L.A.’s greatest sports moments No. 1: Kirk Gibson’s Series homer
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We asked you to send in your picks for the greatest sports moments in L.A. history, and 1,181 ballots later we have been unveiling one of the top 20 vote-getters each weekday. Finally we have reached the day to present the greatest sports moment in L.A. history.
No. 1: Kirk Gibson’s homer (776 first-place votes, 10,629 points)
The Oakland A’s were heavily favored to defeat the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series, and it looked like Oakland would move one step closer to the title in Game 1.
With the A’s leading, 4-3, closer Dennis Eckersley came on to pitch the ninth inning. After retiring the first two batters, Eckersley issued a walk to pinch-hitter Mike Davis, bringing a hobbled Kirk Gibson to the plate to bat for reliever Alejandro Pena. Gibson had two bad legs (a pulled left hamstring and a swollen right knee) and hadn’t been expected to play at all in the game.
Gibson fouled off several Eckersley pitches, hobbling around the plate after every swing. It looked hopeless. Even if he hit the ball, it didn’t seem like he would be able to run to first base. With the count 2-and-2, Gibson fouled off several pitches before taking ball 3 as Davis stole second. Gibson then hit the next pitch, a backdoor slider, into the right field bleachers to win the game. The Dodger Stadium crowd was as loud as it has ever been as Gibson limped around the bases, pumping his fist as he rounded second.
The homer gave the Dodgers a 5-4 victory. It was Gibson’s only at-bat of the series, which the Dodgers won in five games.
By the time Kirk Gibson reached his locker after Game 1, bullpen coach Mark Cresse had written ‘R. HOBBS’ on a piece of paper and taped it over Gibson’s nameplate, a reference to the fictional slugger played by Robert Redford in ‘The Natural’.
In interviews after the game, Gibson said that Dodgers scout Mel Didier had provided a report on Eckersley that claimed with a 3–and-2 count against a left-handed power hitter, one could be absolutely certain that Eckersley would throw a backdoor slider. Gibson said that when the count reached 3–and-2, he stepped out of the batter’s box and, in his mind, could hear Didier’s voice, with its distinctive Southern drawl, reiterating that same piece of advice.
And that advice led to the greatest moment in L.A. sports history.
-- Houston Mitchell