Monday, October 1, 2012

2002 World Series: Of Monkeys and Angels

The Teams
American League: Anaheim Angels (99-63) - First World Series
National League: San Francisco Giants (95-66) - Third World Series

What Happened
It was the seventh inning stretch of Game 6, and the Giants were up 5-0. Russ Ortiz threw his final warmup pitches, ready to go for the bottom of the seventh, his team nine outs from their first World Series title since moving west from New York in 1958. The Anaheim crowd was mostly sitting on their hands, stunned, accepting of their team's fate. It looked like the Angels' magical run through the postseason was over.

And then it happened. On the big center field scoreboard, there appeared a monkey. She was jumping up and down as the words "Rally Time" flashed above her. It was cute, but something you'd expect at a low-level minor league game. And the crowd went nuts.

That's the thing with lucky charms. By themselves, they don't bring luck. They don't have magical powers allowing would-be fly balls to drift over the outfield wall, allowing screaming liners to drift just low enough to land right in a fielder's glove. Their success or failure is entirely random. But what lucky charms can provide is something that can't be measured. If enough people believe that something is lucky, it doesn't have to be true. Baseball is among the most mental of sports, for both the participants and the fans, so a stadium-wide belief in a recording of a jumping monkey can be surprisingly powerful.

For the Angels, the Rally Monkey was all powerful. Several times in 2002, they had overcome a late-game deficit immediately after the Rally Monkey showed up on the scoreboard, and so the fans believed in him. And sitting in their dugout, hearing their fans going nuts and urging them on, the Angels must have started to believe in themselves.

Up to that point late in Game 6, the Angels had lost all momentum in the series. After splitting the first two games at home - including a mind-numbing 11-10 win in Game 2, the Angels had pounded the Giants 10-4 in Game 3. But then the Giants took over, scoring the final four runs in a 4-3 Game 4 win, eviscerating the Angels 16-4 in Game 5, then taking a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh here in Game 6. The Giants had all the momentum, until that damn monkey took it away.

Garrett Anderson started the inning by grounding out. That didn't quiet down the fans. The Rally Monkey had never let them down before, after all. Two straight singles came next, making the crowd yell even louder and sending Ortiz to the showers. Felix Rodriguez came in to face Scott Spiezio, and after an eight-pitch at bat, Spiezio belted a home run to make it 5-3. The Giants got out of the seventh, but the Rally Monkey wasn't done. Darin Erstad led off the eighth with a home run. After two more singles, the Giants brought in closer Robb Nen. The first batter he faced, Troy Glaus, blasted a double. Two runs scored. The Angels were ahead. The Rally Monkey had done his job.

The Angels got through the ninth without having to face Barry Bonds, who was in his unstoppable prime, and the series went to Game 7. And after the drama of Game 6, Game 7 was a bit anticlimatic. John Lackey and three relievers held Bonds to just a single and the Giants to just one run on six hits. The Angles took a 4-1 lead after three innings, then shut the door, taking that lead into the ninth inning. The Giants got two runners on base in the ninth, but could get no further, and the Angels and their magical monkey won their first World Championship.

If there was ever a series where a player from the losing team deserved to win the MVP, it was this one. No hitter in baseball history was as feared as Barry Bonds in 2002, and with good reason. Against the Angels, he batted .471 with four home runs and eight runs scored, all despite being walked a mind-numbing 13 times in seven games. But, the writers will likely never again vote someone from the losing team as MVP, so Troy Glaus got the award. His 10 hits and 8 runs batted in were highs for the series, and he got the hits that put the Angels ahead for good in both Games 3 and 6.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

San Francisco410 441651
Anaheim 31110346 4

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

21. 2002 - Anaheim (A) def. San Francisco (N) 4-3
22. 1980 - Philadelphia (N) def. Kansas City (A) 4-2
23. 1911 - Philadelphia (A) def. New York (N) 4-2
24. 1915 - Boston (A) def. Philadelphia (N) 4-1
25. 1971 - Pittsburgh (N) def. Baltimore (A) 4-3
26. 1918 - Boston (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-2
27. 1988 - Los Angeles (N) def. Oakland (A) 4-1
28. 1946 - St. Louis (N) def. Boston (A) 4-3
29. 1925 - Pittsburgh (N) def. Washington (A) 4-3
Numbers 30-39
Numbers 40-49
Numbers 50-59
Numbers 60-69
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

Game 7s
Simultaneously, I'll rank all the Game 7s. The ones that have appeared in my countdown so far:

7. 1946: St. Louis (N) 4, Boston (A) 3
9. 1925: Pittsburgh 9, Washington 7
12. 1979: Pittsburgh 4, Baltimore 1
13. 1955: Brooklyn 2, New York (A) 0
15. 1971: Pittsburgh 2, Baltimore 1
16. 1940: Cincinnati 2, Detroit 1
18. 1987: Minnesota 4, St. Louis 2
19. 1958: New York 6, Milwaukee 2
21. 1968: Detroit 4, St. Louis 1
22. 1931: St. Louis (N) 4, Philadelphia (A) 2
24. 2002: Anaheim 4, San Francisco 1
26. 1982: St. Louis 6, Milwaukee 3
28. 1965: Los Angeles (A) 2, Minnesota 0
29. 1964: St. Louis 7, New York (A) 5
30. 1957: Milwaukee 5, New York (A) 0
31. 1967: St. Louis 7, Boston 2
32. 1945: Detroit 9, Chicago (N) 3
33. 1909: Pittsburgh 8, Detroit 0
34. 1934: St. Louis (N) 11, Detroit 0 
36. 1985: Kansas City 11, St. Louis 0

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