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Fans go 'Gonzo' over D'Backs' title

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Posted: Saturday September 25, 1999 01:01 PM

  Randy Johnson Big Wet Unit: Randy Johnson celebrates with his Arizona teammates after winning the NL West division. AP

PHOENIX (AP) -- In a city where just about everyone seems to be from somewhere else, the fever finally is rising for Arizona's newest home team.

Fans gathered in sports bars across the Valley of the Sun on Friday night to watch as the Diamondbacks clinched the NL West title with an 11-3 victory over the Giants in San Francisco.

Cheers and chants mixed with booze and high-fives at Jackson's on Third, a popular sports bar just one block from Bank One Ballpark.

"Randy! Randy! Randy!" they chanted for Randy Johnson.

"Gonzo! Gonzo! Gonzo!" they cheered as a champagne-drenched Luis Gonzalez showed up on the screen.

They hollered "We want the Braves!" over and over again, a heady challenge to the perennial NL powers from Atlanta.

"Awesome, absolutely thrilling, wonderful," said Gina Mallory, 44, of Tempe, whose eyes never left the screen for every pitch of Friday night's game. "I used to live in St. Louis and I was a Cardinals fan for years, but this is awesome."

Much has been made of how there hasn't seemed to be a frenzy for the Diamondbacks, who became the first baseball team to clinch a playoff berth in just its second season.

But there have been recent signs that the support is growing.

In downtown, the Bank One Tower had office lights on to signify the magic number of Arizona wins or San Francisco losses needed to clinch the crown.

A big white "one" shone across the desert sky Friday night as the game began.

As the game wore on, and Arizona's lead grew, fans cheered ever more loudly, when Kelly Stinnett and Tony Womack homered, when Giants' third baseman Bill Mueller threw the ball away twice, and when Randy Johnson did just about anything.

"We are sooooo good," said Carl Mosher, 21, of Phoenix, sharing several pitchers of beer with his buddies.

The crowd cheered loudest when, in the ninth inning, the camera switched to the Arizona clubhouse for a closeup of the champagne on ice.

"I don't think people around the country are taking us seriously," said Robert Viether, 25, of Phoenix, who wore a Diamondbacks jersey with Brian Anderson's No. 34. "The farther we go in the playoffs, the more seriously they'll take us."

Wearing a purple team jersey and matching hat, Darryl Brown, 34, of Phoenix, said he has been a Diamondbacks fan from the start, a whole two years ago, and he rooted for the team that lost 97 games last year.

This year, he's not sure how far the Diamondbacks can go. For now, this is far enough.

"I think Atlanta can beat us," he said, "and Cincinnati has owned us. Just getting to the playoffs in the second year, that's history. No matter how we do in the playoffs, nobody can take that from us."

The Diamondbacks scheduled a celebration Sunday night at Bank One Ballpark Plaza. The team is to make an appearance at the event when they arrive back from San Francisco, the Diamondbacks said in a news release issued late Friday night.


 
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