Giants' 2002 NL champs enjoy 10-year reunion
SAN FRANCISCO -- Dusty Baker was back wearing his Giants jersey with the No. 12 proudly displayed on its back. He wore it over his Reds uniform. His son, Darren, now 13, threw out the first pitch, to J.T. Snow, of all people.Snow picked up the substantially bigger version of Darren on his shoulder and twirled him around, just like he did almost a decade ago. "That team had a great impact, especially on Dusty's son," Barry Bonds said with a laugh Sunday about the 2002 version of the Giants. "Little Darren out there, he was like our good-luck charm. It's good to see him back here, too." Snow's scoop out of harm's way of the tiny 3-year-old Darren is one of the most lasting images of that 2002 World Series the Giants lost in seven games to the Angels. Game 5 was the zenith of a season that was celebrated Sunday at AT&T Park with the 10-year reunion of that team. Baker received a warm ovation from the sellout crowd. And after his Reds lost, 4-3, to the Giants in the bottom of the ninth on Angel Pagan's fly to deep right that was misplayed into a double by Jay Bruce, the manager was in no mood to talk about the ceremony. Beforehand, he was among the group, hugging and chatting. "I got to see some of my boys," he said. "I was curious to see how they're doing in life with their families. I've seen some guys I haven't seen in a while, guys who meant a lot to our team, to the organization and our city. It's always nice to see your former players, laugh and just have a good time." As it turned out, Game 5 was the last time Baker donned his Giants uniform in San Francisco. The Giants, of course, finally won the World Series under Bruce Bochy in 2010. Baker left after the '02 postseason on his own accord, and after stints managing the Cubs and Reds, time seems to have healed all wounds. "I was glad for Dusty to see that reaction," Bonds said. "He and I have been together since I was a baby. He was a good manager." The Giants won Game 5, 16-4, at the end of the third season in their relatively new ballpark to take what seemed like a commanding 3-2 lead back to Anaheim. The precocious Darren was one of the team's batboys, and during a seventh-inning rally, Kenny Lofton tripled, driving home Snow and David Bell. "Luckily, Kenny hit that ball off the wall and I went back to tag and I didn't have to run real hard to score," Snow recalled. "When I looked down, I saw a little flash behind me. Darren did such a great job of going out and getting the bats -- he's so eager all the time -- and I realized it was him." Darren was quickly trying to retrieve Lofton's bat as Snow trotted toward the plate. The Giants first baseman, now a special assistant in the organization, deftly stepped on the plate and grabbed Darren by his jacket with one hand, whisking him away before Bell came barreling around to score. Baker watched in horror from his perch in the Giants' third-base dugout as the scene unraveled. "I was thinking what my mom told me: 'He shouldn't be out there; he's going to get hurt,'" Baker said back then. "I said, 'Mom, I know what I'm doing.' The first call I got in the clubhouse [after the game] was my mom to tell me 'I know you listen to me sometimes, just listen to me this time.' She told me to thank J.T. for saving him." The incident changed the age limit for bat boys in Major League Baseball games and marked the beginning of the end for the Giants in that World Series. They had a 5-0 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 6 at Angel Stadium before letting the game and that shot at a World Series ring disappear in the autumn air. Because of that unfinished business, the reunion had a bittersweet air to it Sunday. But it was celebrated nonetheless, just like the National League champs of 1962 and '89, who lost their respective World Series but have had their days in the sun. The '62 team of Willie Mays and Willie McCovey lost Game 7 at nearby Candlestick Park when McCovey scorched a liner into the outstretched glove of Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson. The '89 team of Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell lost to the Bay Area rival A's in a World Series best remembered for the 6.9 earthquake that rattled San Francisco, shaking Candlestick to its rafters. Oakland's charge toward an eventual sweep was delayed for 10 days after that. The '02 team had the bickering of Bonds and Jeff Kent. It won the NL's Wild Card before defeating the Braves and Cardinals to get to the World Series. They were both back Sunday, but there's no lingering animosity or regrets. "Not winning? It doesn't stick with me anymore," said Bonds, who hit four homers, drove in six runs and was walked 13 times -- seven of them intentionally -- in that Series. "Right now, it's just good to see everyone and have a good time. Win or lost, it's nice just to come home and reminisce with each other."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.