Opening Day (April 1, 2013) is 82 days away. We are counting down the 100 Walk Off Home Runs in Angels franchise history. Today we look at #82...
June 5, 2002 - Almost ten years after their 2002 world championship, ten years to the date of this game, on June 5, 2012 the drew 35,021 to a Tuesday night home game against the . Without digging into the schedule to see it was a giveaway game, the Monday and Wednesday games of that Mariners series had 36 and 37 thousand respectively in attendance. The six games of the homestand before that were three against the and and each had over 40,000 in attendance.
The four game series of Monday, June 3 thru Thursday June 6 drew 15-16-15-& 17 thousand fans. From the start of the next season and over the next ten, the Angels would not have a crowd below 27,000 for any game and it wasn't until April of 2012 where Angel Stadium of Anaheim hosted less than 28,000 fans. Or at least 27,000 plus tickets were sold to those games.
The Angels had not been to the postseason since 2009 and were still drawing 10,000 more fans per game at their worst than they were a few months before surprising baseball with a world championship. Of course, in 2002 they hadn't been to the playoffs in sixteen seasons. While there were many division championships between '02 and '12, the the fact that they had actually sealed the deal in 2002 gave the stadium twice as many true believers as they had ever had, maybe more. It was not just a new generation of fans, as 2002 came on the wave of a new level of marketing sophistication and a year after this game was played, a marketing genius would be the new owner of the team, accelerating the development of affirming a tangible Angels fandom in Southern California.
But all that was a fantasy when what was left of the crowd of 15,000 saw Brad Fullmer and Tim Salmon hit back to back solo homeruns in the bottom of the ninth inning off of Texas closer Hideki Irabu. The game was tied at four when Angels reliever led off the tenth inning with a walk to Calvin Murray. A one-out triple by Herbert Perry made it 5-4 and nobody could blame the folks if it seemed that the typical Angels baseball of the past decade and a half was back.
Al Levine was left off the playoff roster in favor of Frankie Rodriguez. Al Levine threw over 63 innings for the '02 Angels with an ERA+ of 105 ...what we learned in all that was that five percent better than league average doesn't cut it in relief. But Al Levine was the winning pitcher for the Angels that night.
Rangers manager Jerry Narron left Irabu in the game. He promptly gave up a hit to Adam Kennedy and a hit to David Eckstein. Darin Erstad forced Eck out at 2B but the tying run was on 3B with only one out. Troy Glaus could have grounded into a double play. Garret Anderson was on deck and he might have grounded into a force out if Glaus had walked. But Troy Glaus hit a 2-1 fastball into the seats and the game was over (Angels 7, Rangers 5) three hours after it had started and what was left of that then-average-sized crowd all celebrated, not realizing that wins like this were changing what it meant to be an Angels fan in ways that would still echo a decade later.