PHOENIX -- Jerry Colangelo doesn't do predictions. As the Managing General Partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was asked countless times how he would react to a World Series title.
|After 35 years in professional sports, Jerry Colangelo celebrates winning his first championship.
He didn't even dare guess, taking the safe approach, throwing out simple words like "emotional and meaningful" to describe the mythical scene.
Given his Wall Street approach to sports, most figured he'd have a killer speech ready. A real doozy that would melt an audience of revelers. He could have done that. But in hindsight it would have been mistake.
When the moment arrived -- as Luis Gonzalez dropped a single into left field pushing across Jay Bell with the winning run in a nervy 3-2 Game 7 victory over the Yankees -- Colangelo kept his mouth shut. Paralyzed by the improbable scene, he let tears stream down his face.
After 35 years in professional sports, including a tenure that began in 1968 in the desert, Colangelo had won his first championship. The state of Arizona is officially on the radar.
"I couldn't fight back the tears. It feels so much better than I ever expected. So much better," said Colangelo soaking in champagne. "You strive to win championships from when you start in Little League baseball and in small fry basketball. I won some of those things. But this is so unique. I waited so long for this cigar. And man, it was worth it."
Those who know Colangelo best appreciate what unfolded at Bank One Ballpark on Sunday night. Since he took over the fledgling Phoenix Suns, this Chicago-raised kid has been obsessed with standing on sport's mountaintop. But as the years passed and opportunities vanished, his faith -- as well as the state he rules -- was tested.
"I began to wonder if it would ever happen," said Colangelo, whose Suns failed in their bid for NBA Finals crowns in the 1976 and 1993. "It crossed my mind."
Then at 9:17, Bell crossed the plate. The Diamondbacks, Colangelo's team, were champions -- in only their fourth year of existence. No one has ever done it faster. But on Sunday none of that mattered. Historical significance can wait. There was -- at last -- champagne to drink. "Phoenix," noted pitcher Curt Schilling, "is now a baseball town."
"I saw it. I really did. But honestly, I wasn't sure it was real. I was thinking that it was something that I was making up in my mind," said Colangelo, who is heading to Chicago on Monday for the owners meeting before returning in time for Wednesday's scheduled downtown parade. "It was the most memorable moment of my life. I am just so proud of these guys."
Ordinarily such pronouncements by owners are met by rolled eyes from reporters, if not players. This situation, however, was totally different. Without prompting, the Diamondbacks went out of their way to thank Colangelo, a man who invited criticism by investing countless millions in free-agent acquisitions since the franchise's inception.
"People think we are going to be the next Florida Marlins? That won't happen for one reason: Jerry Colangelo. He won't let it. He's a winner," said second baseman Craig Counsell. "He helped build this ballpark, he got a team here, he put together this team, he spent his money. He's the foundation of all this."
Added pitcher Brian Anderson, who was Arizona's first pick in the expansion draft, "You have to tip your hat to Jerry for what he's done for this city and this state. What can you say? He's the best owner in professional sports. As happy as I am for myself and my teammates, I am even happier for Jerry."
Even former Suns star Tom Chambers gladly weighed in as he walked around the victorious clubhouse.
"This guy has given everything he can possibly give to win a championship for this city and this state," Chambers said. "To see him over there, to see him break down, it was better than watching Luis hit the ball over shortstop. You know what I am saying? It's indescribable. I love that man. He's mentor. He deserves everything he gets. This is really awesome."
For his part, Colangelo absorbed the experience gracefully, talking to reporters in between congratulatory handshakes. Greg Swindell, eyes watering, thanked Colangelo for fulfilling his career. Others offered similar praise. At one point, the Diamondbacks' boss told a player, "They are going to be dancing in the streets tonight. And it won't be the last time, either. This is just the start."
But even Colangelo, after receiving an ice water bath, acknowledged that nothing would ever top his first.
"Wannabes are all over the place. We are living in a time when people have a lot of stress. This is a great experience for this state. They have their own championship now," Colangelo said. "You can never repeat this. Even if we won five in a row, that moment that happened tonight was a dream that can never be be matched. Never."
Troy E. Renck is a reporter for MLB.com.