The year began with the Angels finally getting rid of their embarrassing “periwinkle” Disney jerseys after five years, reverting to uniforms conforming more to the team’s traditional uniforms. The only difference was that the uniforms became mostly red, with a bit of navy blue trim. One huge significant change was the Angels’ road jerseys. They now read “Anaheim”, the first time the team’s geographic location had been noted on its uniforms since 1965.
It was Mike Scioscia’s third season as manager of the Halos. He led the Halos to an 82-80 finish in 2000. However the team finished in 3rd place (out of four teams) in the AL West. In 2001, Scioscia led the Halos to a 75-87 record and again finished in third. Attendance was just over two million (2,000,919), so 2002 would be the year for Scioscia to prove himself.
2002 Regular Season
Scioscia’s team started off rough. The Halos had a 6-14 April and most people expected the Angels to have another disappointing season. Yet one game turned the season around. After losing the first two games to Seattle on the road, the Angels built a 7-0 lead and eventually held on by winning, 10-6. Jarrod Washburn (the Halos ace) pitched a strong game going 6.2 innings and giving up three runs. Although it wasn’t a save situation, Scioscia brought in Troy Percival in the ninth inning to make sure that the Halos preserved the win. That started an 8-game winning streak that got the Halos back to .500 on May 3 at 14-14. But the Angels weren’t done. Once they finally reached .500 on May 9 after Aaron Sele beat the Detroit Tigers at home, that propelled a seven-game winning streak that led to a 19-7 record in May. But the peak of the season is when the Halos went on a 10-game winning streak from August 29 through September 8. They beat up on the Tampa Devil Rays (four wins) and Baltimore Orioles (six wins) and outscored both of them 71-19 during that stretch.
The Angels were red hot but the Oakland A’s Moneyball team was white hot as they set a franchise record with a 20-game winning streak that ended on September 6. The A’s wound up winning the AL West division with a 103-59 record. On the other hand, the Angels were an excellent Wild Card team, finishing four games behind the A’s at 99-63.
2002 American League Division Series
In Game 1, the Angels were ahead 5-4 going into the bottom of the 8th before Ben Weber, Scott Schoeneweis, and Brendan Donnelly eventually gave up the lead. Donnelly surrendered a three-run homer to Bernie Williams to put the Yankees up, 8–5. Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless top of the ninth for the save and give the Yankees a 1–0 series lead.
The Angels relied on the power of Salmon, Spiezio, Anderson, and Glaus (all of them homering) to win Game 2 in New York, 8-6 to split the first two games in the Big Apple.
The Angels then won Game 3 despite a poor start by Ramon Ortiz. Spiezio’s 2-out RBI single in the 8th tied the game while doubles by Kennedy and Erstad put the Angels ahead, 8-6. Salmon capped it off with a solo home run after earlier hitting a double that cut the lead to 6-3. Adam Kennedy also homered to lead the Halos to a 9-6 win in Anaheim. Rodriguez and Percival shut the door to give the Angels a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
In Game 4, The Angels used an 8-run fifth inning on five consecutive 1-out singles to help the Halos close out the series at home against the Yankees three games to one. The final score in Game 4 was 9-5.
Meanwhile, the A’s run ended in the playoffs as they got defeated by the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series in five games. Who knows what would have happened if the A’s had continued their buzzsaw and didn’t have a disappointing first round exit?
2002 American League Championship Series
The Angels faced the Twins in the American League Championship Series. Kevin Appier pitched well but lost a nail biter in Game 1, 2-1. However, the Halos dominated them after that and beat them in five games in a best-of-seven series. Rodriguez picked up a couple of wins along the way in Game 3 and Game 5 while John Lackey got the win in Game 4. Percival got saves in Games 2 and 3. But on every World Championship team, an unlikely hero pops up and Adam Kennedy was that guy. He hit three home runs in Game 5, which you can see in this video. The Angels demolished the Twins 13-5, and would move onto the World Series to play Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants.
2002 World Series
After the Giants took a 3 games to 2 lead by throttling the Angels in Game 4, the World Series looked like it was over after San Francisco lead 5–0 with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Giants were eight outs away from the Giants’ first World Series title since moving to San Francisco in 1958. Giants manager Dusty Baker pulled starting pitcher Russ Ortiz for setup man Félix Rodríguez after Ortiz gave up consecutive singles to third baseman Troy Glaus and designated hitter Brad Fullmer. Angels first baseman Scott Spiezio hit a huge three-run home run (that barely cleared the wall) that got the Halos back in the game. This home run turned the game around and you can see it here. The rally continued in the eighth inning, as Angels center fielder Darin Erstad hit a leadoff line-drive home run, followed by consecutive singles by Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson. Glaus plated Figgins and Salmon with a double after Bonds misplayed a ball in left field earlier in the inning. In the ninth inning, Percival retired the side in order. The comeback from a five-run deficit was the largest in World Series history for an elimination game.
The Angels became World Champions by winning Game 7 thanks to Garret Anderson’s three-run double in the 3rd inning to give the Halos a 4-1 lead. That lead held up and there was no more scoring after that. Percival got the final out with Erstad camping under the ball in centerfield and Bonds looking on from the dugout. The Anaheim Angels became the champions despite losing Game 1 in every round of the playoffs that season. There was a parade at Disneyland soon the next day after the Angels broke their 42-year championship drought.
What Made This Team So Good?
First, the chemistry was amazing. Players like Tim Salmon, Darin Erstad, David Eckstein, Bengie Molina, and Garrett Anderson were all proven leaders and great clubhouse guys. They all got along and they all competed at a high level. They worked hard like blue collar ballplayers and had the baseball intelligence of white collar players.
Secondly, The Angels played small ball. They were 4th in the American League in stolen bases, 1st in batting average, 4th in on base percentage. The Angels had a few power hitters: Troy Glaus (30 home runs) Garrett Anderson (29 HR), Tim Salmon (22 HR), and Brad Fullmer (19). But they relied on getting them on, getting them over, and getting them in. They relied on the speed and grit of Darin Erstad (23 stolen bases), David Eckstein (21 SB), and Adam Kennedy (17 SB). Even Fullmer and Glaus had 10 stolen bases each. Many fans (including myself) later criticized manager Mike Scioscia for ditching his small ball approach that got him his first and only championship. On top of all that, eight players had 50 or more runs batted in: Anderson (123), Glaus (111), Salmon (88), Scott Spiezio (82), Erstad (73), Fullmer (59), and Kennedy (52).
Their final strength and maybe their most important one was their bullpen. Troy Percival was an elite closer. He went 4-1 with a 1.92 ERA and had 40 saves. His set-up men were almost as good. Brendan Donnelly had a 2.17 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 49.2 innings (46 games). Ben Weber pitched in 63 games and went 7-2 with a 2.54 ERA. The Halos also used their secret weapon (Francisco Rodriguez), who was brought up late in September and won five games in the postseason. This was despite him not winning any games in his brief regular season career.
What Was Lacking On This Team?
Their starting pitching wasn’t amazing, but it did enough. As a team, the Angels walked 509 while the league average was 521. They struck out 999 while the league average was 1,001. They gave up 169 home runs, which was just below the league average of 176. Their team ERA was 3.69 (second best in the AL). You can give credit to their bullpen for that. The league average for ERA was 4.46. Jarrod Washburn was their number one starter who went 18-6 with a 3.15 ERA (excellent), Ramon Ortiz went 15-9 with 3.77 ERA (good), Kevin Appier was 14-12 with a 3.92 ERA (just above average), Aaron Sele was 8-9 with a robust 4.89 ERA (below average), and John Lackey was in his rookie season. He finished with a 9-4 record and a 3.66 ERA (good).
How Did This Championship Affect Me As a Die Hard Fan?
I have been an Angels fan since I was 10 years old. My grandmother got me really interested in the Angels when the Halos were in the American League Championship Series against the dreaded Boston Red Sox. I still remember when Dave Henderson hit the infamous home run off of Donnie Moore with the Angels one strike away from going to the 1986 World Series. That’s still a painful memory even today, especially when you realize that Moore later committed suicide because of this disappointing ending.
Fast forward to 2002. I was on my way to a party listening to the Giants take a 5-0 lead in Game 6 and I turned off the radio as I was driving to the party. When I arrived at the party, my coworker who hosted the party said that the Angels got back into the game and the score was 5-3. I watched the rest of Game 6 and was in disbelief when Glaus hit the two-run double to give them the lead for good. Once they won that game, I was confident that the Halos would pull out Game 7.
As mentioned earlier, I followed the Halos (and still do) through thick and thin because of my grandmother. I still remember being on the couch next to her watching Game 7 when Erstad made the final catch. We couldn’t believe it and I was so happy that my grandma could finally see one Angels championship before she passed away.
But not only did it affect me as a fan. It affected the whole Angels fan base from Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County, and even some Angels fans in San Diego County. The Angels attendance has consistently been over 3,000,000 for the past 15 seasons. The 2002 Angels brought genuine hope to Angels fans that we will once again be back in the October Classic.
Featured Image: Lineupforms.com
Source(s): Baseball Reference