- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 29, 2002

ANAHEIM, Calif. Amid the ruckus of the fireworks and the confetti and the music blaring over the loudspeakers at Edison Field Sunday night, a film crew attempted to track down Troy Glaus and get him on camera to say those four magic words reserved only for MVPs of major sporting events.

Glaus, however, refused to do it alone. Scott Spiezio was at his side, and the Anaheim Angels third baseman wanted his teammate to share the moment. Spiezio wouldn't do it unless others could join in as well, and he kept corralling in player after player before he gave the production crew the green light. Three guys, four guys, five guys.

And so this week when that time-honored TV commercial with the familiar theme music comes on the screen, Glaus, Spiezio, Adam Kennedy, Benji Gil, Alex Ochoa and perhaps even more Angels players will be mugging for the cameras and shouting out those four famous words, with a slight twist.

"We're going to Disneyland!"

It's an appropriate image of the newly crowned World Series champions, the MVP third baseman standing side-by-side with his unheralded teammates after Anaheim's seven-game triumph over the San Francisco Giants.

They may not have the recognizable faces of the Giants, New York Yankees or Arizona Diamondbacks, but the Angels truly were the best team in baseball in 2002, and that's why they'll be making the trip down Katella Avenue today for their victory parade at the Happiest Place on Earth.

"I watch other teams win, and you sit and watch how many superstars they've got," said Troy Percival, the man on the mound for the final out of Sunday's 4-1 victory. "To watch this team win the world championship is something special."

Even after winning 99 games during the regular season, few picked the Angels to be the last team standing at the end of October. The Yankees had the star-studded lineup, the Diamondbacks had the one-two pitching punch, the Oakland A's had the three-headed pitching monster and the Giants had the single most dominating player of perhaps the last 50 years.

But as many discovered, it's not the best players who win championships. It's the best team.

The New England Patriots proved that during their astonishing run to the Super Bowl title last January, beating the supposedly unstoppable St. Louis Rams.

The Angels merely copied the formula, storming their way to the first World Series in the franchise's 42-year history despite a lineup of unknowns, a patchwork starting rotation and a bullpen of rookies.

"We are the definition of the team at the professional level," center fielder Darin Erstad said. "It's so rare you find a group of guys all on the same page and who care so much for each other."

The most talented players on Anaheim's roster are Glaus and left fielder Garret Anderson, outstanding players in their own right but hardly household names.

Erstad and right fielder Tim Salmon are solid veterans who stuck with it through the bad times and were finally rewarded with their first championship.

Spiezio is a one-time utility man and front man of a rock band called Sandfrog who only turned into one of the best clutch hitters in postseason history, batting over .700 with men in scoring position and tying the record with 19 RBI.

David Eckstein is a 5-foot-6 (in cleats) shortstop who looks like he still belongs on a high school field somewhere, and yet he's the sparkplug for the Angels' offense.

And the list goes on and on, from No. 9 hitter Adam Kennedy, who hit three home runs in the Angels' ALCS-clinching win over the Minnesota Twins, to backup infielder Gil, who hit .800 in his limited World Series duties, to rookie pitchers John Lackey, Brendan Donnelly and Francisco Rodriguez, who combined to hold the Giants to one run on five hits in eight innings Sunday night.

This team grew up together, exorcised the the demons of the franchise's past failures as well as a 6-14 start to this season that no one remembers now and won a World Series with a $61million payroll peanuts in today's world.

"This is the first time I've ever seen a team go from February to October without one argument, without one fight," designated hitter Brad Fullmer said. "A lot of teams put up with each other, but they don't actually like each other. This team does."

And the Giants do not. The feuding inside the home clubhouse at Pac Bell Park is no secret. Jeff Kent hates Barry Bonds. Bonds hates reporters. Kenny Lofton hates everyone.

All along, San Francisco tried to make everyone believe it was possible to put all those differences aside and unite in pursuit of a common goal.

It doesn't usually work that way, and it was clear the Giants were not the best team. They were simply a good team with the best individual player.

It may be a while before there is a World Series performance as dominating as Bonds'. He erased all notions that he could not perform in the clutch, blasting a postseason record eight home runs (four in the World Series) while drawing a World Series-record 13 walks (seven intentional) and setting the all-time slugging percentage record at 1.294.

It was one of the most awe-inspiring performances in World Series history even moreso considering the Angels did everything in their power to keep Bonds from having a chance to make an impact.

"What are you going to write?" Bonds asked. "That I had a good postseason, and we lose? Doesn't that just go to show you that it takes a team to win it?"

As a matter of fact, yes, Barry, it does. Just ask the Angels.

They'll be the ones parading down Main Street with Mickey Mouse this morning.

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