Open up that Golden Gate, let Giants in wild Series

October 14, 2002|By LAURA VECSEY

SAN FRANCISCO - Kudos to the Halos. Those hot-hitting Angels made baseball history yesterday, 41 years and several ill-fated incarnations after they first came into this world.

Born the Los Angeles Angels in 1961, they later became the California Angels to escape their stepchild status with the Dodgers. When that didn't work, they turned to this current designation: the Anaheim Angels.

Or is that the Disney Angels? It doesn't matter. Mike Scioscia's hard-chargin' boys are no Mickey Mouse club, not the way they contracted the Minnesota Twins from the American League Championship Series yesterday.

Now, half of another baseball World Series first is set. The Angels will finally get their shot. As the California wild-card representative in the ALCS, they did their part.

Now, it's up to the Giants. Their 4-3 win last night over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series put the Giants in exactly the same position the Angels were in yesterday, when Anaheim held a 3-1 series lead over the Twins, then used its California theme-park home to send the Minnesotans packing.

The Giants in five, too? How's that for keeping up with your southern wild-card counterparts?

"We know that if we win [tonight] we get to go to the World Series," Giants first baseman and Southern California native J.T. Snow said after his sixth-inning, two-run double tied the score and jump-started the Giants' comeback win.

"I knew tonight was a big swing game. If they win, it's 2-2 and we would definitely have to go back to St. Louis. They're a good team," Snow said.

What Snow started, veteran catcher Benito Santiago finished by lashing an off-balance, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth. Before both hits, Giants slugger Barry Bonds had been issued walks, prompting Snow and Santiago to take extra delight in the opportunities the Cardinals gave them to strike big.

"I talk to J.T. every day that we have a chance to do some damage here. They walk Barry Bonds so much. So he hit a big double today," Santiago said.

Now this October is starting to have the feel of symmetry and a certain geographic homogeneity. Now the World Series is starting to look like the first all-wild, all-California tandem ever.

Surely the Giants are hungry to get back to this rare place, since they've played in only two World Series ('62 and '89) since migrating West from New York, losing both times, after 14 World Series appearances (five titles) as the New York Giants.

As the National League wild card, the San Francisco Giants should hunger to do what the fly-by-night Florida Marlins did in 1997, when Wayne Huizenga's free-agent crew became the first wild-card team to buy, I mean, win a World Series.

As soon as Santiago lifted that two-run shot into the seats in left field, the momentum in this series shifted toward an October in not one but two California baseball outposts.

"That's my boy!" Bonds shouted as he rounded the bases on Santiago's homer. Now Bonds and his crew are one win within delivering this All-Wild, All-California Series.

Baseball has a thing for these kinds of things: theme parties. In fact, one of the last times the Cardinals appeared in the Fall Classic, in 1985, they played the Interstate 70 Series against the Kansas City Royals. The Royals showed the Cardinals the exit ramp back home across the Show Me state, trouncing the Cards, 11-0, in the seventh game.

The problem with theme series is that as neat and tidy as they appear, they have the potential to alienate large swaths of this baseball-watching nation.

For instance: Outside of New York, it was tough to stomach all the hype spewed about the 2000 "Subway Series."

As the self-perceived center of the universe, New York slathered all over itself - with the help of the big-market-loving networks - when the Mets and Yankees revived a time-honored tradition.

Back when the Dodgers and Giants were Gotham's National League natives, they traded postseason shots at the Yankees. In 1923, after the Yankees left the Polo Grounds for their new stadium in the Bronx, the true Subway Series era was born - a tradition that many outside of New York hope is never again revived.

And given what the Angels did to the Yankees in their AL Division Series rout of the aging Yankees pitching staff, the Subway Series may not be revived any time soon. And the Mets ... well, if they get outta-Seattle Lou Piniella in their royal blue pinstripes, who knows?

Last night, after the Angels clinched their first pennant, all eyes turned to the Giants. Could they set the stage for a new theme series? They're not opposed to them - although memories are not good.

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