When the fly ball San Francisco Giants centerfielder Kenny Lofton sent arcing into the outfield landed in Darin Erstad’s glove Sunday night and the Anaheim Angels won the World Series for the first time in their 42-year history, the applause in Edison Field was thunderous. Disney, Anaheim’s owner, couldn’t have written a better Cinderella story: despite baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s naysaying, despite the lack of big names on their roster and despite their relatively untried pitching staff, the Angels triumphed in seven games.
This year, for the first time in the history of the World Series, two wildcard teams went head to head. The Giants and the Angels, both small-market franchises, represent a triumph of talent and teamwork over the bloated payrolls that have been the hallmark of World Series teams in recent years. Even if game seven had gone the other way—if Barry Bonds (the preeminent hitter of his time, whatever one thinks of his personal deportment) had finally won a ring—this World Series would have had a feel-good finish. And of course, any year in which the Yankees do not continue their World Series reign of terror is a good year in Boston.
But it would be unfortunate if it was an absence of anti-Yankee vitriol that caused fewer people to watch the World Series this year. It’s true that the games, played three time zones away on the other coast, could seem remote to anyone who does not live in California. But the contests were marked by moments of clutch hitting, including the double Angels cleanup hitter Garret Anderson belted to right field in game seven, and of high human drama, as when J. T. Snow deftly scooped Giants manager Dusty Baker’s three-year-old son from danger at home plate in game five. This World Series may not have been as riveting as last year’s, but it certainly wasn’t boring enough to explain the 25 percent dip in television ratings that Fox reported.
While the Angels’ fate next year will probably depend on their pitching, we hope on behalf of fans everywhere for a 2003 baseball season as full of reversals and triumphant underdogs as this one has been. In the words of singing movie cowboy Gene Autry, the late vice president of the American League and longtime owner of the Angels, “We never dream the same dream twice.