Sunday, March 23, 2008

By Chuck Richter, Senior Editor

The scene: Edison Field, Game 2 of the 2002 World Series, Angels down 0-1 in the series to the San Francisco Giants.

After 7 1/2 seesaw innings, the Angels and Giants stood deadlocked, 9-9. Until Salmon broke it with a sledgehammer, crushing his second home run of the game to put the Angels ahead for good.

Typical of Salmon, despite his own heroism his was not the home run he was gushing about afterward. Salmon was still marveling at the one hit by Barry Bonds in the ninth that sailed some 485 feet into the sea of red in right field.

"That was the farthest ball I've ever seen hit in this ballpark, for sure," Salmon said. But the Angels’ always-humble right fielder trumped that mammoth shot with the drive that counted the most, a two-out, two-run shot that proved the difference in the Angels 11-10 victory and knotted the series at one game apiece.

"We knew there was going to be a hero in the dugout," Salmon said, "and tonight it was me."

Until 2002, no active player in the majors had gone longer than Salmon — 1,388 games — without reaching the postseason. But that wasn't a well-known fact because Bonds had been the center of attention, especially since it was his first World Series, too.

But Salmon put the spotlight squarely on himself on this night by helping the Halos to their first-ever World Series win.

"I think I made the most of my opportunities. It was awesome," Salmon said. "The way the game went back-and-forth was unbelievable."

Salmon ended up going 4-for-4 with a walk, while driving in four runs and scoring three. He capped his performance with a drive into the Anaheim bullpen in left field that left Bonds hanging over the top of the fence. A joyous sight indeed!

Earlier in the game, Salmon's first two-run homer gave the Angels a 7-4 lead in the second inning. They led, 5-0, after the first inning before the Giants rallied with some fireworks of their own.

But as Salmon circled the bases and fireworks exploded overhead after connecting on a 93 mph fastball, ultimately it was the Giants’ Felix Rodriguez angrily tugging on his cap.

After Troy Percival gave up the ninth inning two-out blast to Bonds, the crowd of 44,584 roared as Benito Santiago popped out harmlessly to Adam Kennedy at second to end it.

"It was too much Salmon," Bonds said after the game. "It's phenomenal. He did everything any player could do in one game except steal home."

Salmon will no doubt be remembered for many highlights and accomplishments as an Angel: 1993 AL Rookie of the Year, the sliding catches in right field, the force that he was with the lumber, the Texas Ranger beat downs or his last game played, retiring an Angel for life and the ceremonial send off from the fans in Anaheim.

But for me, this game, with all that was riding upon it, was the highlight of Salmon’s career and clearly one of the “Greatest Moments in Angels Baseball.”
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