Angels to celebrate 10th anniversary of WS title

Angels to celebrate 10th anniversary of WS title

Published Aug. 13, 2012 11:45 a.m. ET

They are all older, a little softer around the middle and maybe grayer on top, but their memories are still sharp. You don't win a World Series and forget the details, certainly not 10 years later. 

There's no forgetting the moments that made the Angels World Series champions in 2002 — the comebacks and big hits and postgame celebrations. So when you have a chance to relive them, that's what you do. 

Beginning Tuesday, the Angels will honor that championship season — "Anniversary Week" as they're calling it — which will culminate with a reunion and the induction of the 2002 club into the Angels' Hall of Fame on Saturday. 

"You need to celebrate achievement in this game," manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's why you pour champagne after a series win or after you make the playoffs. Something as big as winning a world championship for an organization, particularly winning the first championship, needs to be celebrated. It's a great time for it." 

They'll reminisce and tell stories and probably embellish a bit, but there's no need to overdramatize the seven-game victory over the San Francisco Giants. It was there for all to see, from the Game 2 comeback to Scott Spiezio's home run in Game 6 that turned the tide. 

Did anyone see it coming? The Angels finished in third place in the American League West the year before, and they started 6-14, 10½ games out, in 2002. There were few signs that something special might happen. 

But then, the season changed dramatically. The Angels won 17 of 19 games, battled to the finish and won a club-record 99 games, although they finished second behind the Oakland A's, who won 103.  

But the wild card was theirs. Anything was possible. And yet, there was never a sense they were a team of destiny. Everything that Angels team accomplished resulted from playing well together, one hit at a time, one pitch at a time. 

"I don't think anyone took for granted that there was destiny for the Angels that year," closer Troy Percival said. "It was a lot of work, a lot of grinding. We were not the most talented team. Every hit David Eckstein got, every inning Brendan Donnelly pitched, we worked hard. There was no chance to get complacent." 

Good teams peak, and that's what the Angels did. But even getting to the World Series didn't come easily. They lost the first game of the divisional playoffs to the New York Yankees then swept the next three. They dropped Game 1 of the AL Championship Series to the Minnesota Twins then won four in a row. 

And in the World Series, it was the same thing — a 4-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants that put them in a familiar corner. But by then they were used to it. There were no emotions, no clubhouse speeches. Just business. 

"At that point in the year, you're at the end of your rope, being exhausted, just such a long season," outfielder Garret Anderson said. "I don't have any one thing that stands out, even during the playoffs. It was just every day, getting yourself up to play those games. That's what I remember." 

For Scioscia, there must have been uncertainty how his team would react to all this. For most of the players, this was their first World Series, their first taste of the big stage, and there is always a concern that someone might wilt in a critical moment. 

"It was the first time for a lot of guys in an Angels uniform of even being in the playoffs, let alone getting to the World Series," he recalled. "What stands out to me is the poise every player had. Nobody was doing anything else but playing the same way we played the whole season. There were no second thoughts like, 'Well, this is the World Series, we have to play a different brand of baseball.' These guys went out there and played fearless, played aggressive. That's what stands out, the poise they showed." 

It was surely evident in the 11-10 Game 2 victory in which the Angels, after scoring five runs in the first inning, fell behind 9-7 in the fifth. But they rallied to tie the score in the sixth and won it in the eighth on a two-run homer by Tim Salmon. 

No home run, however, resonates more loudly that the one delivered by Spiezio in Game 6. By that time, the Giants had won two in a row and taken a 3-2 lead in games. They led Game 6 by a 5-0 score with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning. 

Angels fans undoubtedly remember Giants manager Dusty Baker removing starter Russ Ortiz after the Angels got consecutive singles from Troy Glaus and Brad Fullmer. As Ortiz prepared to walk off the mound, Baker famously handed him the game ball, presumably for a job well done. But it wasn't over. 

Speizio, facing set-up man Felix Rodriguez, fouled off several pitches before driving one to right field that barely cleared the wall. It sent the Angels crowd into a mad frenzy.

But in the dugout, the Angels knew their work wasn't finished. 

"It still wasn't over at that time," Anderson said. "We still had more runs to score. From a player's perspective, you don't get caught up in, 'Yeah, we just scored three runs.' We needed to score some more. That's the perspective players take." 

They did score more. Darin Erstad led off the eighth with a home run, and Glaus added a two-run double off closer Robb Nen to finish off an unlikely come-from-behind win. 

"That was more of a typical comeback that we would do during the season," Anderson said. "We would come back and beat teams. It wasn't anything new, but there wasn't a panic. Nobody panicked. We just play baseball until it was over. We knew if we lost it was over, but that didn't creep into my mind at all." 

Game 7, Anderson said, was almost anticlimactic. The Angels got five strong innings from starter John Lackey, and Anderson's bases-loaded double in the third inning broke a 1-1 tie to lift the Angels to a 4-1 win. Lackey became the first rookie pitcher to win a World Series Game 7 since 1909. 

Percival finished it off with his seventh save of the postseason, but he put two runners on base in the ninth and faced the tying run before getting Kenny Lofton to fly out. 

It was the 67th game he pitched in that season. 

"At the time, I didn't think anything about it," he said. "The word 'tired' never came into play. I didn't have the stuff I had at the beginning of postseason, but not until the last ball was caught did I realize that I couldn't have thrown another pitch if I had to." 

Now Percival, Anderson and their former teammates will get a chance to relive the championship. Not that it won't seem a little strange, kind of like a high school reunion where everyone looks different and so many lives have changed. 

"Weird," Anderson said about how he'll feel seeing old teammates. "Because everybody goes on with their life. Reunions to me are always a little weird. Everybody is doing their own thing. You become friends, but more times than not you don't become life friends.  

"Everybody lives in different places. To see everybody will be cool, but we've been away from each other so long. And you pick up from where you left off in those situations." 

That's what they'll do this week, even if it feels a little weird.