Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Best Sporting Event Memory - 1988 World Series, Game 1
I'm going to cheat a bit and put my best sports memory. I wasn't at the game, but I was watching it at a restaurant.
It was October 15, 1988 and I was at a Mexican restaurant called Veracruz (a place I still frequent.) with my dad, little brother and a few of my dad's buddies. I was six years old, but already a sports nut, just like my dad. Of course, the Dodgers were (and still are) my team, so being in the World Series was the pinnacle of success.
The Dodgers went into that 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics as HUGE underdogs. The Dodgers weren't even supposed to be there as the mighty New York Mets were supposedly the only team with a chance of beating Oakland that year. The A's had a great pitching staff, a bunch of guys who could knock the crap out of the ball (later revealed to be because of steroid usage) and a hall of fame manager in Tony LaRussa.
The Dodgers had the NL Cy Young winner in Orel Hershiser (best pitching award), and the NL MVP in Kirk Gibson as well as a hall of fame manager of their own in Tommy Lasorda, but outside of that, little else. All they really had was a bunch of guys who were thought of as mostly bench or utility players.
Well, as expected, the A's blew through the Red Sox in the playoffs undefeated and looked every bit the future World Champs. The Dodgers on the other hand, shocked the world by beating the Mets in 7 games. In game 7, Kirk Gibson, already hobbled by hamstring and knee injuries, tore something in his uninjured knee on a slide into second base. Thus, the Dodgers went into the World Series without their MVP and with little hope of winning.
The game was pretty close. For the A's, Jose Canseco hit a grand slam home run in the middle innings to put the A's on top, 4-3. The game stayed this way until the bottom of the 9th (and final) inning.
The A's brought out their closing pitcher (a hall of famer and at the time, the best in baseball) named Dennis Eckersley. He had one of the best sliders the league had ever seen and was pretty much lights-out. Once he was in the game, it was almost an automatic victory. he easily recorded the first 2 outs of the ninth and Oakland looked to take a 1-0 series lead.
Here's where it gets really interesting.
The next batter was Mike Davis. Davis had been a Home-run hitter for the A's the year prior, which was why the Dodgers signed him as a free agent. However, he had only 1 home run all year for us and was a major disappointment.
Still, Eckersley, remembering him from the 1987 season as a teammate, pitched very cautiously to him and walked him. At this point, Kirk Gibson, walking with a terrible limp, came out of the dugout to pinch-hit. The crowd went nuts. Gibson hadn't even been at player introductions. He was in the trainers room all game long trying to walk to see if he could do anything. He mustered up the strength to come to the plate and bat, with 2 outs, bottom of the ninth, game 1 of the World Series, down by 1.
Gibson worked the count to a full 3 balls and 2 strikes. 1 more ball and he would walk, 1 more strike and he'd be out. Before the last pitch was thrown, Gibson stepped out of the batter's box and asked for a second to gather his thoughts. He recalled remembering his hitting coach telling him that Eckersley liked to throw a pitch called the backdoor slider on a full-count. He went back to the batters box and was looking for it.
The pitch came, Gibson swung...
and hit it into the Right Field Pavilion!!!
Home run! The Dodgers won! The crowd went nuts! The announcers went nuts! All of us at the restaurant went crazy, jumping up and down and yelling! A bunch of adults, a six year old (me) and my 3 year old brother, all of us going crazy!
That was Gibson's only at-bat of the World Series, but it was a memorable one. The Dodgers won the series in 5 games that year to claim their sixth World Championship.
As I was typing this, I got goosebumps. The memory of that home run always does that to me. The best sports moment I've ever experienced.