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 One moment in Dodger Stadium history: Kirk Gibson’s Walk-Off Home Run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series
To no one’s surprise, my number one Dodger Stadium moment of all time is Kirk Gibson’s legendary walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The Dodgers had been underdogs in both series and all season long. However the clock never struck midnight for the Cinderella Dodgers. The Dodgers finished the season with a 94-67 record to win the NL West by seven games. Their NLCS round against the Mets had been a dogfight leaving the Dodgers exhausted as they came home for game one of the 1988 World Series against the Oakland A’s on October 15, 1988. The NLCS had gone the distance and it took the Dodgers seven games to beat the Mets. The A’s had gotten there by sweeping the red Sox in the ALCS and were well rested. With the bash brothers of Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire, Ace Dave Stewart, MVP closer Dennis Eckersley, and 103 regular season wins, most pundits gave the Dodgers no chance to beat the powerhouse Oakland A’s.
I mean how could they right? The Dodgers had what was considered by many to be the weakest starting lineup of any World Series team. They had no position all-stars, no players hit over .300, and no one had 90 RBI. Kirk Gibson’s 25 home runs led the team. The Dodgers did have the best pitching staff in the league, led by Orel Hershiser, who won the Cy Young award that year and broke Don Drysdale’s record in September by pitching 59 consecutive scoreless innings. Gibson would win the NL MVP award for his leadership and good but not great slugging numbers. Manager Tommy Lasorda would also score the NL manager of the year award as well.
It took the Dodgers seven brutal games to knock off the Mets, and they were banged up and exhausted. Kirk Gibson, the hear and soul of the Dodger Lineup would not be playing in game one, or so everyone thought. Gibson had injured himself in the final game of the NLCS against the Mets. He not only had one bad leg, but two. One leg had a torn hamstring, and the other leg had a busted knee. Gibson clearly had trouble walking under his own power, and as Vinny noted he was not visible in the clubhouse.
“ All year long, they looked to him to light the fire” ~ Vin Scully
Gibson continued to take batting practice in the Dodger’s clubhouse, and Bob Costas had said he remembered hearing Gibson’s guttural grunts of pain each time he took a swing.
Since Hershiser started game seven of the NLCS, he was unable to go in game one. In his place the Dodgers started rookie Tim Belcher. The A’s countered with ace Dave Stewart. The Dodgers started out shaky in the first inning. Tim Belcher would load the bases, but wiggle his way out of it without allowing a run. He allowed a single to Dave Henderson, hit Jose Canseco with a pitch, and walked Mark McGwire. Terry Steinbach would fly out to end the threat.
The Dodgers took an early two run lead in the bottom of the first. Stewart would plunk Steve Sax with a pitch, and one out later, Mickey Hatcher, who was filling in for Gibson in left field, would shock the crowd by hitting a huge run home run giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead (Hatcher had only hit one home run all season long, but would hit two in the world series). Hatcher almost comically whipped around the bases at full speed. Vin Scully responded by calling him a “Saturday Evening Post Character”.
The A’s would grab the lead in the second inning. Glen Hubbard singled, and Belcher walks Stewart, and Carney Lansford. Jose Canseco next up, smashes a grand slam home run over the center field wall. The ball bounces off one of the NBC cameras, and the A’s take a 4-2 lead. The Dodgers had to claw there way back into the game, which was their style that year. Belcher would have to leave the game with a shoulder injury , and Tim Leary would pitch three scoreless innings in relief.
The Dodgers scratched across a run in the bottom of the sixth with consecutive singles from John Shelby, Mike Marshall, and Mike Scioscia. Scioscia’s single brought home the run, and the lead was cut to 4-3.
In the bottom of the ninth inning and the Dodgers still losing 4-3, future hall of famer Dennis Eckersely would be brought in to close the game. Eck led the league with 45 saves, and as Vinny noted, those 45 saves really jump out at you. Eckersely was tall and thin, and had long hair with a fu manchu type mustache that was somewhat reminiscent of Rollie Finger’s handlebar mustache.
Eckersley recorded the first two outs quickly. Mike Scioscia popped out to short, and third baseman Jeff Hamilton whiffed. Then MIke Davis stepped into the batter’s box. Eckersely looked over to see Dave Anderson in the on deck circle, and decided to be over cautious with Davis. After all Davis had some pop, and with the light-hitting Dave Anderson at the plate, there was no reason to take a chance with MIke Davis. That was just what Tommy Lasorda was banking on.
Gibson had told a clubhouse attendant to tell Lasorda, that he would be able to bat if he needed him. Lasorda had Anderson stand on deck as a decoy, so he wouldn’t tip his hand to Oakland. Indeed Eck walks Davis, and up comes Gibson. The Dodger Stadium crowd rumbled and roared. It was a comment from Vin Scully that had originally spurred on Gibson to get ready to hit. As Gibson was watching the game on the clubhouse TV, he heard Vinny comment on how Gibson was nowhere to be seen. Gibson phoned Lasorda to tell him he would be ready if needed. After Davis walked, up hobbled Gibson. He could barely walk, visibly limping to the plate. Vinny noted how he looked like he was using his bat as a cane.
“Look who’s coming up!” ~ Vin Scully
Gibson quickly fell behind 0-2. Then two balls taken outside. The count was even at 2-2. There was a foul ball that dribbled up along first just rolling foul. It allowed us to see just how banged up Gibson really was, as he tried to hobble up along first base. Vinny noted that when he got back into the batter’s box his legs were shaking. Gibson took an outside pitch for ball three, as MIke Davis stole second base. The crowd roared, all the Dodgers needed was a single. One hit.
and all year long, he answered the demands, until he was physically unable to start tonight—with two bad legs: The bad left hamstring, and the swollen right knee. And, with two out, you talk about a roll of the dice… this is it.
Sax waiting on deck but the game right now is at the plate.
“High fly ball into deep right field…and she iiiiiiis….GONE!”
Scully was quiet for a couple of minutes as the crowd roared and Gibson limped around the bases, as he reached second base, he did his famous fist pumps. And as he reached home plate, he was mobbed by his teammates.
In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!
And, now, the only question was, could he make it around the base paths unassisted?!
You know, I said it once before, a few days ago, that Kirk Gibson was not the Most Valuable Player; that the Most Valuable Player for the Dodgers was tinkerbell. But, tonight, I think Tinkerbell backed off for Kirk Gibson. And, look at Eckersley—shocked to his toes!
The Dodgers would go on and win three of the next four games to win their sixth world championship. Hershiser would win series MVP, and Gibson would not bat again in the series. Dodger pitching was masterful in the series, holding Canseco, and McGwire each to only one hit. The Dodgers outscored the A’s 21-16. Vin Scully’s legendary call on NBC, wasn’t the only call. Jack Buck’s call on CBS radio was heard by many, as well as Don Drysdale’s call on KABC 790, the Dodger’s radio network. My Uncle had Drysdale’s call on his answering machine for years. The call had Drysdale screaming and comparing Gibson to Casey from the Baseball poem Casey At The Bat.
After the game, Gibson would later admit, that it was Dodger scout Mel Didier who provided him with a scouting report that said that when Eckersley would fall behind in counts, he would throw a backdoor slider. Gibson knew exactly what pitch would be throw once the count came to 3-2. Sure enough it was a backdoor slider that Eckersley had thrown Gibson, and he hit it out. After the game, there was a note taped to Gibson’s locker. The note read R.Hobbs. In reference to the fictional character of Roy Hobbs in the novel and movie
Kirk Gibson’s home run was voted as the number one moment in Los Angeles sports history by the fans of Los Angeles. The legendary home run defines an iconic moment. A moment so amazing, so legendary, that it could be considered not only the greatest moment in Dodgers history but the greatest moment in Baseball history. You can compare it to the most memorable moments over the last one hundred years. Babe Ruth’s called shot, Joe DImaggio’s record streak, Carlton Fisk’s home run in the 1976 world series, when he waived the ball fair, etc, etc. It is a moment in time. A moment that unites us like Baseball unites families and generations. One that will stand for all time and for all Dodger fans. A reminder that we will not give up, and we will not go gently into that good night. We are going to fight. We are going to play on….
“Bundle up honey it’s cold outside” Stacie pulled the covers over her grandson Allan. “Would you like for me to read you a story before bed?” “No that’s OK Grandma” Allan said in a depressed tone. Stacie could tell that the ten year old boy was still upset. “Are you still upset about the game?” Stacie asked as she tucked Allan into bed. She walked over to the window and made sure it was closed tight. The mid October evening in southern California was colder than expected. Low to upper forties. “Why did the Dodgers have to lose?” asked Allan sadly, as he clutched his Dodger hat. Stacie laughed. “I don’t know honey, Baseball is a funny game like that” “I hate the Giants!” “Stacie laughed again, this time it was jovial. “I hate them too honey, there an awful team, and very soon they will lose” “ Allan laughed as well. “I hope so”. Stacie cleared all of the books and stuffed animals off of the bed, and placed a glass of water on the night-stand. Stacie sat at the foot of his bed. “Remember how I told you about 93”? Stacie asked. “Mike Piazza!” Allan shouted. “that’s right!”, Stacie said. “He hit two home runs to knock the Giants out of the playoffs”. 104 wins and they played golf in October!” Allan said with a smug look on his face. Stacie smiled and nodded. “And don’t forget…”Stacie said as she trailed off, but Allan interrupted her “2004!” Allan said smiling” “ Who hit the walk-off slam?” Stacie asked. “Steve Finley!” Allan shouted. “That’s right! Wow you are so smart.” “Ok time for bed hun” . “If you’re good tomorrow, I will show you video from Clayton Kershaw’s one hit shutout of the Giants in the 2012 wild card playoff”. Stacie said as she walked over to turn out the light. “Grandma….” Allan asked timidly. “yes Honey?” Stacie asked as she turned around. “Will the Dodgers ever win the world series again?” Cause Uncle Scott told me about 1988”. “Yes sweetheart, your great Uncle and I remember that season quite well. We were not much older than you”. “grandma, tell me about Kirk Gibson.” Stacie chuckled. Oh sweetheart, that is a story for another night. You’re very tired, and your Grandma has to go to sleep too”. “Please Grandma, please….” Allan pleaded. “Oh OK, but then straight to bed right after” Stacie pulled up a chair next to Allan’s bed and sat down. “The date was October 15,” Stacie said,” the year….1988”……….
Here are a few interesting facts about game one of the 1988 World Series.
- This was the first world series game on TV to end in the bottom of the ninth inning on a walk-off home run.
- The video of the Home Run on NBC shows a couple of cars in the parking lot, who were leaving, but stopped when Gibson hit the home run. You can visibly see brake lights above the pavilion rooftop.
- While Gibson had a torn hamstring, and a swollen knee. What some people may not remember was that he also had the flu, before the game.
- The ball was hit almost halfway up the right field bleachers. However the home run ball itself was never recovered. A woman who was sitting in the right field bleachers sent Gibson a photo of the bruise on her leg that the ball caused when it hit her. Still to this day though, the whereabouts of the Gibson Home Run ball are still unknown.
I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I did writing it. I gave it my all, just like Kirk Gibson gave his all to the Dodgers. The season goes by quickly, so cherish each game. Happy Opening day everybody! Go Blue!