Game Six: Back in the Saddle Again

It’s tough enough to have a great career, even tougher to have two. Actors really have a problem with it. What do you do after standing on a sound stage and being called “the greatest who ever was” then finding your career over? Well, if you’re Ronald Reagan you go into politics. If you’re Gene Autry you buy a baseball team and try to get it to the World Series. His team managed that in 2002.

Gene Autry, Angels owner

2002 

Back when baseball first expanded in 1961, old-time singing cowboy Gene Autry, with hits like “Back in the Saddle Again” and “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer,” took interest and bought the team in Los Angeles. Over the years the location name changed, but the team nickname remained the Angels. Apparently he was a heck of an owner, loved by both fans and the players. He died before the 2002 World Series, but the mantra for many of the players was “win one for the cowboy.” By game six on 26 October, the Angels were on the verge of losing one for the cowboy. Down three games to two they were back home against the San Francisco Giants. Fourteen game winner Kevin Appier and a batting order that had only two .300 hitters and only two players with 25 or more home runs were tasked with keeping the Angels alive for game seven.

Four innings in neither team had scored, then the Giants exploded for three runs in the fifth, chasing Appier on a two run homer. Reliever Francisco Rodriguez threw a wild pitch bringing home the third run. They picked up another run in the sixth on a Barry Bonds homer. They got one last run in the seventh on two singles and a stolen base. Nine outs from closing out the World Series, San Francisco led 5-0.

With one out (now eight outs to go) Troy Glaus singled. Then with a second runner on, first baseman Scott Spiezio hit a three run shot to cut the Giants lead to 5-3. San Francisco got out of the inning with no more damage, got a lead off walk in the top of the eighth, then three consecutive outs brought the Angels back to bat. Now six outs from wrapping up their first World Series victory since moving to San Francisco in 1958, the Giants faced center fielder Darin Erstad. He homered to cut the lead to 5-4, then two singles and a Bonds error put runners on second and third, bringing up Glaus again. He ripped a double scoring both runners and putting the Angels ahead 6-5. That ended the Angels scoring and the Giants went in order in the ninth. That set up game seven, which the Giants lost 4-1 after taking a 1-0 lead. Glaus was the MVP and the cowboy had won.

The Series may be most famous for the “Rally Monkey” and the thundersticks, but it was, at the time, portrayed as something of a morality play. You had the good guys, they were called the “Angels” for God’s sake, versus the bad guys, reasonably enough called the “Giants” (generally the bad guys in most mythology).  The Angels had tiny David Eckstein, the Giants had big, bad, ugly, evil Barry Bonds with his bloated head and steroid-induced (at least according to some) power. It was easy to root for the Angels and tough to root for San Francisco. In best morality play justice, the good guys won.

This is the final installment of my look at game six of the World Series. I still want to look at a couple of the LCS games of note. Great games aren’t confined to the World Series and I want to feature some of those also.

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