In honor of the sacred 50th anniversary of our Beloved Dodger Stadium, I will be releasing my top ten moments of Dodger Stadium history. Currently the Dodgers are casting a special vote on what the top ten moments of the last 50 years at the Ravine are. These are my top ten however. Please note these are mine, and mine alone. These are the top ten moments according to me, a lifelong fanatical Dodger fan, who has grown up in southern California. There are so many memories it is almost too hard to choose just ten. I will count down each one per day, leading up to the Dodger’s Opening day game April 5th in San Diego. Each one of these moments will make you smile, laugh, and will bring chills down your spine. Some of them may even take your breath away. Without further adieu, I give you the number six moment in Dodger Stadium history: Steve Finley’s Walk-Off Slam Wins West for Dodgers….
In 2004, the Dodgers had a sort of a rejuvenation. At the time, we had suffered through eight of Fox owned playoff-less years, and once the team was sold to Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie, Dodger fans hoped for better times ahead under new ownership. If we only knew what we knew now….but back in those days, things were looking pretty good. The Dodgers made the playoffs by winning the NL West. It was the first time in eight years the Dodgers had made the playoffs. More important though, was how they got there. The Dodgers were an exciting team that scored runs, and came from behind to win many of their games that year. The team really came together, and at one point they won eight games in a row in July to move into first place. They would stay there for most of the rest of the season. The hated Giants hung around, and closed the gap in September. On the second to last day of the regular season the Dodgers had a slim 1 game lead over the Giants, with two games to play at Dodger Stadium. It was simple, if the Dodgers win, they were in, lose, and face an all or nothing game for the division the next day.
What made this game all the more remarkable, was the Dodgers had done nothing for eight innings. The Giants had a 3-0 lead going into the bottom of the 9th. Brett Tomko the starting pitcher for the Giants, had pitched 7.1 innings of effective Baseball, and held the Dodgers to just four hits into the 8th inning. Meanwhile the Dodgers starting pitcher Elmer Dessens only lasted four innings, allowing two runs on three hits, with three walks. Wilson Alverez followed Dessens and was able to quiet things down by pitching two scoreless innings.
The Giants had scored first. Marquis Grissom, who would become a Dodger a few years later, drove in all three San Francisco runs. In the fourth inning, Grissom drove in two with a two-run single. In the 7th, he padded the San Francisco lead with a solo home run. The score would remain 3-0 Giants until that magical 9th inning.
With Dustin Hermanson on the mound to start the 9th, the Dodgers began a furious rally, perhaps one of the greatest in Dodger history. It involved several full count walks, two hits, an error, and a flurry of San Francisco pitching changes. Shawn Green started the amazing rally with a bloop single to left. Barry Bonds tries to make a sliding catch but is unable to do so. Robin Ventura walks on a full count, and the Dodgers have life.
Alex Cora is called out on strikes, sending the Dodger Stadium crowd to a frenzy. Next batter is Jose Hernandez, pinch hitting for Catcher David Ross. Hernandez also draws a full-count walk, like Ventura did, and the bases are loaded. Hee-Seop Choi the number 7 LA Dodger Bum of all time, comes off the bench to bat for the pitcher. The crowd begins to chant his name….Hee-Seop Choi….Hee-Seop Choi…… Of course Choi was already well on his way into his spiraling decline. However this would be perhaps his best at-bat as a Dodger ever. Choi also draws a full count walk, and thus forces in a run. 3-1 the score is now. There is a pinch runner for Choi, and the Giants make a pitching change.
Enter Jason Christianson. It wouldn’t matter who the Giants brought in to pitch, the Dodgers had destiny on their side. Cesar Izturis hits a grounder to Cody Ransom at shortstop. Ransom was put into the game as a defensive replacement, and boots the ball during all the excitement. A run scores on the error, and it is 3-2 now.
At this point the crowd is starting to go nuts. I swear I will never forget this game. I have never seen anything like it in my entire life as a Dodger fan. It was incredible.
The Giants make another pitching change, this time bringing in another former Dodger Matt Herges. San Francisco tried all they could to stop what was inevitable, but there was no stopping this Blue tidal wave. Jayson Werth, lines a single into right field, which plated the tying run. Everyone is going crazy.
Finally Steve Finely came to bat with the Bases loaded. Finley was a mid-season pickup for the Dodgers. He was acquired from the Dbacks for three minor league players. Finley, while only playing one season for the Dodgers may have provided us one of the most memorable moments in Dodger Stadium history.
The Giants made one last pitching change, this time bringing in Wayne Franklin. On Franklin’s second pitch Finley crushes a long fly ball to deep right field….All the Dodgers needed was a deep fly ball, but I remember the ball continued to carry, and carried all the way over the wall in right field for a grand-slam home run. A walk-off Division clinching grand-slam home run.
Finley raised his arms in the air in triumph, as he rounded the bases. It was like pandemonium at Dodger Stadium, as the Dodgers did the unthinkable. They scored 7 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning, to not only beat our hated rival Giants, but secure their first division title in nine years. I watched the entire game from the comfort of my living room that day, but I will never forget the massive coronation at Dodger Stadium that night. It was spectacular.
The Dodgers season would end only a few days later at the hands of the 100+ win Cardinals. However not before the Dodgers would have one last hurrah that year. Needless to say, 2004 was one wild ride.