With the start of Major League Baseball on the horizon, I have been thinking about some of the biggest moments in baseball history.
Maybe it’s because I am a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, but for me, one of the greatest moments in baseball’s long history came in 1988. I was only one-year-old but had watched the videos many times, and the event has become my favorite play in baseball.
In 1988, the Dodgers were in the World Series against the Oakland A’s. The A’s were the favorites coming into the series, and the Dodgers had been plagued by injuries towards the end of the season.
Kirk Gibson, one of LA’s best hitters on the team, wasn’t supposed to play in game one of the series. Gibson had a hamstring injury and a bad knee. For much of the game, he wasn’t even sitting on the bench. That’s what made his late-game heroics even more memorable.
Gibson had arrived at the stadium early and desperately wanted to play in the game, but the pain in his leg prevented him from even being able to walk onto the field for the pregame introductions.
Adrenaline and a bit of anger fueled Gibson, and he spent much of the game in a batting cage near the locker room taking swings till late in the game.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Dodgers were trailing 4-3, and legendary Dodger’s announcer Vin Scully said in his broadcast that Gibson wouldn’t “be there tonight” for LA. This pushed Gibson over the edge.
He had a trainer tell the coaches on the bench that he was going to get ready to pinch-hit for LA.
To make things even more dramatic, Oakland brought on Dennis Eckersley, one of the best closers in history, to try and shut down the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth.
With two outs, Mike Davis was up to bat for the Dodgers. Davis had struggled in the playoffs and was only batting .190, but he was able to draw a walk opening the door for a walk-off home run.
Throughout the inning and while Davis was batting LA’s manager, Tommy Lasorda kept Gibson out of sight because he said he figured that Eckersley would pitch to Davis differently than if he knew Gibson was on deck.
With Davis on first base and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Gibson limped to the batter’s box.
As Davis headed to first base, Gibson stepped out of the dugout. Dodger Stadium erupted with cheers as Scully announced, “And here comes Gibson!” Gibson hobbled to the box.
His leg injuries prevented him from solidly planting his feet, and he had to adopt an awkward looking swing, but Gibson said when he heard the crowd cheer for him, adrenaline raced through his body.
Gibson fouled off the first two fastballs Eckersley fired at him. The next pitch was a sinker, and Gibson hit a roller down the first base line, which barely rolled foul. The pain he was in was evident as he tried to hobble down the first base line before the ball rolled foul.
A few pitches later, the count was at 3-2, and Gibson said after the game he knew what the next pitch would be. He readied himself for a backdoor slider.
The fans in the stadium were on edge as they waited for the next pitch. Eckersley delivered a backdoor slider, just as Gibson had predicted.
Gibson connected with the ball over the plate and sent it flying towards the right field fence.
The crowd went nuts as Gibson slowly hobbled around the bases while fanatically fist pumping. Scully recaps the events by saying, “In a year that seemed so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
The Dodgers would go on to win the World Series 4-1, and Gibson’s home run has gone down as one of the most iconic moments in MLB history.