The 2002 World Series featured a little bit of everything -- a pair of wild-card teams meeting for the first time in baseball history; late heroics; some outstanding pitching performances; a breakout performance in defeat by a superstar haunted by past postseason failure; a rally-inducing primate; and a first-ever World Series title for a hard-luck franchise.
The Anaheim Angels had never reached the World Series prior to the 2002 Fall Classic but had endured two of the most gut-wrenching defeats in postseason history in falling just short of their first pennant.
In 1982, a California Angels team featuring future Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Reggie Jackson won the first two games of the American League Championship Series over the Milwaukee Brewers at Anaheim Stadium. But with the series shifting to the Beer City for the final three games, the Angels became the first team in LCS history to blow a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series, and the Brewers went on to capture their first pennant.
Four years later, in 1986, another star-studded group of Angels took on the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. California featured a future inductee at Cooperstown on the mound in 300-game winner Don Sutton and Jackson was still on the club as well. The Angels had a 3-1 series lead heading into Game 5 at Anaheim Stadium and were one out away from their elusive first pennant when closer Donnie Moore surrendered a two-run homer to Dave Henderson in the top of the ninth and lost the game in the 11th when Henderson lofted a sacrifice fly off Moore. Boston went on to win Games 6 and 7 at Fenway Park, and the Angels were once again denied.
The San Francisco Giants, meanwhile, hadn't been to a World Series since 1989 and hadn't won a championship since they played at New York's Polo Grounds in 1954.
Both teams had entered the postseason via the wild-card route, with the Angels downing the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins to win the American League pennant and the Giants putting away the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals to claim the NL crown.
In Game 6, the Angels were all but dead and buried. The Giants led 5-0 in the seventh inning before Anaheim made a comeback for the ages. Scott Spiezio belted a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh (click here for video) and World Series MVP Troy Glaus capped a rally -- which some believe was fueled by a creation called the "Rally Monkey" (click here for video) -- with a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth to complete a 6-5 win for the Angels to force Game 7.
Glaus was the series MVP after hitting .385 (10-for-26) with three homers and eight RBIs.
But Barry Bonds of the Giants would have certainly won the award had San Francisco been able to close the deal.
Bonds had struggled mightily in previous postseasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Giants. In 27 postseason games between 1990 and 2000, Bonds had mustered just a .196 average (19-for-97) with one home run and six RBIs. But in 2002, Bonds found the October magic. He hit .356 in 17 playoff games (16-for-35), smashing eight home runs and driving in 16 runs. In the World Series, Bonds was an amazing 8-for-17 (.471) with four homers and six RBIs while drawing 13 walks in seven games.
It was an extremely entertaining World Series and a true Fall Classic.
Phil Watson is a 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry and a longtime New York Yankee fan.
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