10/15/2002 01:13 am ET
Santiago gives credit to others
MVP of series cites teammates for Giants' success
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
A glance at past NLCS MVPs
SAN FRANCISCO -- Batting behind Barry Bonds, everyone knew Benito Santiago was going to get his chances.
After all he has been through in his career, was there ever really any question that he would take advantage of those chances?
Santiago, 37, hit .300 with two home runs and six RBIs in the NLCS. He hit a two-run home run in Game 1 to give the Giants a 9-3 lead in the sixth inning and help shock the Cardinals at home. And he put the Giants ahead 2-0 with a home run that eventually won Game 4 at Pacific Bell Park.
For his clutch play, in the field and batting behind Bonds, Santiago was chosen the series MVP.
"This is unbelievable," said Santiago. "I don't know how to describe it at this point. I dreamed of this, of the World Series. Now we have to go all the way. For the last month and a half, I have thought we could win it all. After we went through Atlanta, I knew we had a chance. And now, here we are."
Santiago will be making his first World Series appearance. He made it to the NLCS with the Reds in 1995.
"It's been a long time behind the plate taking the foul tips," Santiago said.
In 1987, Santiago started his career with the Padres and won the Rookie of the Year Award. He is one of seven unanimous winners of the honor. Over the next four years with San Diego, he won three Gold Gloves and made the All-Star team four times. With his aggressive, throw-from-his-knees style of defense and potent bat, he was one of the top catchers of the late 1980s and early 90s.
He left the Padres after the 1992 season and spent the next five years with four different teams, never quite enjoying the same success he had in San Diego. Then, he was involved in an auto accident on Jan. 4, 1998 that left him with several injuries and caused him to miss most of the 1998 season.
He came back in August with the Blue Jays but was unable to play much, with his right knee still hurting. In the next two years, he played for the Cubs and Reds, barely getting 500 at-bats combined.
He was released and thought he might never play in the Majors Leagues again.
Then, midway through Spring Training in 2001, he was signed by the Giants. He responded, playing in 133 games that season. This year, Santiago hit .278 with 16 homers and 74 RBIs this season. He made the All-Star team for the fifth time, going 10 years between appearances.
"Dusty (Baker) gave me the opportunity but I never thought it would be like this," Santiago said. "This is a dream come true. I was sidelined for a long, long time.
"The lesson is, no matter what you are going through, you have to keep it up, you have to keep the faith. You have to believe in yourself and your family."
Santiago credited many people for helping him make a comeback and, even in accepting the MVP trophy, said he couldn't have done any of it by himself.
"Barry is the big guy," Santiago said. "He pumps me up every day. He gave me the opportunity to be the MVP. Really, he is the MVP. Jeff Kent is the MVP. Kenny Lofton is the MVP. The whole team is the MVP.
"When Kenny came here (from the White Sox on July 28), I told him, 'You've been there before. I'm in the water. Just take me to the land. I know you've been in the World Series. Just play the same way you played in those postseasons,' and he did. He became the hero tonight. That's why I'm standing here as the MVP."
Santiago said there is only one more job left for the Giants to tackle.
"Now we have to take it all the way," Santiago said. "We've got to keep the Rally Monkey down. We've got to keep the rally monkey in his cage. I don't want to see him get out at all."
Paul C. Smith is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.