I got a little early Christmas present this morning when I made my daily visit to the LA Times website. Being born and raised in southern California and being stuck in another dysfunctional state, Illinois, it’s a way to keep up with my hometown sports teams. Over the last several weeks the Times has asked readers to vote on the city’s greatest sports moments. Number one is a moment that every sports fan alive at the time no matter who their teams are remembers.
That would be Kirk Gibson’s improbable walk off (as it’s now called) home run in the 1988 World Series against the greatest reliever in baseball at the time, Dennis Eckersley. Or as the great Vin Scully put it, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”
There are times in your life when you remember exactly where you were when an event happened, when that moment is so seared in your memory that it seems like it happened yesterday. That was one of those moments. I was in living in Pennsylvania at the time, far from home in the Philadelphia suburbs in the apartment of a friend of my wife, all alone on a couch, watching and knowing in that bottom of the ninth inning that the Dodgers had no chance against the highly favored Oakland A’s. Especially not with Eckersley on the mound, and Kirk Gibson at the plate with two bum legs and an 0 and 2 count. The guy could barely walk, let alone hit a baseball almost 400 feet.
But Gibson fouled off a couple, and took three balls. The runner at first stole second, so maybe, just maybe we could tie it up, but no more, surely. A 3 and 2 count, the bottom of the ninth, two out, a one run game, the World Series; it doesn’t get any better than that, until it did. I jumped out of that couch and almost hit the ceiling. Eckersley threw the exact pitch Gibson expected, and the rest as they say is history. I have seen the home run over the years, as many have, in highlight shows of the greatest sports moments, but hadn’t seen the full half inning since that October night in 1988, until this morning. I got chills. You don’t have to be a Dodger fan to appreciate the drama, and there is nothing better than hearing Vin Scully call a baseball game, let alone one of the greatest of all time. Enjoy.