L.A’s greatest sports moments No. 5: Angels win the World Series
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We asked you to send in your picks for the greatest sports moments in L.A. history, and 1,181 ballots later we are unveiling the top 20 vote-getters. Each weekday we will unveil a new moment until we reach No. 1.
No. 5: Angels win the World Series (33 first-place votes, 3,248 points)
It was with a sense of dread and anticipation that Angels fans cheered for the team in the 2002 playoffs. After all, the Angels hadn’t had a great postseason history, which included heartbreaking losses to the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1982 ALCS and the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 ALCS. Both times, the Angels were one win away from the World Series but watched their opponents win three games in a row to snatch victory away from them.
In fact, 2002 was the Angels’ first postseason appearance since 1986. Making matters worse, their opponent in the first round was the New York Yankees, who won the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. Few experts gave the Angels, who got into the playoffs as the AL wild card, much of a chance. They gave them even less of one after the Yankees won the first game.
But the Angels stormed back to win three in a row and eliminate the Yankees, setting up an ALCS matchup with the Minnesota Twins. After the Twins won Game 1, you could forgive some Angels fans for fearing the worst. The Angels had other ideas, though, and won the next four to eliminate the Twins and head into the World Series for the first time in franchise history. Their opponent: Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants.
The series went back and forth, but all seemed lost when the Giants routed the Angels in Game 5, 16-4, giving them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The turning point in the series came in Game 6. With the Angels trailing 5-0 with one out in the bottom of the seventh, Giants Manager Dusty Baker removed starting pitcher Russ Ortiz for setup man Felix Rodríguez after Ortiz gave up consecutive singles to third baseman Troy Glaus and designated hitter Brad Fullmer. In a move that angered Angels fans, Baker gave Ortiz the game ball as he sent him back to the dugout, signifying that Baker thought the game was won. During the pitching change the Rally Monkey came on the JumboTron, sending 45,037 Angels fans into a frenzy.
Angels first baseman Scott Spiezio came up and hit a three-run home run to right, pulling the Angels within 5-3 and electrifying the crowd. The rally continued in the eighth inning, as Angels center fielder Darin Erstad hit a leadoff home run, followed by consecutive singles by Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson. Baker brought in closer Robb Nen to pitch to Glaus, who doubled to the left-center field gap to drive in the tying and winning runs.
In the ninth inning, Angels closer Troy Percival struck out Rich Aurilia to preserve the 6–5 victory in front of the jubilant home crowd. The comeback from a five-run deficit was the largest in World Series history for an elimination game.
Game 7 proved to be somewhat anticlimactic. The Giants scored the first run, but the Angels responded with a run-scoring double from catcher Bengie Molina and a three-run double to right field from Anderson to open a 4–1 lead. Rookie starting pitcher John Lackey stifled the Giants, and in the ninth inning, Percival stopped the Giants, the final out coming on Kenny Lofton’s fly ball to Erstad in center.
The Angels were World Series champions.