Giants veterans seek first World Series ring

Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO -- Kenny Lofton raised his arms in celebration, well before David Bell belly-flopped home with the winning run.

Moments later, there was madness in the middle of the diamond as Shawon Dunston and his San Francisco teammates hugged Lofton.

''He told me in Game 1, 'Shawon, have you ever been to the World Series?' I said no and he said, 'I'm going to get you there,''' Dunston said after the Giants beat St. Louis 2-1 Monday night to clinch the NL championship series.

A few other Giants old-timers will make the trip for the first time, too, when San Francisco travels to take on the Anaheim Angels in Game 1 Saturday night.

There's Barry Bonds, of course. At 38 and in his 17th major league season, he finally gets his chance at the only prize that has eluded him.

''It's a feeling I can't explain. Maybe in a few days I'll be able to tell someone how I feel,'' he said. ''I'm just so glad I'm going to the World Series. For me, it's a long time coming.''

Same for Benito Santiago. At 37 and also in his 17th season, his career almost ended a few years ago because of a car crash. Now, he's the NLCS MVP.

''The only thing I told Kenny when he got here was, 'You've been there before. I'm in the water. Just take me to the land,''' Santiago said.

''It's been a long time behind the plate taking foul tips,'' he said.

And there's Dunston. At 39, he made his big league debut in 1985 as a rocket-armed shortstop, a season before Bonds and Santiago reached the majors.

A backup outfielder these days, he struck out in his only at-bat in this NLCS before lining a two-out single that set up Lofton's hit.

After Bonds sprinted from the third-base dugout to help hoist Lofton, he found Dunston.

''He hugged me and I said, 'Barry, thank you for giving me the chance to go to the World Series.' And he said, 'No, thank you. I knew you were going to get that hit,''' Dunston said. ''Man, that's a good feeling when the best player in baseball tells you, 'Way to go!'''

Said Lofton: ''Shawon was emotional today. He was telling everybody, 'This is it. This is probably my last chance. It's my dream to get one World Series.' That was one of my thoughts as I ran to first. Now, he's getting it.''

And that thrilled Giants manager Dusty Baker.

''We've got a bunch of veteran guys who've given their heart and souls to this game and this team, and they're getting their reward,'' he said.

Kind of like last year when several older players with Arizona, such as Randy Johnson, Mark Grace and Jay Bell, won their first Series ring.

The party at Pacific Bell Park lasted for two more hours as a sellout crowd of 42,673 enjoyed the scene.

The scoreboard flashed ''The Giants Win the Pennant!'' The crowd chanted ''Beat L.A.!'' The sound system played ''I Left My Heart in San Francisco.''

Inside the clubhouse, Giants players shouted and sprayed champagne. All except one.

Because off in a corner and away from the bedlam, Bonds stayed dry -- until his 12-year-old son, Nikolai, poured water over his head.

''When we win the World Series, I'll celebrate,'' Bonds said.

In another corner, Dunston cried with his wife and his 9-year-old son, Shawon Jr.

''My little boy's been asking me why I'm not playing so much. I told him, 'Daddy's not a shortstop anymore,''' Dunston said. ''He's not an outfielder. He's a teammate.''

The 35-year-old Lofton became one of his teammates on July 28 when the Chicago White Sox traded him to the Giants for two minor league pitchers.

A star leadoff hitter through the 1990s, Lofton has dipped in the last few years. His only World Series appearance came in 1995 when his Cleveland Indians lost to Atlanta.

Lofton was in the center of a skirmish in Game 1 against St. Louis. The Cardinals didn't take too kindly to Lofton's protracted trot around the bases after an early home run off Matt Morris, and threw high and inside in his next at-bat. Lofton started shouting, triggering a bench-clearing shoving match.

After that game, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa claimed he'd seen Lofton pull the same ''trick'' in overreacting to inside pitches. Lofton then went 0-for-16 in the series until getting hit in the back by a pitch from Morris in the fourth inning.

''They hit him on purpose, everyone knew what happened,'' Bonds said. ''We told Kenny to just keep his composure and stay focused.''

Lofton hit singles in his next three at-bats, capped by his winning line drive to right field on reliever Steve Kline's first pitch.

''He's the only guy I didn't want to beat me,'' Kline said. ''I don't like that guy.''

No matter, because Lofton and the Giants are moving on.

''I started it,'' Lofton said, ''and I ended it.''

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