SAN FRANCISCO -- Chuck Finley always wondered what it would be like to play a World Series game in Anaheim. That's because he came so close a long time ago.
Finley was a rookie with the California Angels in 1986 when they came within one strike of making it. He remembers it well - he relieved Donnie Moore in that fateful playoff game 16 years ago.
So while he was pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals this week in the NL championship series, Finley also was rooting for his former team to beat Minnesota in the ALCS.
"It would be kind of weird going back there that late in October. Usually when I go back there that late, I'm visiting friends in the PR department and the tractor pulls and stuff are starting up," he said. "But it would be nice. I would like to see us end up playing those guys at the end."
Same goes for Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds. He played with Finley on the Angels from 1993-99 and they became two of the club's biggest names, both making the All-Star team.
But they never reached the playoffs together in Anaheim, and Edmonds wasn't sure they ever would.
"When you come in second place every year, you don't know what it's like," he said. "You don't know what it takes and whether you can do it."
This year, second place was good enough for the Angels. They won the wild-card spot, beat the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs and got off to a strong start against Minnesota in the ALCS.
"They're the closest friends I have except for this team," Edmonds said. "I'd be happy for them if they got a chance to win the World Series. But then it would be nerve-racking if we would have to play against them. I'd rather take that challenge than be denied it."
Last week, he talked to Angels closer Troy Percival. Edmonds, who grew up in Southern California, seemed surprised to hear Percival describe how crazy the usually laid-back crowds in Anaheim had been.
"It's good for the city, I guess, for them to pretend like they care about baseball for a couple weeks," Edmonds said. "I've had some phone calls, guys saying you wouldn't believe what it's like right now.
"Troy compared it to St. Louis because he saw what it was like here," he said. "I said, 'Do you mean it?"'
The Angels played the Cardinals for the first time this season. Edmonds homered on June 18 as St. Louis - in Darryl Kile's final game - won 7-2 to take over sole possession of first place in the NL Central.
The Cardinals won the next day 6-2 before Anaheim avoided a sweep at Busch Stadium, with Percival preserving a 3-2 victory. Percival never got to face his buddy, Edmonds.
"Percy said that day that he didn't want to pitch to him in the ninth," Anaheim outfielder Tim Salmon said. "There's just too many ironies going on there."
Salmon played several seasons with Edmonds and Finley until they both left after the 1999 season, when the Angels finished last in the AL West with a 70-92 record.
Finley, who signed with the Angels in 1985 and pitched for them when they lost the 1986 ALCS in seven games to Boston, went to Cleveland as a free agent. Last July 19, the Indians traded him to St. Louis for two minor leaguers.
For eight years in Anaheim, Finley either led or tied for the team lead in victories.
Edmonds signed with the Angels at age 17 in 1988. He became a two-time Gold Glove winner and hit 25 or more homers in four straight years.
But he eventually wore out his welcome in Anaheim and was traded to St. Louis for second baseman Adam Kennedy and pitcher Kent Bottenfield during spring training in 2000.
"At that point in time, we had different leadership with Terry Collins and Larry Bowa, and that didn't exactly coincide with the look of looseness that Jimmy displayed and his style of play," Salmon said. "I mean sometimes it's just not the right mix.
"But I think if he was in this clubhouse today, it would have been totally fine. He's just a fun-loving guy. I mean, you can't say anything bad about him," he said.
Longtime Angels outfielder Garret Anderson has kept tabs on Edmonds and Finley.
"I've been following them all year, and I wish them well because they're good friends of mine," he said.
Finley would enjoy a reunion next weekend in Anaheim.
"It would be kind of special for Jimmy and I to go back there and play in that environment at that time of the year," he said.
© 2017. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us