The LA Angels were in their first World Series just 15 years ago and in this countdown to the 2002 Championship the most compelling game of the whole playoffs. Game Six of the World Series was one for the ages.
Let me just start by saying this is a game that I know very well yet I did not see over half of it. I was working part-time for the Orange County Register as a high school sports writer and I had an assignment to cover the Ocean View Seahawks against the Santa Ana Saints. The game was supposed to be a one-sided affair but it actually was a very compelling and interesting game.
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Thankfully it was as I was feeling upset and dismayed as I had just watched the first four-and-a-half innings of the game and saw the Angels fall behind 3-0 on a Shawon Dunston two-run homer and an RBI-Double by Jeff Kent before I had to head to the Santa Ana Bowl for the game.
I made a decision to totally focus on my football game I was covering so I turned off my cell phone. With the Angel game in the back of my mind I focused on my work forgetting the fact that I had tickets for Game 7 (which would be my first ever World Series game of my life).
During that time the game got even worse for the Angels as Barry Bonds hit a monster homer off Francisco Rodriguez and the Giants scored another run in the 7th to make the score 5-0 in favor of San Francisco. In the bottom of the 7th the Angels started to rally off of Russ Ortiz with singles by Garret Anderson and Brad Fullmer which prompted Giants manager Dusty Baker to make his fateful trip to the mound to remove Ortiz.
Baker patted Ortiz on the butt and gave him the game ball which upset the Angel players as they started the most epic comeback in World Series history. Scott Spiezio came up against Felix Rodriguez and hit the most famous home run in Angel history that barely got into the right field seats over the short wall in right field making the score 5-3.
A cheer went up at the Santa Ana Bowl which surprised me as the game was at halftime. All of the sudden the PA Announcer enlightened me and those who did not have a portable TV or an active cell phone saying three-run homer for Scott Spiezio. This made my heart jump as I knew there was a chance.
All throughout halftime I was watching the crowd across the field who was watching the game for any reaction to know that the comeback was still happening. A cheer went up and my favorite PA announcer let us know what was going on as he told us that Darin Erstad had just hit a solo homer off Tim Worrell to cut the Giants lead to 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth.
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As we all know the comeback did not stop there as Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson had back-to-back singles bringing up Troy Glaus. Baker in a desperate move brought in closer Robb Nen who promptly grooved a pitch to Glaus who promptly smashed a double to left-center that scored pinch-runner Chone Figgins and Anderson to complete the six-run uprising sending Angel Stadium into a complete frenzy.
When I heard the cheer went up at the Santa Ana Bowl I knew what had happened and I started going nuts jumping up and down on the sideline for a reason the Seahawk football players did not know. I and my beloved Angels were three outs away from a decisive Game Seven. All that had to happen now was Troy Percival had to do what he had done 250 + times before get three outs and record the save.
Percival first faced Tom Goodwin who he struck out on a 2-2 pitch for out number one in the ninth as I heard the crowd behind me now shout “One”. Moments later Kenny Lofton popped up to who else Glaus who clutched it for out number two, prompting the crowd behind me to shout “Two”. So with two outs all that stood between the Percival and the Angels from a date with destiny was Rich Aurrilla. Percival again worked the count to two balls and two strikes. Then Percival threw a strike and Aurrilla swung and missed sending the 45,307 people in attendance into hysterics.
Behind me at the Santa Ana Bowl I heard the crowd go nuts and I knew what was coming from our favorite PA announcer. “Angels win 6-5 Game Seven tomorrow night.” I was beside myself as I was going to Game Seven of the World Series less than 24 hours later.
I’m sure many of you have your own Game Six stories, I hoped you enjoyed mine as we remember that special week in October of 2002. Stay tuned for Game Seven.