Monday, October 21, 2002

Angels' Salmon upstages Bonds

The Associated Press

        ANAHEIM, Calif. — Tim Salmon swung and connected, and suddenly all those years of unrewarded effort were worth it.

        Anaheim had wasted a 5-0 lead and was tied at 9 in the eighth inning. The World Series was slipping away like so many other Angels' games, so many pennant races he had seen since 1992.

        Not this time.

        He wouldn't let it.

        With two outs and one on in the eighth inning Sunday, Salmon sent a pitch from Felix Rodriguez soaring into the night, an electrifying shot into the left-field bullpen at Edison Field.

        It was his second two-run homer of the game, gave him four hits and four RBIs and made him only the 13th player to reach base five times in a World Series win.

        And, after 42 seasons, it gave the Angels their first Series win, 11-10 over the Giants.

        Now they head north to San Francisco, the Series tied at 1.

        “I knew the situation. I knew it was big,” Salmon said. “You had a feeling it was going to come down to something like that, the way both teams were playing. That was something I've been dreaming about for a long time— and watched it being done from my couch. It was unbelievable.”

        San Francisco's Barry Bonds was supposed to be the biggest star. He knew he had been upstaged.

        “It was too much Salmon,” he said. “I hate fish.”

        Salmon was so good he caused Bonds to tell a joke.

        “It was phenomenal,” Bonds said. “He did everything any player could do in one day except steal home.”

        Brad Fullmer did steal home for the Angels, but that's another story.

        Salmon, nicknamed “Kingfish,” personifies this hard-luck team, the years of struggle without satisfaction.

        His 1,388 games had been the most among major leaguers without a postseason appearance. At 34, he is the senior Angel, and a week earlier it was Salmon who ran around the field with the AL championship trophy like a crazed kid.

        The 1992 AL Rookie of the Year, Salmon is the Angels career leader in homers (269) and RBIs. He had doubts about staying, but then signed a $40 million, four-year contract extension in March 2001.

        He hit .227 last year with just 49 RBIs, struggling with an aching left shoulder as the Angels finished 41 games behind first-place Seattle in the AL West.

        “That was probably the low point, no doubt,” he said. “You wonder. I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn't physically where I needed to be. But still, you get your head beat in for sixth months, that does take its toll, mentally, with your confidence and everything. You start wondering.”

        Now his time has come.

        After his two-run homer off Rodriguez, he pumped a fist running the bases. After the final out, he smacked teammates with high-5s so hard it must have hurt.

        Coming in, he was hitting .216 (8-for-37) in the postseason. He kept thinking about his foulout to J.T. Snow in the fifth inning of Game 1 with one out and runners at the corners.

        “In these games, you want to be able to come through in the situations,” he said. “Last night, it was a tough night.”

        He came back Sunday with a message for his teammates — and for himself.

        “Make the most of it. That's the biggest thing, that's been my motto,” he said. “Be loose. Let it fly. Be aggressive. Don't go home thinking you left anything, held anything back.”


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