This was, after all, the Fall Classic of 2002, a palindrome of a World Series in which it was impossible to tell backward from forward. It will be 110 seasons before another numerically reversible year occurs, and perhaps even longer than that before another team wins with the tenacity that Anaheim did. "As long as we have an out," Erstad said, "we have a chance." The Angels won a world championship after trailing in all three of their postseason series and after trailing in six of the seven World Series games.
The Angels won the first championship in their 42-year history by overcoming San Francisco's otherworldly leftfielder, Barry Bonds, who achieved more with fewer swings than anyone else in World Series history. No one has ever reached base more times (21), drawn more walks (13) or prompted more intentional walks (7). Bonds's on-base (.700) and slugging percentages (1.294) were the highest for any player in a Series other than four-game sweeps. No statistics were available, however, for the amount of mental energy he sapped from the Angels.
"He wore me out, so I can't imagine what it was like for the pitchers," Anaheim pitching coach Bud Black said. "I was thinking two innings ahead all the time with him, anticipating his spot in the lineup and hoping we'd get guys out ahead of him. It just so happened that most of the time we got him up with nobody on base, or it was early in the game if there was."
Bonds came to bat 11 times with runners on, but only once after the fifth inning. (He was 2 for 4 in those spots, plus the seven intentional walks.) The Angels threw him 112 pitches—73 balls and 39 strikes. He swung the bat only 25 times in 30 plate appearances, resulting in four fouls, seven misses and 14 balls in play. He ripped eight hits among those 14 balls he put into play, including four home runs of at least 418 feet. "I didn't realize how good he is," Angels bench coach Joe Maddon said. "He squares up the ball every time he swings the bat. This guy is different than everybody else."
"He changes the way the game is played," Giants assistant general manager Ned Colletti said. "Basically, it's the equivalent of triple-teaming Michael Jordan. Whatever questions people had about him in the postseason, he put them all to rest."
But Bonds and the Giants lost the Series because they could not hold off the Angels any more than a small stack of sandbags can repel raging floodwaters. "Give credit to the Angels," San Francisco G.M. Brian Sabean said after Game 7. "It was their time. You can't kill them. They're like the three-headed hydra: You get one and there's still more coming at you. They always had something percolating. They take every at bat like it's their last."
"I hope," Erstad said, "there were kids watching with their fathers, and their fathers told them, 'Watch the way that team plays' It's refreshing to see that. One reason we were such a great rally team was that we were all on the same page. That's very rare in professional sports."
Said Maddon, "These guys play the game the way that Abner Doubleday wrote it up."
Doubleday was never this mischievous. Anaheim, after all, returned home for the weekend down three games to two after two straight bizarre losses in San Francisco. In Game 4 the Giants trailed 3-0 in the fifth inning against rookie John Lackey when pitcher Kirk Rueter and centerfielder Kenny Lofton reached base on singles that traveled a total of about 75 feet. Rueter topped a ball in front of home plate that snaked away from Lackey with backspin, and Lofton dropped a double-breaker of a bunt that crossed from fair to foul territory and—just as third baseman Troy Glaus grabbed it with his bare hand—back to fair when it touched the white foul line.
It was the first rally in World Series history that could have been measured with a yardstick. This wasn't just little ball, it was Putt-Putt ball. You half expected the hits by Rueter and Lofton to go through a mini windmill or a clown's mouth. But they started a three-run rally that tied the game, and San Francisco went ahead 4-3 in the eighth on an RBI single by David Bell.