D-backs honor 2001 Series title squad

D-backs honor 2001 Series title squad

PHOENIX -- At 9 a.m. MST on Saturday, fans began lining up outside Chase Field to procure souvenir copies of the World Series rings given to the Arizona Diamondbacks after they defeated the Yankees in the World Series.

Hours later, there were standing ovations from the sellout crowd of 48,017 inside the 14-year-old ballpark for the players from that team, more than a few of them wearing the real thing.

As the 2011 D-backs continued trying to wrap up the National League West title against the Padres, their brethren celebrated the 10-year anniversary of winning it all on a walk-off single by Luis Gonzalez against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera that ended Game 7 and the series.

"For me, it was exciting when the infield was in because as soon as it left my bat I knew it was going to fall in because of where [shortstop Derek] Jeter was playing," Gonzo recalled on Saturday about the big hit. "You don't get that opportunity very often. For me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You think that you're going to do it again and again and realistically it doesn't happen. But to have that chance and do it that one time was pretty awesome."

Gonzalez, now a D-backs executive, was among the 32 players, plus manager Bob Brenly and a number of front-office types from that team who were introduced during the festivities, which ended with Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Jerry Colangelo throwing out first pitches.

Johnson and Schilling, co-MVPs of that World Series, tossed theirs in tandem with Schilling overthrowing his to the screen behind home plate. Talk about 10 years later.

"It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since we won the World Series," Johnson said. "I had a few of the guys with their families over to my house last night for a little cookout and we were thinking about how fast 10 years had gone by."

Notable absences were starting second baseman Craig Counsell and closer Byung-Hyun Kim, who was the forlorn figure at the end of Games 4 and 5 at the old Yankee Stadium after allowing tying ninth-inning homers to Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius, respectively. Kim also was clipped for the winning hit in Game 4 in the 12th inning by Jeter.

Kim is still playing in Japan. Counsell, one of three regulars with that team still active in the Majors (Rod Barajas, Miguel Batista), was with the Brewers in Milwaukee, where they played the Phillies. Counsell, though, sent along a video message that was played on the scoreboard.

In honor of the occasion, the current D-backs decided to wear their 2001 throwback purple sleeveless pinstriped uniforms for the weekend. They were slated to wear the vintage garb on Friday night only, but after coming from behind to defeat the Padres, 3-2, they asked to don those uniforms for the next two games.

"It was what the team wanted to do. They liked it," D-backs current manager Kirk Gibson said. "They thought it was good and a good tribute to those guys."

With the first-place D-backs heading into the festivities 8 1/2 games ahead of the Giants, Gibson is enjoying immense success in his first full season as manager. Likewise, Brenly's club earned the only mens professional sports title in Arizona history in his rookie season. Brenly came down from the broadcast booth to replace Buck Showalter as manager in the club's fourth season.

"I saw all the guys at dinner the other night and I told my wife that if you give me three weeks of Spring Training, I'd take my chances with this team one more time," Brenly said.

Indeed, Johnson, Steve Finley, Tony Womack, Reggie Sanders and Junior Spivey all looked solid and very close to their playing weight. Schilling, never buff, had a little bit of a paunch.

Schilling, who later went on to win the 2004 World Series with the Red Sox, combined with Johnson to win 43 games on that D-backs team. Schilling led with 22 of those wins.

"I loved it," Schilling said about the competition with Johnson. "I said over and over again that he set a bar that would've been unreachable for most people. But I was always reaching. He had a couple of seasons that could go down as the best of all time. And I had to follow him [in the rotation] every day. I loved being a part of it. I loved watching it. It was kind of like going to school every day."

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.