This week in baseball

Andy Zides

At Edison Field, home of the Anaheim Angels, they played “I’m back in the saddle again,” the cowboy song that made their late owner Gene Autry, famous.
The song was played following the Angels first ever World Series victory, just as Frank Sinatra’s, “New York, New York,” was played after Yankee victories. It capped off a wonderful night in baseball history.
The 2002 World Series was certainly among the better World Series ever played.
There have been many exciting World Series dating back to 1903, that it is difficult to rank them in terms of their mass appeal and significance to baseball and America.
This World Series saw Barry Bonds, modern day baseball’s greatest slugger, finally getting he chance to prove his detractors wrong and perform well in the post season.
Bonds in fact played so well in the post season and in the World Series, that a Fox Sports Poll following the final of game seven, said 1/3 of the viewers felt Bonds should have won the Series MVP anyway, even though the Giants didn’t win.
For Bonds legacy, it does not matter that he never won a World Series. Though he still has several years left before he retires, in no way will not winning mar his incredible career.
Another great moment in the Series was 20-year-old Francisco Rodriguez, better known as “K-Rod,” striking out Giant batters as if they were Little Leaguers.
Seldom does a rookie emerge in the post season and find the level of success as K-Rod.
The last great young rookie to play so well in the World Series was Andrew Jones in the 1996 World Series.
The 19-year-old Jones belted two home runs in his first two World Series at bats against the Yankees.
In the top of the eighth inning of game seven, when K-Rod was pitching so well, the main question on everyone’s mind was should Angel’s manager leave K-Rod in for the ninth, or take him out in favor of Troy Percival?
The smart baseball decision would be to stick with K-Rod, but that also would have been a heartless decision.
Percival is one of the original Angels in this group of players that found success with the team in the early 1990’s and has remained an Angel ever since. For him not to be on the mound in the top of the ninth for the Angels World Series victory would not have been right. Mike Scioscia made the right decision.
Yet, was John MacNamara right for wanting to leave Bill Buckner in the field to celebrate a would be Red Sox World Series victory against the Mets? Scioscia’s and MacNamara’s thinking here was the same.
The 2002 World Series will also be remembered for the play at home plate involving J.T. Snow and Dusty Baker’s three-year-old son. For Darin Erstad’s two great diving catchers in centerfield. For David Eckstein’s Billy Martin-esque style of play. For Adam Kennedy’s three homer game to elevate the Angels into the World Series.
Finally, there were two great quotes by Troy Percival. First, after giving up a 485+ foot home run to Bonds in the Angels 11-10 victory in Game 2, Percival said that since at the time the Angels were up 11-9, he wanted to serve one up to Bonds to see how far he could really hit it. Of course, he was joking.
Percival’s other quote had more meaning. Not five minutes after game seven was finished, Steve Lyons asked Percival in front of a live Fox Sports audience how it felt to win the Series.
Percival replied that this Angels victory was not just his and his current teammates victory, but also a victory for guys like Chuck Finely and Gary Disarcina, who played in the Angels organization for years, only recently leaving the club.
One can imagine how special those words were to Discarina and his family who were watching the interview live from the Disarcina family house in Sandwich, Massachusetts.
The Angels have come a long way. In 1961, Ty Cobb threw out the honorary first ball for the new Angels expansion team. Just a few months later, Cobb was dead.
The Angels suffered many hard losses over the years, not just at the hands of the Red Sox in 1986 and the Mariners in 1995, but also with two tragic deaths.
Lyman Bostock, an All-Star in the late 1970’s, was murdered in his prime and Donnie Moore, a relief pitcher in the 1980’s, shot himself.
It was unfortunate that Gene Autry died just short of seeing his beloved franchise win the World Series.
Congratulations to the 2002 World Champion Anaheim Angels. And for the “Singing Cowboy,” Gene Autry, we bid you “Happy Trails.”