Great Baseball Moments- Kirk Gibson’s game winning home run in Game 1 1988 World Series. To set the scene. The Dodgers were heavy underdogs going into the series against the American League Champion Oakland A’s. On paper the A’s looked like one of the greatest teams of the era. They had everything- hitting, pitching, defense. They had the celebrated Bash Brothers- Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Meanwhile the Dodgers. Their regular line-up didn’t look like they could strike fear into anyone. They had one of the weakest starting line-ups for a World Series team ever. To make it even worse their best hitter- Kirk Gibson was hurt and not expected to play with a bad hamstring and knee. He could barely walk. Gibson who would win the NL MVP Award for the 1988 season would certainly be a non-factor. The only thing that the Dodgers had going for them- was the hottest starting pitcher in baseball. In the final couple months of the season and into the playoffs Orel Hershiser had been unhittable. He had pitched 59 scoreless innings at the end of the 1988 regular season. He would win the Cy Young Award in the NL. In the NLCS he was dynamite winning the MVP Award in that series. He would be the starting pitcher in Game 2 of the World Series. Going into the series my prediction was the A’s in 5- giving the Dodgers Game 2 due to Hershiser. Most of the so called experts were predicting a quick and uneventful series- many saying the Dodgers would be swept in 4 games.
Game 1 on a Saturday night at Dodgers Stadium was a good game. Going into the bottom of the 9th the A’s were up 4-3. They also had out on the mound the best closer in baseball- Dennis Eckersley. With 2 outs and a runner on first base- Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda shocked everyone by rolling the dice- and bringing Kirk Gibson to the plate to pinch hit for the pitcher. Kirk Gibson was barely able to walk. Even watching this video 33 years later it hurts just watching him walk up to the plate. He was in pain and when he swung the bat it looked even worse. Eckersley quickly got two strikes on Gibson. Gibson’s swings were pathetic. He was having a hard time shifting his weight and while he made contact the foul balls had nothing on them. The at bat continued- Gibson would foul a few off and Eckersley was a little concerned about Mike Davis at first base. It was a long at bat. The count finally went to 3 balls and 2 strikes. Davis had stolen 2nd base. A single would tie the score. That seemed the best hope. Then Kirk Gibson did the impossible- as Jack Buck says in the play by play. “I don’t believe what I just saw.’ The Dodgers had won the game 5-4. Somehow Gibson was able to hobble around the bases.
The home run only gave the Dodgers a 1-0 game lead in the best of 7 series but with one swing of the bat- Kirk Gibson had changed the momentum of the series. I recall thinking- Hershiser is going tomorrow night- and he’s been lights out. The Dodgers are going to win this series. In Game 2- Hershiser gave up only 3 hits as the Dodgers won 6-0- the A’s would win Game 3- but the Dodgers would take the next two games- winning the World Series in 5. The World Series though seemed over after Game 1- the mighty A’s never recovered from Gibson’s home run. It was the only appearance he had in that World Series.