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 California Dreamin': The 2002 World Series

Well, who would have thought, going into the playoffs, that two wild card teams would make it to the World Series? Talk about your Cinderella stories.

Perhaps no other team in the league started as low as the Anaheim Angels. Starting as far back as 1989, the Angels seemed cursed. That was the summer reliever Donnie Moore committed suicide when he couldn’t recover from surrendering the deciding run back in the 1986 ALCS game 5. (So maybe the bad luck started in 1986?) Depressed and drinking, Moore blamed himself for the Angels’ series loss to Boston three years earlier and decided to end it all.

Of course, the 1998 death of their beloved team owner, the singing cowboy Gene Autry, knocked the Angels down once again. Autry had bought the expansion franchise in 1960 and had been its only owner for thirty-eight years. He never did get to see his baby play in the World Series. When Jackie, his widow, presented the ALCS trophy to Scioscia after last week’s victory over the Minnesota Twins, the manager said, “We’ve had a lot of Angels looking down on us. This one’s for Mr. Autry.”

So is that the key to the turn around? Autry and Moore are on the other side now and have a little pull with you know who?

Or could it be the addition of Scioscia himself? Formally in Dodger blue, Scioscia came to the Angels with a calm resolve and a steadfast idea about team support. Instead of allowing his players to panic and play the blame game after their horrendous season start, the manager taught his players to pick each other up and pull the best from one another.

Or could the key to the turn around be that furry little friend: the rally monkey? Apparently, about two years ago, two guys on the video crew at Edison Field put a monkey clip from the film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective on the JumboTron. They flashed the words “rally monkey” with the hopping image…and a tradition began.

Players credit the rally monkey and the accompanying fan enthusiasm with a lot of their success. David Eckstein said, “The monkey has been great for us. We wait until he comes out I guess.”

Whatever the secret to Angel success is…I wish I knew. I’d bottle it and sell it on the street. (Could it be those deafening thunder sticks?)

As for the San Francisco Giants? They couldn’t catch the defending World Series champs, the Arizona Diamondbacks, during the regular season in the NL West and haven’t won it all since 1954, but the slick fielding of J.T. Snow, the clutch hitting of Barry Bonds, Benito Santiago, and Rich Aurilia compounded by the hard throwing of Jason Schmidt and Russ Ortiz has them knocking on the Angels’ door.

So it’s an all-California World Series, a runoff of runner-ups, underdog meets underdog, second place is first at last. And who will win this unprecedented match-up?

Anaheim in six. You just can’t underestimate the power of a rally monkey.

October 2002

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