|Sunday, October 20
Updated: October 23, 3:41 PM ET
Welcome to the game of the wild and wacky
By Jayson Stark
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Some day, we'll know what to make of what happened Sunday night at Edison Field, in a World Series game that lasted longer than "Push, Nevada."
It was part World Series classic, part tee-ball game. It was a night when 18 hitters on both sides thought they were Babe Ruth. It was a night when a 20-year-old pitcher in an Angels shirt thought he was Pedro Martinez.
The winning pitcher was named F. Rodriguez (Francisco). The losing pitcher was named F. Rodriguez (Felix). The home-plate umpire was named Angel (Hernandez). The team that won was named the Angels. So no wonder this was so confusing.
And somewhere in there, John Belushi met the Rally Monkey, George Brett caught a foul ball, and a 220-pound weightlifter stole home. A Stealth bomber roared overhead, a Barry Bonds home run was last seen chasing that Stealth bomber, and the man who hit the game-winning homer was so euphoric, his teammates were hiding in the dugout for fear he'd try to high-five them.
Yeah, it was just another night at the wild and crazy 2002 World Series. Except it was a night unlike just about any night at any World Series.
The winning team blew a five-run lead. The losing team scored 10 runs. It ended Angels 11, Giants 10. And it felt like 111-110. "It was like a heavyweight title fight or something," said the hero du jour, Tim Salmon, after his eighth-inning homer had evened the Series at a win apiece. "We knocked them down. Then they knocked us down. Then we knocked them down. I was thinking, 'I wonder who will be standing at the end?' "
It took three minutes short of four hours to play. Eleven pitchers had to throw 308 pitches to get it over with. There were more runs scored in the first five innings (16) than were scored in the entire 1966 World Series (15). There were as many hits (28) in one night as the Giants got in the whole World Series the last time they played in it (1989).
One of the managers called it "one of the best games I've ever been in." And that was the losing manager (Dusty Baker). So you know this game was quite a spectacle -- even if it did last long enough that both teams could have flown back and forth to San Francisco three times in the span it took them to play nine innings.
"It doesn't matter to me how long it took," said Darin Erstad. "I'm in a different world when I play in these games. It can take 15 hours. I don't care. What else am I gonna do? This is what I've wanted to do since I was a little kid -- play in the World Series. So time, to me, means nothing."
Of course, time, to spectators, means either sleep they'll never get or innings they'll never watch. But this was one of those nights where many people got to use the word, "dream," in very different contexts.
Like Tim Salmon, for instance.
We don't know how many people in the Eastern time zone had nodded off into dream land by the time Salmon traveled into a very different kind of dream land Sunday night. But if they did, they missed the sort of home run you'd have had a way better chance of seeing up the road in Hollywood than off the Anaheim exit of the San Diego Freeway until October, 2002 came around.
We couldn't possibly recap all the stuff that led up to this home run. But any time a team takes a 5-0 lead in the first inning of a World Series game and then finds itself two runs behind by the fifth, that's some kind of mess.
In the sixth, though, the Angels were able to beam in the human run shield, 20-year-old reliever Francisco Rodriguez, to stop the avalanche. Which gave the Angels time to catch up. And brought us to the dramatic eighth-inning duel between Salmon and Felix Rodriguez.
Here's your scene: Two outs. Go-ahead run on first. Score tied at 9-9. Rally Monkey hopping. ThunderStix clattering. Angels history one pitch away. Rodriguez launched a 93-mile-an-hour fastball down the middle of the plate. Salmon splattered it into the Angels' bullpen for a magical two-run home run. And this was a moment unlike any other moment in the 42-season history of this accursed franchise -- because it proved it really was possible for even the Anaheim Angels to win a World Series game. Who knew?
"It's something you dream about," said Salmon, after his second homer of the night and fourth of the postseason. "I've been watching guys do this from my sofa for 10 years. So you wonder sometimes what it would be like to be in that situation. You wonder, if a guy gives you a pitch to hit, would you do something like that."
And now he knows: Yes.
It isn't true that Salmon has been an Angel since the days of Leon Wagner, Dean Chance and Bo Belinsky. But it is true that he's been an Angel so long that until three weeks ago, no player in the major leagues had played more regular-season games (1,388) without ever appearing in a postseason game. And who knew if he would ever play in one? He's an Angel.
But it's a good thing he played in this one. Or else they might still be playing, with the score tied at 24-24 in the 83rd inning, with Jackie Autry pitching against Tony Bennett.
So you can understand why he was traveling around those bases in such an ebullient state when that baseball roared over the fence. The ball may have come back to earth, but it might be a month or three before Tim Salmon does.
"I don't even know what I did out there," Salmon said. "I knew it was out, and I knew it was big, and I knew the timing was big. ... So basically, you float around the bases after something like that. And you think, 'Did I even touch second base?' You come back to the dugout and say, 'I hope I hit first.' "
Well, he hit them all, if you're curious. But all his teammates knew was that he was coming back to the dugout -- and it was time to run for cover.
"He's dangerous," said Scott Spiezio. "You've got to watch your hands when he comes in and starts slapping everybody. He's a happy guy, and here he comes, and he can hurt people being so friendly. It's like playing with a bear. The bear might be kidding around and playing. But he can still kill you even if he's joking. That's Salmon."
"I had my hand up," said 5-foot-6 mini-dynamo David Eckstein. "Then I started backing up. He's hit me before. I've learned."
Salmon admits he's noticed some of his teammates trying to hide and duck when he gets rolling. "But that's mostly just the little guys," he claimed. "Give me Spiezio and Fullmer and Erstad -- the big boys. They're not afraid to give me a high-five."
To which Erstad replied: "Oh, I back off. I learned my lesson. He blew my shoulder out one time."
Upon hearing that, Salmon chuckled, "I guess I can't blame them. It's like a mosh pit in there. Not that I've ever been in one. But I guess that's what they're like."
Hey, far be it for us to dispute that. The dugout was a mosh pit. The game was one gigantic offensive mish-mosh. Complete with 21 runs and 28 hits and six home runs. Not to mention the unlikely prospect of Brad Fullmer becoming the first American Leaguer in 68 years (since Hank Greenberg) to steal home in a World Series game.
It was on the back end of a double steal, to be technical. But a steal of home is what it will say in the record books. And Fullmer will take it. Asked if he could recall the last time he stole home, Fullmer replied: "Probably never. But I'm kind of sneaky. I'm like 220 pounds. Nobody expects me to run. So I think I sneak up on them."
Whatever. Some day, he can tell his kids he stole home in the World Series and make it sound like he was Jackie Robinson, racing down the line. But Fullmer shook his head thinking about that scene.
"I'd rather just say," he chuckled, "we won the World Series."
Uh, that's going to take three more wins. But even this win wasn't totally assured after Salmon's home run -- becaust that Bonds guy was due up in the ninth. And Rich Aurilia and Jeff Kent had to bat against Troy Percival before that happened. So if one of them got on, it meant Bonds would represent the tying run. Uh-oh.
But Percival got Aurilia to fly to left and Kent to pop one up. And at that point, you could probably hear him exhaling in Alaska.
"That was my whole plan the whole time I was getting loose," the Angels' trusty closer said. "I've got to bear down on those guys. I've gotta get those guys out."
And since he did, he fired his best 97-mph smoker at Bonds. And Bonds crunched it an estimated 485 feet, practically down a ramp halfway up the right-center field seats.
Even Percival was impressed by that one.
"Of course," he quipped, "I supplied the power there."
But he turned around and induced Benito Santiago to pop up to end it. And one of the nuttiest World Series games of all time was finally over. With the team that thought it would never get here on the winning side of it.
"I can't even put this into words," said Tim Salmon. "Maybe in January."
Well, there was a time Sunday night it looked as if this game might last until January. So no wonder the guy was so happy.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.