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.
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.”
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.
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner celebrates after hiting a game-winning, three-run home run off Cubs pitcher John Lackey (41).(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner fist-bumps a fan as he heads to the clubhouse after hitting a three-run, game-winning homer off Cubs pitcher John Lackey with two outs in the ninth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A jubilant Justin Turner celebrates with Dodgers teammate Yasiel Puig after hitting a walk-off, three-run homer.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times )
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner celebrates with teammate Yasiel Puig (66) after after hitting a walk-off, three-run homer to beat the Cubs 4-1.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner celebrates his game-winning, three-run home run as he heads down the third-base line to home plate.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers Justin Turner hits a game-winning three-run home run against the Cubs.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodger players go crazy after Justin Turner hit a game-winning home run with two outs in the ninth inning against the Cubs.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
As Cubs pitcher John Lackey (41) walks off the filed, Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (10) is swarmed by teammates at home plate after hitting a walk-off home run.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Justin Turner watches the ball sail over the fence for a walk-off, three-run homer to beat the Cubs 4-1.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Justin Turner heads up the first-base line as he watches his game-winning, three-run homer in Game 2.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers slugger Justin Turner reacts after his walk-off homer clears the center-field fence.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig uncoils after fouling off a pitch by Cubs reliver Carl Edwards Jr. during the sixth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Cubs reliever Brian Duensing drops the ball for an error while covering first base, allowing the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger to reach safely in the eighth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner releases his bat after flying out with a runner on base in the seventh inning.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers shortstop Charlie Culberson celebrates after hitting a double during the fifth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers shortstop Charlie Culberson is congratulated by Yasiel Puig after scoring on a single by Justin Turner during the fifth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill can’t watch as Cubs shortstop Addison Russell rounds third base after hitting a solo home run during the fifth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger dives to tag first base for the put out against Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward during the fifth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is tagged out by Cubs second baseman Javier Baez during a steal attempt in the fourth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Cubs second baseman Javier Baez makes a leaning catch on a foul pop up by Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes during the fourth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers shortstop Charlie Culberson takes the throw from catcher Austin Barnes as Cubs second baseman Javier Baez steals second base.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Cubs pitcher Jon Lester gets a high-inside pitch from Dodgers pitcher RIch Hill during the third inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig licks his bat in between pitches as he faces Cubs starter Jon Lester in the second inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Rich Hill (44) looks skyward after Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) hits a deep fly ball to right center field in the first inning.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig, right, makes a catch on a fly ball hit by the Cubs’ Kris Byrant in front of center fielder Chris Taylor during the first inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Cubs center fielder Albert Almora makes a leaping catch to steal a hit away from Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner during the first inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Cubs in Game 2.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers outfielder Curtis Granderson takes batting practice before Game 2.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Fans file out of the club level toward field level seating to watch the Dodgers and Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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.