The setup men for a gimpy Gibson's immortal World Series homer

A quarter of a century later, the grown batboy holds up his arm as evidence.

"Just talking about it still gives me goose bumps," Mitch Poole says.

The lost slugger runs his hands through his graying hair.

"Even now, it's hard to believe I was really part of that," Mike Davis says.

The old scout wraps a wrinkled finger around a World Series ring.

"Pardner, this is staying on me till the day I die," Mel Didier says.

On Oct. 15, 1988, the Dodgers' sore-legged Kirk Gibson limped to home plate in the ninth inning and hit a two-run, game-winning home run against a seemingly unhittable Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics in the first game of the World Series. The A's never recovered, and the undermanned Dodgers eventually won a world championship.

For 25 years, the images and audio of that spectacle at Dodger Stadium have been replayed throughout the Southland: Gibson's fist pumps. Stunned fans' brake lights visible in the parking lot beyond right field. Vin Scully intoning above the cheering crowd, "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!"

This city will forever celebrate the sight of that baseball flying into eternity. But few will remember the three men who were the power behind it.

History may have forgotten them, but Gibson hasn't.

There was then-batboy Poole, who helped Gibson get ready to play in the cramped hallways behind the Dodgers' dugout. There was the lost slugger Davis, who was at the end of the worst year of his career yet drew the walk and stole the base that set the stage for Gibson's swing. And there was the scout Didier who, a day earlier, predicted exactly where Eckersley would throw the ball that was sent into the outfield seats.

Now 25 years later, Gibson has a request. He sits on a bench in Arizona, where he is the manager of the Diamondbacks. His gravelly voice grows soft.

"My home run was created by the kind of people who make up the fabric of this game," he says. "Everybody tells my story. Somebody needs to tell their stories."


Mitch Poole was washing jocks. It may have been the World Series, but there were piles of dirty batting practice uniforms on the clubhouse floor, and it was his job to clean them.

He was a former college pitcher in his fourth year as a Dodgers batboy. He was 25, making minimum wage, and though the job included the glamour of playing catch with the outfielders between innings, it also meant he would sometimes draw laundry duty.

As the drama of the game unfolded outside, he was inside hanging up socks. His only connections to that game were the voice of Vin Scully on TV and the sight of an injured Dodger on a training table.

That Dodger was Gibson, the team's MVP and best hitter. He had a strained left hamstring and an injured right knee and was barely able to walk. He stewed while Poole rinsed and folded.

Late in the game, with the Dodgers trailing, 4-3, TV cameras panned the Dodgers dugout as Scully said, "You're looking for Kirk Gibson … and there is no Gibson."

At this, Gibson sat up, cursed and shouted, "Mitch, get my uniform!"

Gibson dressed hurriedly and limped down to the Dodgers' underground batting cage. He passed Dodgers hitting coach Ben Hines, who was headed back to the dugout.

Gibson asked Hines to help him take batting practice.

"Get Mitch to do it," Hines said.

A batboy?

"Gibby looked at me kind of funny for a second," Poole remembers. "Then he was like, 'OK, let's do this.'"

Poole, who had never done this before, placed balls on a tee for Gibson. Gibson then asked him to get rid of the tee. Poole, sitting on an upside-down bucket and holding this breath, began tossing him balls to hit.

"He was in such pain, grunting and groaning with every swing, and I'm wondering how he's going to play," Poole says.

Gibson suddenly stopped, stared at Poole and said, "You know, Mitch, this could be the script."

Poole was too shocked to do anything but nod. After more swings, Gibson had another request.

"Mitch, go outside and tell Tommy [Lasorda] that I can hit."

Now he was asking the impossible. Because Poole was working inside, he wasn't wearing a uniform and not allowed in the dugout. With the game nearing the bottom of the ninth, Poole had to get the attention of the Dodgers manager.

He ran to the edge of the dugout and shouted at Lasorda.

"Tommy, get over here!"

Lasorda shook his head and turned away, figuring there was nothing important a batboy could tell a manager in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the World Series.

"Tommy, please, I have to talk to you, it's important!" Poole shouted. "What?" the irritated manager said.

"Gibby says he can hit!"


As the Dodgers prepared to bat in the bottom of the ninth, Mike Davis had a great view of Gibson fidgeting in the tunnel, but only because he had the worst seat in the house.

Davis was at the end of the bench. He had joined the Dodgers as a high-priced free-agent outfielder in the winter after three consecutive great seasons in Oakland, but had stepped in a sprinkler hole in spring training and never fully recovered. The Dodgers no longer trusted his bat, and had forgotten his speed.

Davis was one of the Dodgers' last options. With two out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Davis was summoned to the plate as a pinch-hitter.

Davis had batted .196 during the regular season. On the mound was future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. Davis seemingly did not have a chance.

"What was I going to do?" Davis recalls. "I figured I would see one pitch to hit, and I had to swing at that pitch."

So he did. He fouled it behind home plate. He was devastated.

"That was my chance to be a hero," Davis remembers. "My one and only chance."

Then, the strangest thing happened. Eckersley began to pitch around him. He threw a ball outside. And another one. And another one.

"I couldn't believe it. They were five or six inches outside, from a guy who never walked anybody. There was no way I could swing at them," Davis says.

Eckersley had walked an unbelievably low 11 batters that season. He threw another outside pitch. Ball four.

"I ran to first base thinking, what just happened?" Davis recalls. "How did I get there?"

Some initially thought the A's wanted to intentionally walk Davis because light-hitting Dave Anderson was in the on-deck circle. But by then, Gibson was on the bench with a bat in his hands. In interviews since, several members of the A's said they knew Gibson was coming up next.

Moments after Gibson staggered to home plate, he nearly collapsed in pain after his first swing. Davis knew he couldn't just stay on first.

"I had to steal second base," Davis says. "I could see right away from the way Gibby swung that he was really hurting. There was no way he was hitting the ball hard. ... I had to get to second base to give us a chance."

Davis signaled his steal request to third-base coach Joe Amalfitano by tugging on his pants. Amalfitano tugged his own pants. The play was on.

On a 2-and-2 count, Davis took a huge lead.

"If I don't make it, if I get thrown out to end a World Series game, they would have buried me right there under second base," Davis remembers. "I had to make it. I had no choice."

He made it without even a throw from the catcher.

The steal is rarely remembered. Gibson would like to change that. He says his home run might have been impossible without it.

"Mike Davis changed everything for me, set the whole thing up," Gibson says. "Once he steals second, I can tie the game with a single. I'm no longer trying to hit it out of the park. I'm just trying to dink one over the shortstop's head. His steal allowed me to relax enough so I could actually use the kind of the swing to hit the ball out of the ballpark."

When he is told of Gibson's comments, Davis is stunned. "I had never heard Kirk say that before, I had never thought of me as being anything but the guy who set up the great play," Davis says. "He really said that about me? That's awesome."

As Eckersley prepared to throw Gibson the full-count pitch, Gibson stepped out of the batter's box and appeared to mumble something under his breath.

Sitting behind the Dodgers dugout, the old scout smiled.


Mel Didier, a tall, drawling Louisianian, had by then spent nearly 40 years discovering players and unlocking their secrets. In the final months of the 1988 season, he was given a longshot assignment.

Just in case the Dodgers had the good fortune to advance to the World Series, could he scout the Oakland Athletics?

"Pardner, let me tell you, that was one great team," Didier remembers.

He followed them for 30 games, charting their tendencies, looking for weaknesses. He found one in their best reliever.

Didier noticed that when Eckersley went to a full count on a left-handed batter, he would throw a pitch that would start wide and suddenly cut across the outside sliver of the plate. It's called a backdoor slider. He scrawled it on his notepad.

"Likes to 'backdoor slider' to LH hitters with 3-2 count."

The words appeared under Eckersley's name in a scouting book delivered to the Dodgers before Game 1. Didier wasn't satisfied with the players reading it; he wanted them to hear the words.

He turned to a group of Dodgers left-handed hitters sitting casually in front of their lockers. Gibson was among them.

"I remember those words like I heard them yesterday," Gibson says today. "Mel stood up there in front of us and said, 'Pardner, sure as I'm standing here breathing, if Eck get in trouble, you gonna see a 3-2 backdoor slider.'"

Slightly more than 24 hours later, standing at the plate, Gibson heard those words again. As the count went to 3-and-2, Gibson called timeout, backed off the plate, and began repeating those words to himself, drawl and all.

"Pardner, sure as I'm standing here breathing…"

Says Gibson: "I'm holding the bat and looking out at Eckersley and saying every word, just as Mel said it. I knew exactly what was coming."

In the stands behind the Dodgers dugout, the old scout was doing the same thing.

"I was shouting to my wife, 'Here it comes, the backdoor slider!'" Didier says.

Here it came, and there it went. Gibson reached out and hit the most famous home run in Dodgers history as methodically as if it had been put on a tee by Poole.


Didier quit the Dodgers after he learned that Peter O'Malley would sell the team in 1998. The old scout predicted that the organization would never be the same. Now 87, he is a scout for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Davis lasted one more season, his career ended by leg injuries at age 30. Now 54, he is in ministerial school in Las Vegas.

Poole was promoted to assistant clubhouse manager after the championship season, and in 2002 he was named Dodgers clubhouse manager, a title he holds today.

Last summer, Poole, now 50, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Dodgers game — at the request of the man being honored that evening.

He threw it on Kirk Gibson Bobblehead Night.


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