Kirk Gibson reflects on his home run: 'I believed in it'

Eric Stephen | True Blue LA

One of the most iconic moments in baseball history was remembered on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

LOS ANGELES -- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson took time before Tuesday's game to reflect on his home run to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series for the Dodgers. The same fire that burned within Gibson player is still there 25 years later, as a manager.

"We want to kick their ass tonight," Gibson said from the interview room on the Dodgers' side of the stadium. "It feels weird being on the other side. It doesn't feel right, I gotta tell you."

But despite wearing the Sedona red of the Diamondbacks, Gibson still looks back fondly on his time as a Dodger, something he said he will never forget even as the year moves farther into the rear-view mirror.

"With 25 years to be honest with you it seems like it's fading more, the vividness of it," Gibson said. "Although when I came here I walk into the stadium back there in right field and I immediately look up to the seat where I think the ball landed, that I named myself Seat 88."

Gibson came to the Dodgers thanks to collusion, when baseball owners in the 1980s tried to combat inflating player salaries by refusing in tandem to make offers to free agents. An arbitrator's ruling made Gibson a free agent, and the Dodgers quickly swooped in with a three-year deal.

Fans and even the ownership in Detroit didn't take Gibson's departure from the Dodgers well, and many of their comments served as fuel for the strong-willed Gibson, who thought about his acrimonious exit from the motor city on Oct. 15, 1988.

"When I left Detroit a lot was said about me, attacking me and my character, things about my family, etc. I remember my parents, and my dad defended me of course. Maybe he shouldn't have but any father or mother would do that. I used to tell my parents, 'Don't worry about it, we'll have our day,'" Gibson said. "That's the most vivid memory I remember about rounding the bases was that. They had to take that shit for so long, but we made our statement."

Gibson was hobbled with knee and hamstring injuries and was not expected to play in the World Series. His pinch-hit home run off Dennis Eckersley, the best closer in baseball and a future Hall of Famer, is arguably the best on-field moment in the history of the Dodgers franchise. It's something Gibson doesn't mind reliving.

More Gibson: 1988 player profile

"I enjoy watching it, it's good affirmation for me in my life. I remember how hard it was and how lucky I was to have done it," Gibson said. "It was evidence to anybody who believes you can't do it. It gives them a reason to believe you could."

Belief is a strong word for Gibson, something he has tried to impart both as a player and manager.

"I just know that when the opportunity came up I knew I could do it. The other part was my loyalty to my teammates. We had something magical going in 1988," Gibson said. "I just knew it was my calling. It's like somebody told me, 'C'mon, let's go, it's time for you to do your thing.' I believed in it."

This is Gibson's fourth season as manager in Arizona, where he has a 281-270 (.510) record and a division title in 2011. Gibson hit two home runs in the clinching Game 5 of the 1984 World Series for the Tigers, and in addition to his Game 1 home run in 1988 he won the National League MVP. Gibson was asked if a moment as manager has felt as euphoric than as a player.

"I just knew it was my calling. It's like somebody told me, 'C'mon, let's go, it's time for you to do your thing.' I believed in it." -Kirk Gibson on his 1988 World Series Game 1 home run

"It hasn't yet. I do have a goal to be a world champion with my team," Gibson said. "Something tells me I will be a part of some moment again. I just feel it, and I'm motivated to go after it and to make sure guys are prepared and confident when we get to that situation."

Gibson won't get that moment in 2013, as his Diamondbacks have fallen back to .500 for the first time since April 2. Down 13 games with 18 to play in the NL West they certainly won't win the division, the latest blow coming at the hands of another pinch-hit, two-run home run at Dodger Stadium, this one by Scott Van Slyke.

Among the calls of his home run - Vin Scully on NBC television, Jack Buck on CBS Radio and Don Drysdale on Dodgers radio - Gibson said he doesn't have a favorite. But he does especially enjoy one particular moment about the home run.

"I noticed that the first time I watched the video of it. It's pretty distinct. When I listen to it on radio that's a really cool thing about it. All those people putting their brake lights on, I just wondered what they were saying," Gibson said. "I can't say it here."

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