Posts Tagged ‘David Eckstein’

Game Six: Back in the Saddle Again

August 15, 2011

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.

End of a Decade

December 31, 2009

Today marks the end of the decade whose first three numbers are 200. A lot of people are doing their all-decade this and that. Who am I to go against the tide? So here’s my choice for baseball’s all-decade whatever.

Story of the decade: Has to be the steroid issue. It has tainted the statistics, the record book, awards, and the Hall of Fame voting. Frankly I don’t trust much of anything that happened in the first few years of the decade.

Franchise of the decade: I was tempted to go with the Yankees, who won 2 World Series’ and lost another, but finally decided to go with the Red Sox. They won 2 World Series’, completed an improbable comeback in 2004, and in general took a franchise that hadn’t won in 80 years and picked up multiple rings.

Player of the decade: Albert Pujols easy. No steroid taint (at least not yet, PLEASE GOD), great numbers, a ring, and one of the greatest home runs I ever saw (sorry, Brad Lidge). An honorable mention here to Joe Mauer who may end up the greatest hitting catcher ever. We’ll have to watch that closely.

Pitcher of the decade: Mariano Rivera. What he did in the late 90’s he’s continued to do for this decade. His team didn’t win as often, but as a rule that wasn’t his fault. An honorable mention here also is in order. This time to Curt Schilling. Better pitchers in the decade, but his influence on the winning Red Sox should be noted (and he had a heck of a 2001 World Series).

World Series of the decade: Speaking of the 2001 World Series, it gets my vote as the best of the decade. Several great games including the three in New York and a memorable game 7. One of the few times Rivera failed.

Playoff series of the decade: 2004 American League championship. Down 3 games to none, the Red Sox roar back to win the series 4 games to three. That had never happened before. What a great series and what a great showcase for David Ortiz.

Cinderella of the decade: 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. Came out of absolutely no where to get to the World Series. Would have been a better story if they’d won, but still a nice tale for the grandchildren years from now.

Bonehead of the decade: The tied All Star game. YUCK!!! Then they compound it by making an exhibition game determine home field for the World Series. Incredible.

Footnote player of the decade: Wasn’t sure what to call this, but it’s basically a hymn to those players you love to watch, but know aren’t really going to be anything but a footnote in baseball history. For me it’s David Eckstein. Love the guy’s intensity, his grit, his resolve. His winning the MVP for the 2006 World Series was an all-decade highlight for me.

Hall of Fame vote of the decade: Putting in a whole boatload of Negro League players at once. Great of baseball to finally recognize the depth of quality play in the Negro Leagues beyond just the most famous names and to finally recognize the executives that made the Negro Leagues work. It also gave the Hall of Fame its first female member in Effa Manley.

Manager of the decade: Terry Francona who wins 2 World Series’.