The 2002 World Series: Wild All The Way To The End

The 2002 World Series is marked in history by two things. Two wild-cards, the Anaheim Angels and San Francisco Giants, faced off in the Fall Classic. This is the only instance of a wild-card showdown in either the World Series or the Super Bowl as of 2013. The other historical benchmark is more basic–the Angels and Giants turned in a classic seven-game showdown replete with heartbreak, a dramatic comeback and a rally cheer that proved prophetic.

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Anaheim’s postseason history was marked with failure. They’d lost three consecutive close-out games in both the 1982 and 1986 American League Championship Series. The arrival of a new manager in Mike Scoscia gave the team a new attitude and focus.

The Angels were led by Garett Anderson, the outfielder who batted. 306, hit 29 home runs and had 123 RBIs. Troy Glaus was a more classic power hitter, who slugged 30 home runs. Veteran rightfielder Tim Salmon hit 22 dingers and had a .380 on-base percentage. An unknown designated hitter named Brad Fullmer had a .357 OBP and slugged .531.

Anaheim’s lineup was rounded out by a fundamentally sound shortstop in David Eckstein, a young catcher named Bengie Molina and a productive first baseman in Scott Spiezio. Their pitching was led by 18-game winner Jarrod Washburn, veteran Kevin Appier and closer Troy Percival. A big infusion of youth came from 23-year-old John Lackey, who started 18 games and finished 9-4 with a 3.66 ERA.

San Francisco’s lineup was much more top-heavy. Barry Bonds, juiced up on PEDs, came off his 73-home run season of 2001 with a 46-home run campaign that included a .370 batting average and an astonishing .799 slugging percentage. Opposing pitchers were so scared of Bonds that walked an even more amazing 198 times in 2002. Bonds won the MVP award, the second of what would be a run of four in a row.

Jeff Kent played second base and was an MVP himself, winning the award in 2000. This season, he hit 37 home runs and drove in 108 RBIs. The rest of the lineup was mostly role players, including veteran centerfielder Kenny Lofton and David Bell, the third baseman who hit 20 home runs.

The Giants’ pitching was balanced, with all five starters winning between 12-14 games, and two veterans in the bullpen with Tim Worrell as the setup man and Robb Nenn closing games out.

When the playoffs began, Anaheim showed they had a toughness previous Angel teams lacked. They lost the playoff opener to the New York Yankees, who had won four straight pennants. The Angels promptly won the next three to take the series. In the 2002 American League Championship Series they spotted the Minnesota Twins a game and followed it up with four straight wins and their first pennant.

San Francisco was pushed to the brink in the Division Series against Atlanta, before winning two straight games to advance. The Giants eliminated the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2002 National League Championship Series in five games, sweeping the middle three games at home and claiming their first pennant since 1962.

The 2002 World Series opened in Anaheim and it was a power display on both sides. Glaus homered twice, but Bonds, J.T. Snow and Reggie Sanders all went deep for San Francisco and the Giants won 4-3.

Game 2 was a wild affair. Anaheim scored five times in the first, but trailed 9-7 by the time they batted in the fifth inning. It was 9-9 in the eighth when Salmon got the last of his four hits, a two-run shot to give his team the lead. Bonds was walked three times and with two outs in the ninth he showed why–with the bases empty, they gave him a pitch to hit and disappeared for a home run. Anaheim was still able to hold on, 11-10.

Anaheim kept the offense rolling when the series went north for Game 3, with six players getting multiple hits in a 10-4 win. Once again, Bonds walked twice and homered when he had the chance.

The pitching settled down in Game 4 and the Angels led 3-0 after three. Then came the rally that looked like it might decisively alter the Series. San Francisco got three singles, Bond was walked and then another single to tie it 3-3. In the eighth, an Anaheim passed ball moved the winning run into scoring position and a Bell single won it for San Francisco. One night later it was the Giants’ offense that unloaded, winning 16-4 behind two home runs from Kent and three more hits from Bonds.

Game 6 is what this World Series is remembered for. It appeared that the only memory would be that of San Francisco cruising to a title, as the Giants led 5-0 going into the bottom of the seventh. The Anaheim crowd implored their team with the “Rally Monkey”, something based off a Jim Carrey movie and video clips inspired cheers throughout the stands. The Angels responded to the pleas of their home fans.

Spiezio hit a three-run homer in the seventh to give Anaheim some hope. In the eighth, facing Worrell, Erstad led off with a home run and suddenly it was a 5-4 game and there were still six outs to play with. Salmon and Anderson followed up with singles, and a crucial error by Bonds allowed Anderson to take second. Still no one out, Glaus ripped a double that gave Anaheim the lead and they closed an improbable 6-5 win.

It was the rookie, Lackey, who got the ball for the Angels and his opponent for San Francisco was Livan Hernandez, who knew a little something about being a rookie World Series hero–that’s what he’d been in the 1997 World Series when he won two games and Series MVP honors for the Florida Marlins.

The teams traded runs in the second, and then in the third Eckstein and Erstad singled, and Salmon was a hit by a pitch. Anderson delivered the decisive blow, a double down the right field line that cleared the bases. Trailing 4-1, San Francisco would get the tying run to the plate in the fourth, sixth and finally in the ninth, but no runs were forthcoming.

Anaheim was finally a World Series champion, and no one could say they hadn’t earned it. The Rally Monkey was now an indelible part of baseball lore.