By Geoff Bilau, Angelswin.com Editor
#42 – July 14-15, 2003: GA steals the All-Star show
If the Angels were to retroactively come up with a slogan for the 2003 season, it might have been “Come bask in the afterglow of 2002.”
As April rolled around, and pennants were hoisted up gold painted flagpoles, Angels fans were still drunk on World Series emotion. Only trouble was the players seemed to be, as well.
The team sleepwalked through April, May and June and arrived at July with a perfectly mediocre 40-40 record. But with fans flocking to Edison Field in record numbers (attendance would surpass 3 million for the first time ever in 2003), most of them wearing something bearing the words “2002 World Champions,” it was difficult to be too disappointed.
Heading into the All-Star break, however, the team finally seemed to recapture a little bit of the 2002 magic of which it was constantly reminded on the scoreboard in right field. They won nine of their first 12 games in July, including five straight before the break. Sure, they were still 8.5 games out of first, but it was better than the 12.5 deficit they faced when the month began.
And for two amazing days at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, it was like October all over again. The Angels had three players selected to the American League squad: Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus and Brendan Donnelly, the latter of whom was in the midst of one of the best relief seasons in franchise history. He hit the break with a 0.38 ERA, having given up only two runs in 48 innings pitched.
On top of that, as American League champions the previous season, Mike Scioscia was the A.L. manager, bringing his entire coaching staff along with him. The Angels presence in Chicago was already assured, but this contingent seemed determined to be seen and heard.
The most improbable of events actually occurred first; in hindsight a harbinger of things to come. Garret Anderson, who hit 22 home runs in the first half of the season, beat out former teammate Jim Edmonds in the semifinals and then 23-year-old phenom Albert Pujols in the finals to win the Home Run Derby.
“I don’t look at myself as a home run hitter, but I know I'm capable of hitting the ball out of the park,” Anderson said. “It’s just another platform to go out and show America what I can do.”
The GA show wasn’t done, either. The next night, with the American League trailing, 5-1, in the sixth inning, Anderson smoked a two-run homer to right-center on Woody Williams’ first pitch to pull the A.L. within two runs.
Donnelly pitched a perfect top of the eighth to hold the N.L. lead at 6-4. In the bottom half, Anderson’s one-out double off the Dodgers Eric Gagne, his third hit of the night in four at-bats, started a three-run rally that was capped by Hank Blalock’s game-winning two-run home run.
The A.L. won, 7-6, Donnelly was the winning pitcher, Scioscia the winning manager and Anderson named the game’s MVP, his second trophy in as many nights.
It was an outstanding night and the perfect denouement to the championship season. But, of course, all good things must come to an end, and those two nights in Chicago were indeed the end of the afterglow. The Angels lost their first five games after the break and finished the season 77-85, in third place, 19 games behind the A’s.
For a couple of days, however, the defending champs looked every bit the part.