever), the last ten or so years have been a great time to be a fan. Not only do we have one of the best owners in sports (Artie Moreno), and one of the best managers in baseball (Mike Scioscia), but we have also made the playoffs six of the last nine seasons. All things considered, being an Angel fan is a good thing, especially if you are a fan of high quality baseball.
The thing is, though, it didn’t used to be like this. Prior to 2002 the Angels were known for anything but high quality baseball, they were known for bad luck and a string of bad teams. Originally the Los Angeles Angels (the team moved to Anaheim in 1965 to become the “California Angels”), between the teams inception in 1961 and 2001 the Angels had only 13 winning seasons and only made the playoffs three times. To make matters worse, the Angels had a tendency to lose in heartbreaking fashion in these playoff series. In 1982 the Angels had a 2-0 lead on the Milwaukee Brewers in the in a best-of-five American League Championship Series, only to lose the next three games to lose out at a shot at their first World Series. Four seasons later in 1986, the Angels were up 3-1 in a best-of-seven ALCS against the Boston Red Sox. This time they were one strike away from making the series. Unfortunately for Angels fans the Red Sox fought back and ending up winning the series 4-3. That was the last time prior to 2002 that the Angels had made the playoffs.
Going into the 2002 season the Angels didn’t look like a World Series caliber team, at least not to me. While they had a solid lineup, some good pitching and a young manager in Mike Scioscia, they were also coming off a season where they finished 41 games behind the Seattle Mariners. As the season progressed I began to notice that they were keeping pace with a high-caliber Oakland A’s team. Unlike in previous years, they didn’t suffer a late season collapse and finished in second place in the AL West, qualifying for the playoffs in the Wild Card spot. What happened next seemed surreal. They defeated the defending World Series Champion New York Yankees in four games in the American League Divisional Series, and then trounced the Minnesota Twins in five games in the ALCS. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the Angels found themselves in their first ever World Series taking on the San Francisco Giants.
As an Angel fan who had gone through the heartache it all seemed so surreal. After splitting the first two games at home, the Angels won the first game in San Francisco to take a 2-1 game. While it felt euphoric, that feeling went away quite quickly as the Giants destroyed the Halo’s in the next two home games to come back to Anaheim with a 3-2 lead. Game six quickly went downhill for the Angels as the Giants raced out to a 5-0 lead in the 7th inning, leaving the Angels only nine outs to go before losing the series.
This is when my favorite baseball memory occurred.
With one out in the seventh inning the Angels rallied. With two men on Scott Spiezio came to the plate and hit a three run shot cutting the lead to 5-3. In the eighth inning the Angels once again rallied, scoring three more runs to take the lead 6-5. Angels closer Troy Percival came in in the 9th to shut down the Giants and make a Game Seven necessary the next night, which the Angels won 4-1 to secure their first World Series title.
While the Game Seven victory was sweet, I’ll never forget game six as long as I live. As a die-hard fan, once the Giants took the lead and the Angels went stagnant I couldn’t bear to watch. I ended up leaving to meet a friend at a club to just get away from the sadness. As I walked to the club I passed by a bar and decided that I had to watch the end of the game, just so I can say I saw it. That’s when the rally happened. I will never forget that euphoric feeling.