The intervening years haven't been kind to Scott Spiezio's legacy, but on the evening of Oct. 26, 2002, he was on top of the baseball world.
The Angels were about to bow out of their first World Series appearance in franchise history. The San Francisco Giants had a 3-2 series lead and they led 5-0 in the seventh inning.
The stage for Spiezio's big-stage moment was set in motion when Giants manager Dusty Baker elected to relieve starter Russ Ortiz after he'd thrown just 98 pitches, replacing him with hard-throwing reliever Felix Rodriguez after two straight singles. Those were just the third and fourth hits Ortiz allowed in the game.
On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Spiezio, a switch-hitter who was batting left-handed, swung and lifted a drive toward the corner in right field. The biggest home run in Angels history wasn't the longest shot ever hit at the stadium, but it was well-placed -- the wall is only a few feet high there and it pinches in at the corner, 330 feet from home plat. More than that, it was perfectly timed.
Suddenly, the Angels had life. Jolted by Spiezio's home run, they would rally for three runs the following inning to turn the tide in the series.
Spiezio, a fan favorite in Anaheim for his hard-rocker persona and dyed soul patch, will return to Angel Stadium from his home in Illinois to throw out the first pitch before Sunday's game vs. the Baltimore Orioles. No doubt it will be a warm moment for Spiezio, who has battled his share of demons since that crowning moment in 2002.
He left the Angels as a free agent after the 2003 season and his career quickly spiraled downward with the Seattle Mariners, oddly foreshadowing Chone Figgins' career trajectory six years later. The Mariners released Spiezio in 2005. He would go on to win a second World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals the following season, but in 2007 he started scraping rock bottom.
After a physical breakdown during an August game that season, the Cardinals placed Spiezio on the restricted list and said he was seeking treatment for an unspecified substance abuse problem. The Cardinals released him the following February and two months later he would plead guilty to misdemeanor drunken driving and hit-and-run charges in Newport Beach.
Orange County Register columnist Marcia Smith caught up with Spiezio recently. After a comeback attempt in independent baseball, he's 38 and retired, living a rural life in Morris, Ill.
"I'm really looking forward to coming back," Spiezio told Smith. "It has been a while."