Column: On anniversary of Gibson’s blast, it’s a Turner classic in Game 2 for Dodgers

On the 29th anniversary of Kirk Gibson’s walk-off blast, the Dodgers added another chapter to franchise lore when Justin Turner thundered a game-winning, three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning to give the Dodgers a 4-1 victory in Game 2 o


The ball soared into the black sky, carried through the thick night air, dropped gently over the center-field fence, and the guy with the flowing red hair and bushy beard stuck out his thick arms as if they were wings.

Today, all of Los Angeles is flying with him.

Happy anniversary, Kirk Gibson.

Welcome to Dodgers legend, Justin Turner.

On the 29th anniversary of Gibson’s celebrated game-winning World Series home run — yeah, the exact date — Turner did a breathtaking imitation Sunday night with a two-out, three-run, ninth-inning blast to give the Dodgers a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

“Incredible,” Turner said afterward, his hair still soaked with sweat, his beard still dripping. “I still don’t believe it.”


He’s not the only one. The symmetry between his hit and Gibson’s blast is unnerving, and the symbolism is clear.

Back in 1988, Gibson’s home run gave the underdog Dodgers a series-opening win against the powerful Oakland Athletics and the momentum to eventually win a World Series championship.

On Sunday, Turner’s blast gave the Dodgers a seemingly insurmountable two-games-to-none lead against the defending champions and should provide the momentum to lead them to their first World Series appearance since that 1988 season.

And, oh yeah, Turner’s shot was the Dodgers’ first walk-off postseason homer since Gibson’s, and it was watched on television in a Dodger Stadium lounge by 1988 manager Tom Lasorda, who just turned 90.

“How about that?” Lasorda said while sitting in a hallway outside a jubilant Dodger clubhouse. “How about that?”

Chills yet? Just wait. One of Turner’s earliest memories of growing up in Southern California was sitting on the floor of his grandmother’s house as a 3-year-old and watching Gibson hit that homer.


“I can’t even put it into words right now,” said Turner, the team’s third baseman and clubhouse leader who has been delivering big moments all season. “It’s incredible.”

Actually, he did put one part of it into words, when he laughingly admitted, “I think that’s the first walk-off homer I’ve ever hit in my life!”

It is, indeed, the first walk-off homer of his major-league career. It happened just before 8 p.m. at Chavez Ravine, bottom of the ninth, game tied at 1-all, Dodgers on first and second base and an entire stadium holding its breath. Turner dug into the second pitch from the Cubs’ John Lackey and just blasted it. More than 50,000 fans immediately stood as if they knew it was gone. Turner watched it sail, and sail, and, just before reaching first base, stuck out those arms as he could fly.

Chavez Ravine rattled and rocked and swayed with a deafening roar. Turner rounded third and spiked his helmet and skipped into a mob of Dodgers who still might be dancing.

“It was the most electric thing I’ve ever been part of, it’s crazy,” reliever Ross Stripling said.


Many of the players were not even born when Gibson hit his home run, so it’s understandable that they had no idea about the historical significance of the moment until they entered the clubhouse. Yet once they learned, though, a few eyes widened and a couple of jaws dropped.

“That’s all so incredible,” Stripling said. “Just to think, this team is trying to do what that 1988 team did. This home run, following in the foosteps of that home run, a lot of corresponding things that make it feel like destiny.”

Outside of the obvious differences in the hit — these Dodgers still need to win two of the next five games against the resilient Cubs to even advance to the series where Gibson hit his homer — there was one other smaller but compelling difference.

The home-run ball hit by Gibson was never retrieved, and its whereabouts will forever remain one of the biggest mysteries in Los Angeles sports. The ball hit by Turner, though, was spectacularly caught in an outstretched gloved by a fan named Keith Hupp, who later gave the ball to Turner.

“Twenty-nine years to the day, it was special,” said manager Dave Roberts of the Gibson homer. “Our guys feel it. We feel it.”

If that feeling involves that destiny thing, well, the statistics back it up. Since the league championship series were expanded to seven games, only three of the 28 teams that lost the first two games rebounded to win the series.


Even though the series moves back to Chicago for as many as three games next week, it’s not looking good for the Cubs, no matter what their manager said before the game.

“I prefer not being 0-and-2, but if it were to happen, it’s not the end of the world,” Joe Maddon said.

It probably feels like it to Cubs fans after watching Maddon botch the use of his bullpen in leading up to Turner’s hit. Even though the Dodgers used their closer, Kenley Jansen, in the ninth inning of a tie game, Maddon inexplicably refused to use his closer, Wade Davis, and it burned him.

First, Yasiel Puig drew a leadoff walk against reliever Brian Duensing. Then, with Puig on second base after Charlie Culberson’s sacrifice bunt, in came John Lackey, making only the seventh relief appearance of a 15-year career.

Lackey is 38 years old. His favorite saying is, “I’m always one more out closer to the beer.” He had no business being in this game, yet there he was, and what did he do? In a span of eight pitches, he walked Chris Taylor, then gave up the bomb to Turner.


“Nobody is really a great matchup against Turner,” Maddon said afterward.

So far this October, nobody is a great matchup against any of the Dodgers, who have won all five of their postseason games and, at this rate, could be celebrating their long-awaited return to the World Series appearance as soon as Wednesday night in Chicago.

“We need two more wins, and then we can really celebrate,” Lasorda barked late Sunday.

Listen to him. Listen to history. Feel its strength. It offically descended upon Chavez Ravine on Sunday night, wings outstretched, flying, flying.

Get more of Bill Plaschke’s work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke


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