- Associated Press - Saturday, September 10, 2011

PHOENIX (AP) - For the first time since the season opener, Chase Field was packed. Some were there to cheer on the surprising first-place Arizona Diamondbacks of 2011.

Most were there to honor the World Series champion Diamondbacks of 2001.

Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and nearly all of the rest of that team gathered to the wild appreciation of the fans to mark the 10th anniversary of that triumph over the New York Yankees in what is widely acknowledged as one of the best World Series.

The crowd stood and cheered when the big screen showed Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single off Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of Game 7 that brought home Jay Bell with the winning run.

Some of the loudest cheers were for Jerry Colangelo, who brought major league baseball to Arizona and oversaw the construction of a team that won the state’s only professional sports championship, and did it in the franchise’s fourth season.

Johnson marveled at how quickly time had passed.

“I had a few of the guys over to the house last night for a little cookout with their families,” he said, “and we were thinking about how fast 10 years had gone by.”

The series was postponed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the return to baseball was seen as a way to get back to some sort of normalcy. With the remains of the World Trade Center still smoldering, there was no normal in New York, and the Yankees became the country’s sentimental favorites.

Arizona won the first two games at home, then lost three heartbreakers in New York before returning to take Game 6 in a rout and set the stage for the Game 7 thriller.

Schilling said he was sitting in the dugout when Gonzalez came to the plate, superstitiously refusing to move once the Diamondbacks got two runners on base. He couldn’t see the plate but refused to move until the blooper fell just over the head of shortstop Derek Jeter. Bell was mobbed by teammates at the plate.

“I beat everybody out there,” Schilling said. “I was gone.”

Catcher Damian Miller, lifted for a pinch runner, was pacing in the dugout while Gonzalez was at bat.

“It kind of gets frozen in time in your brain box,” Miller said. “I can still see it _ ‘That’s a hit!’”

Johnson and Schilling were co-MVPs of the series, and they threw out the ceremonial first pitches before Saturday night’s game between the Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres. Johnson threw a strike to ‘01 teammate Greg Colbrunn, Schilling’s toss sailed over the head of Miller.

“When you add on 9-11 and everything that happened, I still believe it was the best World Series ever,” Schilling said before the ceremony. “It’s nice to get back and see everybody and it’s nice that they (the Diamondbacks) are in first place. It always comes back to the people. It’s such a good group of people, such a fun experience.”

David Dellucci was excited just walking back on the field.

“I’m actually standing on the field right now,” he said as reporters crowded around him. “My heart’s starting to pump. It’s all coming back. We’re reliving the memories and we have a great group of fans here to help us do that.”

Bob Brenly, a first-year manager when he guided Arizona to that title, said that until the last offseason he had never watched the series after seeing it unfold in front of him.

“My wife went to Europe with some friends and I was home alone for a week and just started popping them in one at a time and watching the games start to finish,” Brenly said. “It’s amazing how many things you forget. Under those circumstances, once it goes by you, you forget.

“Now you’re trying to think a couple of innings ahead of time. It was nice to watch and remember. Some of it wasn’t so much fun to watch, but because I knew the ending it was a great movie.”

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