ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- As players jumped around the infield and
thousands of screaming fans pounded their plastic sticks together
in a victorious drumbeat, the reality was sinking in.
With the help of Adam Kennedy's newfound power, Anaheim finally
made it to the World Series, where no Angels' team had gone before.
And then thoughts turned to the late Gene Autry, Hollywood's
singing cowboy and the team's founding owner, who wasn't there to
''I know Mr. Autry's smiling up there, and I'm so happy that
Jackie's here to enjoy it with us,'' Tim Salmon said. ''To be with
this organization as long as I have, and to feel the emptiness of
the fans all these years, and the pain and frustration, it's like
we're paving a new road here.''
In the movies, Autry's horse was named Champion. Now his team
After 41 seasons of frustration, and four years after Autry's
death, the Angels finally got that final out.
Halo-lujah! They did it.
Kennedy, a No. 9 hitter with little previous proclivity for
power, had three home runs, four hits and five RBI, the most
heavenly game of his baseball career.
Just minutes after the Angels had squandered another postseason
lead, bringing back all those painful playoff memories, Kennedy
broke out the biggest Thunder Stick of all -- a 34-inch, 32-ounce
His first homer started the comeback, his second gave Anaheim a
short-lived one-run lead. And then came his third, a three-run,
go-ahead drive in a 10-run seventh inning Sunday. The Angels
humiliated those resilient Minnesota Twins 13-5 to win the AL
championship series in five games.
The Angels will try on the World Series saddle for the first
time Saturday when they open at home against San Francisco or St.
Louis. A picture of Autry, Hollywood's ''Singing Cowboy''
turned-baseball owner, was hanging throughout the weekend on a
banner behind home plate and no doubt will be there next weekend.
''This was a goal of Gene's all of his life in baseball, and the
fact that he was not here to see it personally -- I know he's
watching it from somewhere,'' said his widow, Jackie, who gave the
AL trophy to manager Mike Scioscia in her role as honorary league
''His inspiration is what really drove this team,'' she said.
''Guys like Tim Salmon and Troy Percival and the other young men on
this ballclub who knew Gene Autry wanted to get it done.''
Anaheim had just wasted a 3-2 lead in the sixth when Kennedy's
three-run drive off Johan Santana erased a 5-3 deficit and made him
just the fifth player to homer three times in a postseason game.
''Oh, man. This is tremendous,'' said Kennedy, the series MVP.
''We worked hard the last few years to bring it all together and we
finally got it done.''
The Angels, who joined the major leagues in 1961, blew past the
New York Yankees to win their first-round series 3-1, then
humiliated the Twins in a seventh inning that saw 15 batters come
to the plate against Santana, J.C. Romero, LaTroy Hawkins and Bob
Anaheim, whose playoff hopes had seemed bleak following a 6-14
start, tied postseason records with the 10-run inning and six
consecutive hits -- something the Angels also did against the
''They're on a roll,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
''Those guys, they just keep playing. And they keep swinging.
Goodness gracious, I don't know if I've ever seen an inning like
that. We couldn't get anybody out. They were hitting balls through
holes, over -- bullets.''
Anaheim, long the second banana in Southern California to the
Los Angeles Dodgers, had been one of only seven major league
franchises without a pennant. No more.
''It's the biggest game of my life,'' said Kennedy, who has 23
regular-season homers in four major league seasons and four in this
year's playoffs. ''I'm going to enjoy this for a while and then get
back to work.''
Twice before, the Angels had been one victory from the World
Series but failed to make it. They lost three straight to Milwaukee
in 1982 and three in a row to Boston four years later, when they
were one strike away before Dave Henderson's home run off Donnie
''Everybody is making a big deal of the 1982 and 1986 teams. We
had nothing to do with that,'' said Scott Spiezio, who had three
hits and three RBI.
When David Eckstein caught the final out -- just as he did in the
division series -- he ran over to Kennedy and tapped gloves, then
danced with Salmon.
The Angels jumped on each other in a mob between first base and
the mound. Fans cheered as Salmon, in his 11th Angels season and
the team's senior member, ran around with the AL championship
trophy. Percival joined his teammates for a lap around the field.
''I think there is some portion of relief with some of the guys
that have been through the wars here,'' Scioscia said.
After losing Tuesday's opener at the Metrodome, the wild-card
Angels won four in a row. And they did it against one of baseball's
Anticipating their team finally would ascend to the Series, some
fans showed up dressed as angels. Others held their ''rally
monkeys'' and, fittingly, the pitcher who started the game is
called ''Ape'' by his teammates -- Kevin Appier.
Through it all, they pounded together their ThunderStix, long
red plastic batons that read ''The Halos Are Back.'' The red-clad
fans filled Edison Field, where Angels are 5-0 in the postseason,
with a booming sound.
The Twins, who made the playoffs after surviving the attempt by
baseball owners to fold them, had had won six straight postseason
games when facing elimination, including two in the first round
Hoping to send the series back to the Metrodome, where they are
13-3 in postseason play in front of their Homer Hanky-waving fans,
they took a 2-0 lead on David Ortiz's RBI double in the first and
A.J. Pierzynski's run-scoring single in the second.
Kennedy, 1-for-10 in the first four games, started the comeback
with a third-inning homer off Game 1 winner Joe Mays, and Spiezio's
homer tied it leading off the fifth. One out later, Kennedy put the
Angels ahead with a drive into the right-field bleachers.
Francisco Rodriguez, Anaheim's 20-year-old rookie sensation,
brought back memories of past failures. He walked pinch-hitter
Bobby Kielty in the sixth, forcing home the tying run, then threw a
wild pitch that put Minnesota ahead and gave up Jacque Jones'
But the lead didn't last long, and Rodriguez wound up with yet
another win. He's now 4-0 in this year's playoffs -- the first four
victories of his major league career.
Spiezio and Bengie Molina singled off Santana, who had escaped a
two-on jam in the sixth. Kennedy bunted the first pitch foul,
fouled another pitch off with a swing, then smacked a hanging
curveball over the wall in right-center.
Even he seemed stunned, not reacting until he rounded first base
and started shouting. The only other players to homer three times
in a postseason game were Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson, who did it
in the World Series, and Bob Robertson and George Brett, who did in
the league championships.
''I don't show too much emotion out there,'' Kennedy said.
''When I saw the ball go over the fence, I let a little bit of
adrenaline out and gave a cheer.''
Anaheim then punished the Twins. Spiezio, like Kennedy, had two
hits in the inning and wound up with three RBI.
Percival closed out the ninth and already was looking ahead.
''We got one more step,'' he said. ''We're not done.''
Kennedy's only other multihomer games were July 4, 2000,
against Seattle and against the Chicago White Sox on May 10 this
year. The only other multihomer game of the postseason was by the
Angels' Troy Glaus against the Yankees. ... The only franchises not
to win pennants are Colorado, Houston, Montreal, Seattle, Tampa Bay
and Texas. ... The Philadelphia Athletics scored 10 runs against
the Chicago Cubs in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the 1929 World
Series and Detroit scored 10 runs against St. Louis in the third
inning of Game 6 of the 1968 World Series.