By Geoff Bilau, Angelswin.com Senior Editor
By now, most Angels fans can recite Rory Markas’ call verbatim:
“Here’s the pitch to Lofton. Fly ball, center field. Erstad says he’s got it. Erstaaaaaad MAKES THE CATCH! The Anaheim Angels are the champions of baseball!”
When the Angels’ unofficial team captain settled under and clasped his glove around that most precious of final outs, it was the culmination of many things: an incredible World Series comeback; a riveting postseason run; an unprecedented 99 win regular season; the antidote for heartbreaking collapses in 1995, 1986 and 1982; a delivery on the promise of 1979; and the realization of a dream first dared to be dreamt in 1961.
The textbook version is simply that the Angels reached the pinnacle of their sport 42 seasons after their pursuit began. But to the fans, players, coaches and front office people who followed the Angels for any significant amount of time, of course the emotions run immensely deeper.
For me, it actually required a season or two of separation before I could truly appreciate the significance. Don’t get me wrong; I was as elated as anybody when the confetti and streamers came raining down upon us following Erstad’s catch.
But maybe I’d already spent all the emotion I could spare the day before, when I witnessed the birth of my first child and the rebirth of the Angels World Series hopes all within a span of about six hours. Or perhaps it was because even before the first pitch, the Game 7 victory truly seemed like a foregone conclusion following the previous night’s drama; and when was ANYTHING positive for the Angels a given during their first 41 seasons?
And that’s what struck me after the World Series championship had really sunk in — it happened, and it could happen again. Previously, I honestly wasn’t sure it ever would. Now, I believe it will again.
And while I think the moment when I first knew they were actually going to play in the World Series will always rank as the most emotional high in my years of being an Angels fan, in retrospect I’m so glad they went ahead and won it all while they were there. I mean all the greatest stories have a happy ending, don’t they?
Champions of baseball … yeah, that’ll do.
Here’s how other contributors to our Top-50 Greatest Moments list feel about No. 1:
It is hard to describe exactly what I felt when Erstad squeezed Kenny Lofton's fly ball for the final out. I was relatively calm from the first pitch of the game until the Angels had finally won. After the complete swing in emotion I felt watching Game 6, I was too exhausted to work up any emotion for Game 7.
For the entire postseason, I had either been in attendance or at my favorite watering hole to celebrate every moment with other fans. I needed a break. So, I watched the entirety of Game 7 alone; poetic in a sense because growing up none of my friends or family members felt the same way about the game of baseball, and there was certainly no one that loved the Angels as much as I did. It wasn't my intention to watch the game alone. I just didn't feel like sharing that moment with anyone else.
Had I been there or watched the game with friends I doubt I'd have noticed — I was focused on each pitch, nothing else existed but the game. When the final out was made, I felt accomplished. Not that I had anything to do with the victory, but that my fanship had finally paid off. The years of suffering through bad teams and monumental collapses proved worth it. I felt like a champion.
— Adam Dodge, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
I had always told my friends, “Just once, I just need to see it happen one time.” It was worth the wait. Sticking through thick and thin with the Angels had paid off. All the sadness and anger from the past were washed away in one lazy fly ball to Darin Erstad.
I was fortunate enough have tickets to Game 7. When the final out was made, I was standing in center field, over by the rock pile. I momentarily lost my mind. I let out a loud primal scream and leapt into the air a few times.
— Geoff Stoddart, AngelsWin.com Director of Social Media
The dictionary defines the word surreal as: "having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic." When Kenny Lofton's fly ball found its final resting place in the glove of Darin Erstad it felt .. surreal.
My dad had been an Angels season ticket holder throughout the 80's, 90's and early 2000's. I had spent countless nights in that stadium, with 9,000 of my closest friends, watching horrendous baseball. I'd had my hopes and dreams crushed during years when it looked like the team might actually make it happen ... only to fall short. The images I was seeing on my television screen where almost too much to wrap my head around. The team pouring out of the dugout ... the dog pile of jubilant players near the pitcher's mound ... a stadium of fans losing their minds in celebratory ecstasy. It was ... surreal.
I was at the previous night's Game 6. I had known there was no way the Giants were going to bounce back from that kind of heartbreak. And yet, I almost hadn't allowed myself to believe it was really going to happen. But here it was ... it was happening! So I jump around the room, I kissed my wife and my cheering scared my 6 month old son (who was born the day before the Angels went on their hot streak at the end of April). I called friends and family members with shouts of joy ... "Can you believe this?!?!" I lamented the fact that my dad was out of the country and unable to watch the team he had taught me to love finally earn their wings.
Yet somewhere in the back of my mind, I felt like it might go away. Like it was a dream. A dream I didn't want to wake up from. The whole thing just didn't feel real. It was ... surreal.
And, if I'm being honest, 10 years later it still is!
— Chuck Richter, Angelswin.com Founder and Executive Editor
Editor’s note: I’d like to thank all of the writers who contributed to this monumental project the past 50 days. It was quite an undertaking while simultaneously working full time, managing a Little League team and looking after a family of six, but was it ever worth it!
Here’s to the memories and debates we hope our list inspired and to the making of many more outstanding top-50 worthy moments in the seasons to come.
Thanks for reading!
See all 50 Greatest Moments in Angels Baseball here