The 2002 season was a magical one for the Anaheim Angels and Saturday, October 26th was one of the best moments. Game 6 of the World Series will go down as one of the best games ever played.
The Anaheim Angels had put together a magical run through the 2002 MLB Playoffs to reach their first World Series in team history. The Angels had fought valiantly to take a two games to one lead in their first World Series. However, Barry Bonds and the Giants had fought back and had the Angels on the brink of elimination by winning the next two games.
The series had shifted to Anaheim for game six where the Angels had only lost one game all playoffs. The game started out as a pitchers’ duel between Kevin Appier of the Angels and Russ Ortiz of the Giants. With the game scoreless in the fifth inning the Giants broke through on a Shawon Dunston 2-run home run that gave the Giants a 2-0 advantage. The Giants would score another run in the inning to go up 3-0 and they now had the upper hand in their quest to win their first World Series title in 48 years.
Barry Bonds hit a solo homer in the sixth for a 4-0 advantage and for good measure Jeff Kent drove in a 5th run in the top of the 7th to make it 5-0. This lead seemed insurmountable with the way Ortiz was pitching. The Giants right-hander had allowed only two hits and no runs in six innings. In the bottom of the seventh inning the Angels finally started to come alive as Troy Glass and Brad Fullmer got back-to-back singles prompting Giants’ manager Dusty Baker to make a fateful decision.
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Baker came to the mound to get Ortiz in favor of Felix Rodriguez. He gave the ball to Ortiz as he left the mound, most likely as a momento of his pending World Series clinching victory. Someone forgot to inform the Angels of this news as what happened next started the largest comeback in an elimination game in World Series history.
Scott Spiezio, who had been stellar all season strode to the plate trying to spark the never say die Angels. Spiezio did just that as he swatted a 3-2 offering by Rodriguez to deep right field and try as he might Giants right fielder Reggie Sanders could not keep the ball from landing in the seats infusing new life into the 44,506 fans in sold-out Edison Field (AKA The Big “A”). The Giants lead had been cut to 5-3.
In the bottom of the 8th inning the Angels kept charging as Darin Erstad led off with a solo homer to to right-center off Tim Worrell to cut the Giants lead to a single run at 5-4. Tim Salmon followed with a single and Garret Anderson followed with a single of his own. Bonds made an error which allowed Salmon and Anderson to advance to second and third.
Dusty Baker again came out to the mound to get Worrell and call in closer Robb Nen in an act of desperation. Troy Glaus came to the plate hoping for one more big hit in his MVP performance. Glaus cranked a ball to the left-center field gap that plated both Salmon and Anderson sending the crowd into a frenzy as the Angels had taken a 6-5 lead. Game 7 which had seemed so improbable less than an hour before was now three outs away from becoming a reality.
Less than five miles away a part-time Orange County Register reporter was jumping around like crazy on the sidelines while covering the Ocean View vs. Santa Ana high school football game know that he as his childhood best friend were about to experience their sports moment of a lifetime. (My personal story)
Troy Percival came on to try to shut down the Giants in ninth and cap this monumental comeback. Tom Goodwin struck out to lead off the 9th and Kenny Lofton popped out to third. As I awaited for a reaction from the crowd at the football game letting me know that I would be going to Game 7 Percival went to work.
Rich Aurilla worked the count to two balls and two strikes. Percival reached back for something extra and found it with a 96 MPH fastball that Aurilla swung and missed to end the game with the Angels on top 6-5 forcing a deciding game seven the next day. When I heard the crowd react at the football game with a loud cheer despite nothing happening in the football game, I knew it was over. A childhood dream of mine was about to become a reality. The impossible dream had come true. To be continued …