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World Series 2001
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10/22/2001 05:28 AM ET
Counsell grabs MVP honors
By Ian Browne
Counsell checks out his new hardware.
Counsell on MLB Radio
Press conferences (Brenly and Counsell): Video | Audio

ATLANTA -- Randy Johnson had a lot on his mind as he celebrated the glory of the first World Series berth of a career that will eventually land him in the Hall of Fame. But there was one thing he wanted to make sure people knew.

"We wouldn't be here without Craig Counsell, it's that simple," the Big Unit said. "That's the bottom line."

The Big Unit was speaking of the MVP of this National League Championship Series. Johnson wouldn't have been a bad choice for MVP himself in this series, recording two victories, including the Game 5 clincher. In 17 innings, Johnson yielded two earned runs and struck out 19.

But the towering Big Unit was glad to see his diminutive little teammate get rewarded.

Counsell might look small for a ballplayer, at 6-feet and 175 pounds, but there was no questioning how big he came up in a series which saw the D-Backs roar past the Braves in five games.

So prolific was Counsell through the first four games that he took home the MVP despite an 0-for-3 performance in Game 5.

Whether it was dropping down a perfect bunt or getting a key hit, Counsell continually rattled the Braves. He finished the series 8-for-18 (.381) with five runs, three doubles and four RBIs.

Just as he did for the World Championship Marlins of 1997, Counsell has been playing the underdog role to perfection with the nation watching.

In the victorious D-Backs clubhouse, there were roars of "Rudy, Rudy, Rudy." That is the fitting nickname teammates have bestowed on the 31-year-old Counsell. It mimmicks the reality-based motion picture "Rudy," based on a blue-collar kid who makes the Notre Dame football team as a walk-on despite various obstacles.


"Every opportunity he's had on the days he's played, he's come through for us," Johnson said. "That's pretty inspiring for a lot of the older guys on this team. I think he's inspired a lot of the older veterans to try and get the most out of their ability by watching him."

Counsell knows he can't avoid the obvious comparisons with 1997, when he hit .429 against -- ironically -- the Braves in the NLCS and scored the winning run in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Indians.

But he also doesn't lose sight of the fact that the job isn't done yet. There are four victories left. Victories that are going to be extremely tough, whether the opponent is the three-time defending world champion New York Yankees or the 116-win Seattle Mariners.

"We still got some work to do here, I know that," Counsell said. "There's no question if we're able to win this thing, it will be a bigger thrill (than 1997). Just, being a part of it all year."

Counsell didn't join the Marlins until the second half of 1997. He has seen this Diamondbacks' story unfold from Spring Training to the World Series.

"Being here all year has been really special," Counsell said. "You've gone through all the ups and down that a tam goes through during the course of the year, and you become a unit. Just how we got better, how we always had confidence, despite some setbacks.

"You just feel lucky to be in this position again, I'm thrilled to be going to the World Series," Counsell said. "The MVP, that's just something extra."

But something all of Counsell's teammates would say went to the right guy.

Ian Browne is a reporter for