After an incredibly emotional come-from-behind victory of historic proportions in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series – one which saw the Anaheim Angels force a deciding Game 7 at Edison Field – the home team had every ounce of momentum on its side.
The Angels entered the bottom of the third inning tied, 1-1, with the San Francisco Giants. Though the scoreboard said it was clearly not make or break time, the guts of 44, 598 fans in the stadium and millions more watching on television said otherwise. Every pitch delivered in the World Series seems to hold the collective fate of everyone with a rooting interest.
David Eckstein led off the third with a single to left field off of Giants starter Livan Hernandez, who won Game 7 of the 1997 World Series for the Florida Marlins. Darin Erstad followed with a single of his own to left in front of Tim Salmon, who was hit by a Hernandez off-speed pitch, loading the bases for team MVP Garret Anderson.
Anderson, who finished fourth in American League MVP voting in 2002, had a remarkable season, finishing with a .306 batting average, 29 home runs and 123 RBI. But his World Series performance had been a modest one entering his second at-bat of Game 7.
The stage had been set for Anderson, who needed to just put the ball in play to give his team a lead. He did two better, driving a Hernandez high fastball down the right field line and into the corner. Eckstein, Erstad and Salmon all scored on the double, giving the Angels a 4-1 lead.
Anderson had cleared the bases! Arguably the greatest Angel, GA had collected his greatest moment.
The Angels would not score another run in the 2002 season. But three rookie pitchers and their outstanding closer made sure they didn’t need to.