The words that almost every Anaheim Angels, California Angels, or Los Angeles Angels fans will always remember was the late Rory Markas call. “Erstad says he’s got it. Erstad makes the catch! The Anaheim Angels are champions of baseball.”
If you were/are an Anaheim Angels fan or any other name the team has played under you will probably remember exactly where you were when Rory Markas spoke those immortal words. I most definitely remember where I was at, since I was at the scene of the best moment in franchise history, when the Angels became World Champions for the first time.
Being at Edison International Field, the Big “A” on October 27th, 2002 was my best sports memory ever. To be at Game 7 of the World Series to watch your favorite team of all-time win their first championship and be there with your childhood best friend, his father, and person who was like a second father to me growing up was one of those priceless moments that Master Card talks about.
After the Game 6 comeback the night before some people may say Game 7 was anticlimactic. On the contrary it was just as stressful and exhilarating to me as Game 6 had been. Someone asked me once would I have rather been at Game 6 or Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. As amazing as it would have been to be there to watch such an amazing comeback, I would not have traded the Game 7 expereince for anything.
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Just walking into the ball park that night you could feel the magic in the air. The culmination 178 games of the season and the playoffs that would decide if this was the greatest Angels season ever or another one of those close but no cigar moments that the team had become famous for.
The game started off with rookie John Lackey mowing down the first three San Francisco Giants hitters in the first inning. In the bottom of the first the Angels got two runners on but could not score. Lackey ran into trouble in the top of the second inning as the Giants score the first run of the game on a Reggie Sanders sacrifice fly.
The Angels bounced right back as they had done so many times all season tying the game up in the bottom of the second inning. After Scott Spiezio drew a one-out walk, Bengie Molina delivered an RBI-Double to left-center. In the bottom of the third the Angels kept coming off of Giants’ pitcher Livan Hernandez. David Eckstein and Darin Erstad led off with singles and Tim Salmon walked to load the bases.
This brought up Garret Anderson and G.A. delivered with an RBI-double down the right field line that cleared the bases with three runs scoring giving the Angels a 4-1 lead and sending the 44,598 fans into hysterics. Lackey shut down the Giants for the next two innings before turning the ball over to Brendan Donnelly who despite allowing th Giants to get runners to second and third before striking out pinch-hitter Tom Goodwin to end the threat.
Donnelly pitched a flawless 7th inning before turning the ball over to Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod struck out Rich Aurilla, Jeff Kent, and Benito Santiago to strike out the side in the 8th inning. With the crowd standing on their feet closer Troy Percival stepped on the mound to try to close out the Giants and give the Angels that elusive first World Series title.
J.T. Snow led off with a single and then Tom Goodwin forced him out at 2nd for the first out. David Bell walked to bring the tying run to the plate in the person of Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Percival bore down and struck out Shinjo on four pitches. This brought up Kenny Lofton. On the first pitch Lofton lifted a deep fly ball to right-center and Darin Erstad camped under it and clutched the ball in his mitt as the Angels poured out of the dugout. Bengie Molina ran out and jumped into Percival’s arms and the celebration was on.
From my seat on the lower view level section 425 Row E I hugged my best friend Dave and was screaming almost in tears. I remember seeing Jackie Autry on the field with Gene Autry’s hat and the Angels accepting the trophy. From there the longest tenured Angel Tim Salmon circled the field in a victory lap with the World Series Trophy.
What an amazing moment this was to be a part of. Definitely the best moment in Angels history.