SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Barry Bonds says he doesn’t even remember Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. Russ Ortiz still has the ball manager Dusty Baker infamously handed him walking off the mound in Game 6 with a 5-0 lead and the championship eight outs away. Jeff Kent remains bitter about what he calls “the worst defeat of my life.”
Almost a decade later, San Francisco’s collapse against Anaheim still stings.
Members of the 2002 National League champion Giants gathered at AT&T Park again Sunday, receiving light ovations from the crowd before San Francisco faced Baker and his Cincinnati Reds in the finale of a four-game series. Even Baker wore his home Giants uniform — No. 12 — with the rest of his former players during the ceremony while his Reds watched from the dugout’s top step.
“Game 6 happened and I don’t even remember Game 7,” said Bonds, slimmed down to about 212 pounds from his new love of cycling. “I remember standing in the shower thinking, ‘What happened?’”
Indeed, the 10-year reunion brought back mixed memories for a talented group that accomplished more than any other club — until the 2010 championship team — ever did in San Francisco. But similar to so many others from Willie Mays to Orlando Cepeda to Juan Marichal, they never could raise a banner in the City by the Bay.
A video montage celebrated all the best moments of that season — capturing the NL wild card, rallying from a 2-1 series deficit to beat the Atlanta Braves in five games and eliminating St. Louis in five for the NL pennant. A highlight also showed one of the staples of that season: Baker’s then-3-year-old bat boy son, Darren, getting scooped up by J.T. Snow before a play at the plate.
Darren threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Snow on Sunday. Then the former first baseman ran to the mound and lifted Darren up again in a warm embrace.
“You brought us a golden era of Giants baseball,” team President and CEO Larry Baer told the team during the pregame ceremony. “Simply put, you all made this a baseball town. And for that, we are eternally grateful.”
A few notable absences from the clips: the time Bonds and Kent feuded in the dugout that season and those final two devastating defeats.
Bonds was all smiles back at the ballpark again and received the loudest ovations from the crowd when he was introduced. He didn’t talk anymore about his appeal for an obstruction of justice conviction from April 2011, when jurors found him guilty for giving an evasive answer to a 2003 grand jury investigating illegal steroids distribution.
About the only other thought Bonds would offer during the 3 minutes or so he took questions from reporters was reiterating how he’d love to help — but not officially coach — San Francisco’s sluggers.
“I know a lot about hitting and I know a lot about baseball,” said Bonds, the career home run leader at 762. “And it would be a shame that it just went away with me when I pass away. It’s your obligation to teach others. Some of the things I was taught, things I did, how I could read certain things. Now it’s time.
“I couldn’t do it then because I didn’t want you to get traded and tell someone else what I knew,” he said. “That was just more of a business deal. Now I could tell you whatever I want. It doesn’t bother me at all.”
What still bothers most Giants is the way that 2002 season ended.
After Ortiz allowed consecutive singles in the seventh inning of Game 6, Baker replaced him and handed the pitcher the ball and seemingly the item that clinched San Francisco’s first World Series since moving West in 1958. Anaheim’s Rally Monkey appeared on the scoreboard, Scott Spiezio hit a three-run homer and the Angels rallied for two victories that still have some in San Francisco steaming about what could have been.
“I’m still bitter, and I’m jealous about those guys who won in 2010,” said Kent, the 2000 NL MVP. “Game 7 was the worst defeat of my life. It was an emotional rollercoaster. That was the greatest time in my life, but those last games, I’m still bitter. It was my last time in a San Francisco Giants uniform.”
Not all the memories were bad.
Ortiz still cherishes the ball Baker gave him along with other collectibles from his baseball career. He keeps it in a glass case in a constructed memorabilia room at his home in Mesa, Ariz., and his mind wanders to that ball more often than the one he has for his first hit, complete game or even the one signed by 11 different 300-game winners.
“It’s definitely a conversation piece,” Ortiz said.
As for what he remembers walking off the mound for the final time that season, it’s “the feelings of, ‘Man, we may actually win this thing,’” he said. “And then to not win, you realize how hard it is to win a championship.”