Monday, September 26, 2011

We're pleased to announce that we have a three-way tie for the best 2002 story about the Angels Championship run. We had just two of these DVD sets to give away, but I felt leaving one of the three out would be a disservice to one of the three applicants.

-- Opens envelope -- And the winners are:

Geoff Bilau’s Winning Story

“Honey, I think it’s time.”

Words any expectant father, especially a first-timer, would typically greet with a jubilantly frantic search for the car keys and a mad dash to the driveway with his wife’s overnight bag.

I have to confess, however, my first reaction was — in retrospect rather embarrassingly — “You’re kidding. Really?”

Now, before you label me as World’s Worst Father-to-Be, let me explain. I’ve been an Angels fan since I was old enough to ride a couple of miles west on Orangewood, sitting on the fuel tank of my dad’s Suzuki A100 to watch Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana pitch. I chanted “Yes we can!” in 1979. I learned to loathe Dave Henderson in 1986.; and Randy Johnson in 1995. I cried when Adam Kennedy hit three home runs to put the Angels in the World Series, knowing my dad and I would get to share something we didn’t know we’d ever experience.

And I had tickets to Game 6, 4:30 p.m., Oct. 26, 2002. It was 7:15 a.m. and my wife, Lisa, just went into labor.

The next couple of hours were a panicked blur — not Lisa’s panic; she’d already been through this twice before with my two stepsons. She exuded pure calm, which did wonders for me on the whole birth of my first child thing, but it didn’t do anything to relieve my stress about finding a buyer for my World Series ticket!

I secured a taker just as we were pulling into the hospital parking lot, my best man’s brother (lucky dog).

For the next four hours or so, we waited. (Well, my mom, in-laws and I waited; Lisa got increasingly less comfortable, as women in labor are apt to do.) I spoke with my father and friends on the phone, as they got ready to leave for the stadium. The 19-inch television mounted to the wall of our delivery room seemed woefully insufficient now.

At around 3 p.m., thoughts of the Angels and the World Series fell to the wayside as the hard labor began. I grabbed Lisa’s left hand and tried to absorb some of the pain, my fingers seemingly fused together in her clench. At 3:15, with an agonizing wail and one final push, Homer Cole Bilau shot out into the world.

I looked down at our baby, kissed Lisa and told her she was my hero. This was the greatest day of my life.

As the nurses tended to the baby and hugs were exchanged in the delivery room, I called my father and friends at the stadium to share the news. They excitedly described the electric atmosphere that had enveloped the Big A before the first pitch. With Lisa and the baby both healthy and resting, I remembered again that the Angels faced a do-or-die situation and settled in to watch the game.

Fast-forward a couple of hours to Jeff Kent’s RBI single that gave the Giants a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning. All the joy and excitement that had filled the hospital room earlier was gone. I looked over at Lisa and little Homer and couldn’t help but think about how bittersweet it was going to be that my first child was born on the same day the Angels lost the World Series. The greatest day of my life was going to have a painful footnote.

During Scott Spiezio’s at-bat in the bottom of the seventh, Lisa asked me, “Do you want to hold him?” I walked over to the side of the bed, reaching out with my arms while I watched the game out of the corner of my eye on the TV over my right shoulder. As she lifted the baby from her caress, Spiezio belted that Felix Rodriguez pitch to right field and my arms reached instinctively skyward. If he’d done it a second or two later, I might have flung the baby across the room!

One of the nurses came running into the room with a Rally Monkey around her neck and all the day’s magic was right back with us. I held my son for the first time and watched the Angels rally from a 5-0 deficit to win what is now considered the greatest game in franchise history.

Greatest. Day. Ever.

Homer and I have since attended 191 Angels games together, including road trips to Seattle and Oakland and all four of the Angels postseason victories in 2009. The Angels are 116-75 (.607) when Homer is in attendance.

Still to this day, before every home game, when the “Calling All Angels” pregame video reaches the highlights from Game 6, this whole story flashes through my mind again.

Rob Rohm’s Winning Story

I’m a lifelong Angels fan and 2002 was the dream season. In March of 2002, for the first time ever, I bet the Angels would win the ALCS at 15 to 1 odds and win the World Series at 30 to 1 odds.

On March 31, 2002, I attended my seventh consecutive Angels home opener. Bartolo Colon shut out the Angels. Things got worse for the team but I still was there to support them. It started to turn around when David Eckstein became Mr. Grand Slam. I was at his 3 grand slam games and can be seen celebrating one of them on the Red Dawn Rises DVD. I called the third one when he came up with the bases loaded in an interleague game against the Reds. Afterward the team was signing for their season ticket holders and I was able to get a lot of autographs of the eventual champions. My family and I also got autographs and photos with Eckstein at the Mens Warehouse in Fullerton.

June was a good month and was particularly fun beating the Dodgers in Anaheim. I tailgated with a friend, my uncle, and a cousin before the Saturday game that Aaron Sele started against the Dodgers. In the parking lot, Clyde Wright parked next to us and we spoke to him for a bit. The Angels lit up the Dodgers 7-0 and our BEAT LA banner was on tv and ended up being featured in the Red Dawn Rises DVD. The Sunday game was a treat too. Thankfully the Angels called back up John Lackey to replace struggling Schoenweis and he got his first MLB win. After the game I took a photo with him and had him sign a baseball for me.

There was a transformation in the fans that season that was amazing to see. On the one-year anniversary of 9-11, they handed out t-shirts to everyone in attendance and we all waved our shirts and basically willed the Angels to a come from behind win over the eventual 2002 AL West Champs, the Athletics. 

When I was younger and the Angels made the playoffs in 1982 and 1986, my Dad let me choose the ALCS or the World Series. Both times I picked the World Series. We camped out at Ticketron for tickets both years and purchased great seats to multiple games. My Dad purchased tickets for both of my grandfathers too. He wanted to take them to their first World Series game. Unfortunately they never made it to one as they had both passed before the Angels finally made it in 2002.

I told myself when the Angels finally made it that I was going to attend every postseason game in Anaheim. I took vacation time from work to attend every home game and to watch the road games with friends and family at my house. Before every home game I made sure to tailgate and follow the same rituals because I am so superstitious.

In the first ALDS home game I had a boisterous Yankees fan sitting right behind me. Thankfully after spotting the Yankees a big lead, the fearless Halos battled back to win the game. The following day I was sitting in right field in 100 degree weather but it was worth it to watch the Angels eliminate the mighty Yankees. I started the chant in the outfield “Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Goodbye”. After the game, a large group of friends came back to my house and we sprayed champagne all over each other and jumped in the pool to celebrate.

During the ALCS, after game four I was waiting by the Angels player’s parking lot for autographs. I was working on getting a team signed photo completed. I asked Adam Kennedy to sign for me and told him it was good luck to sign. He came over and signed the photo. The next day when he came up and hit a home run, I was telling all my friends the signing story. Needless to say, he hit two more home runs in the game and sent the Halos to their first ever World Series.

Attending my first ever World Series game and seeing the Angels play in their first ever World Series game was amazing. Unfortunately by the end of the night it didn’t feel too amazing as they lost game 1. Game 2 was remarkable and my Salmon for Governor sign was featured on the tv broadcast but my brother-in-law was holding it up. There was actually a candidate running for Governor in Arizona at the time. It was great to see Salmon perform on the grandest stage. During game 6, I had to leave my seats because of superstition as the teams always score while I’m away. I bumped into 2002 all-star for Detroit, Robert Fick. He was wearing an Angels hat and a Kennedy 02 jersey. I was talking to him when Spiezio hit his three run shot. We high fived and went crazy. He said ‘They’re going to do it!”. After the comeback was completed and the Angels took the lead, I remember everyone jumping up and down in the aisles and hugging anyone and everyone!

Game 7 took place on my daughter’s actual 7th birthday. We went to church in the morning and the priest said “Go out and do good and may the Angels win the World Series!” I cheered louder than anyone else in the church. We then went to spend the day celebrating my daughter’s birthday at Disney’s California Adventure. I arrived at Angel Stadium just in time for the first pitch. I actually ran into Jim Abbott right after he threw out the first pitch and had him sign a World Series ball. After the Angels won the game, I celebrated for a few minutes but then had to rush home so my daughter could open her gifts and have cake and ice cream.

Rick Greenwald’s Winning Story

My story is as follows:

As the playoffs approached in 2002 I was approaching the two year point for dating my girlfriend. If the Angels made the World Series I thought it would be a great time to propose to her. Like all long time Angel fans, I was dreaming about this moment my entire life. Without too much concern for the possibility that the Angels might lose the game and the World Series, I hired an airplane to carry a banner that read "To Jolie - The Perfect Catch - will you marry me?" during the first and second innings. She said YES! As the game went on and the Angels fell into a 5-0 hole, I started to realize that I may have just made an epic mistake by tying my engagement to a heartbreaking Angel loss - something I would have to think about forever.

But when Scott Spiezio hit his three run home run, my enthusiasm was for more than just the Angels - it was absolute relief. The ball landed right near me and my over aggressive cheering made the front page of the newspaper the next day (see photo). Yes the Angels were down 5-3 but at that point everybody knew we'd go on to win - at least I did. It was one of the most magical nights of my life and one of the greatest nights in Angels history.

To see Rick's video he put together for this story a few years back, check it out here.
Love to hear what you think!

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