I found this gem among my journals, as I was unpacking today; a gem, mainly because it brought with it a flood of great memories. I can still remember watching this vividly with my brother George who was only 14 at the time, and the last couple of innings with my dad, who was only five years older than I am at the moment. Reading those words pop my eyes out. I’ve only had this feeling just a handful of times, of my favourite team winning in such dramatic fashion. I’ve been a sports junkie ever since I was a little kid, learning how to read English before I could speak, by reading a book about the World Series, in the process becoming a diehardLos Angeles Dodgers fan. (As an adult in my early thirties, the Cubbies would also capture my heart, a lot of it to do with the fact that I lived in Chicago for so long.)Ah but I digress… here is how the greatest home run in the history of major league baseball played out… (With the Los Angeles Dodgers playing so well, despite fear of breaking with my superstition, I post this, though it seems almost fate that I should find this entry, amidst all others.)
World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers vs Oakland Athletics, Game 1
The Los Angeles Dodgers barely beat the heavily favoured New York Mets in a thrilling seven-game series. Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s easily dispose of the Boston Red Sox in four straight games.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are 0-6 all time in World Series’ Game 1’s.
In the top of the first, the A’s strand three base runners, including their right fielder Jose Canseco who was beaned and first baseman Mark McGwire who had walked, against the Dodgers’ starter Tim Belcher. In the bottom half, the A’s intimidating starter Dave Stewart beans Steve Sax on the first pitch. (The home plate umpire warns Stewart to ensure that no more retaliation against the Dodgers for Belcher’s beaning of Jose Canseco.) After getting Franklin Stubbs to fly to center, Sax reaches second on a Stewart balk. Mickey Hatcher then immediately hits a home run to center to score him and Sax. Los Angeles 2-0.
At the top of the second, Belcher walks Carney Lansford to load the bases. Fighting his way down from a 3-1 count, Belcher strikes out Dave Henderson. Canseco strolls to the plate. After the television screen indicates that he has never hit a grand slam, Canseco crushes the ball on a line drive to dead center. A’s pull ahead 4-2. Belcher walks “the Cobra,” Dave Parker, before retiring McGwire on a force out at second base.
Stewart had only given up one hit since the Hatcher homer in the first. At the bottom of the sixth, Stewart retires Hatcher on a fly out to centerfielder Henderson. Mike Marshall lines a single to right field. Shelby lines a fast ball for another single, a hard hit ball that hits the top of the pitcher’s mound before heading to centerfield. Mike Scioscia sprinkles a sinkerball to the opposite field in right to bring Marshall in from second. Three consecutive singles – A’s 4 and the Dodgers 3. Shelby sits on second, while Sciosca holds the bag at first. Dodger stadium comes alive with sound. Stewart jams Dave Hamilton on a broken bat to Lansford, who runs to third and throws to first for an inning ending double play.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Stewart still looks strong. Hatcher gets called out on strikes for the first out. Marshall flies out to Glen Hubbard, who ran over from second towards right field to secure the ball. The Dodgers outlook is grim; Gibson is not even in the dugout. Canseco makes a great catch as he dives in right field to snag John Shelby’s flyball for the final out of the inning.
Our story moves to the bottom of the ninth inning. LaRussa makes two substitutions. He replaces catcher Terry Steinbach with Ron Hassey, and Dave Stewart with Dennis Eckersley, the MVP of the American League Championship Series. With just his second pitch, Eckersley gets Scioscia on a weak pop-up. (The camera pans to Gibson, who is nowsitting in the Dodger dugout.) The next batter Hamilton is called out on a strike three pitch located on the inside corner. Lasorda substitutes Mike Davis for Alfredo Griffin. Davis had struggled all year adjusting to National League pitching, hitting less than .200 for the season. After a first pitch strike, Eckersley misses on four straight balls on the upper outside corner to send Davis to first base.
With six homers and nineteen RBIs in twenty postseason games, Gibson limps to the batter’s box. The jubilant crowd roars. Eckersley had not allowed a home run since 24 August. In obvious extreme pain, Gibson fouls the first pitch. Both his knees are shot. Gibson can neither push off nor land on his swings; he’s forced to use all arms. He fouls Eckersley’s second pitch, another fastball that tails away from the left-handed Gibson to the outside corner of the plate. The count is 0-2 in favour of Eckersley. With two straight throws to first base, Eckersley holds Davis at the bag. On Eckersley’s next pitch, Gibson pulls a little nibbler down the first base line that creeps foul. Gibson slowly limps back to home plate. On his next pitch, Eckersley throws outside for ball one, a ball the catcher Hassey immediately throws to first attempting to catch Davis off-guard and possibly pick him off. Davis barely gets back to first base in time. Gibson fouls another pitch as Davis attempts to steal second. Eckersley then throws another ball on the outside upper corner, which he follows with another throw to first to keep Davis honest. Eckersley’s next pitch is way outside. Davis easily steals second as Hassey tries to throw the ball, but instead decides to keep it. Gibson calls time, and then slowly trudges back to the plate. The tension mounts. Eckersley throws his only breaking ball, one that is low and away. Gibson slams it over the right field wall for a two-run homer! Fists in the air, arms pumping, Gibson limps his way around the bases for the winning run, as he is mobbed by his manager and teammates. Dodgers win! Dodgers win! Dodgers win 5-4!
Vin Scully triumphantly cheers, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened! The only question was if [Gibson] would make it around the bases unassisted.”
- Bill Plaschke: Dodgers’ 1988 title was about big plays, and a lot of little details (miamiherald.com)
- Bill Plaschke: Setup men for a magic moment (miamiherald.com)
- Clayton Kershaw: 2013 NL MVP? (isportsweb.com)