On October 15, 1988, Kirk Gibson delivered one of the most iconic moments in baseball history. Down to his final strike, Gibson homered to right field, giving the Dodgers a 5-4 victory over the Oakland A’s in the World Series.
The Dodgers trailed 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, with arguably the best closer in the game on the mound. Dennis Eckersley, who had 45 saves on the season, looked as if he was going to lock down the ninth and secure the game 1 win.
He got Mike Scioscia to pop out, and then proceeded to strike out Jeff Hamilton. With two outs, Mike Davis stepped up to the plate. After spending eight years with Oakland, Davis had a disappointing year with LA. On the year, Davis hit .196 with a .260 on-base percentage.
On the season, Eckersley allowed only 13 walks. He got ahead in the count 0-1, but then threw four straight balls, allowing Davis to reach with a two-out walk. For Eckersley, it was the third time all year he issued a walk with two outs and the bases empty.
With a runner on first and two outs, manager Tommy Lasorda turned to Kirk Gibson, looking for a pinch-hit homer to win the game.
Gibson battled injuries during the postseason, hurting his left hamstring in game 5 of the NLCS, and hurting his right knee in game 7. Not in the starting lineup for game 1, it appeared Gibson wasn’t going to suit up. Later in the game, the camera panned across the Dodgers dugout, with Gibson nowhere in sight.
Supposedly Gibson heard Vin Scully’s comments and decided to go take some practice swings in the clubhouse. On the season, Gibson hit .290 with 25 homers 76 RBI and took home MVP honors.
Gibson hobbled up to the plate with two bad legs, ready to face the best closer in the game.
He swung at the first pitch, fouling it off into the stands. After the swing, Gibson limped around, looking as if he could barely walk. Eckersley delivered the second pitch, and it was the same result. Gibson fouled it off, looking like he could barely stand up.
On the third pitch, Gibson dribbled one up the first base line. Struggling to get out of the box and run to first, the ball rolled foul. It looked as if Gibson stood no chance, and was one pitch away from losing the game.
After battling through the at-bat, Gibson managed to even the count at 2-2. On the next pitch, Davis stole second, his eighth stolen base of the season. Now, standing at second, all the Dodgers needed from Gibson was a single to tie the game.
The count stood at 3-2. After seeing fastball after fastball, Gibson connected on a backdoor slider, sending it into the right field pavilion to give LA the 5-4 win.
30 years later, the moment is just as memorable as ever. It’s cemented into every baseball fan’s memory. Watching Gibson struggle to round the bases, hearing Vin Scully’s memorable call, it will forever remain timeless.
With their series against the Brewers currently tied at one game a piece, the Dodgers will look to recreate some of that same magic, and deliver the first World Series to Los Angeles in three decades.