One has to remember that in 1988, the L.A. Dodgers were playing the powerhouse Oakland Athletics. This team had the bash brothers in Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. In addition, they had perennial closer Dennis Eckersley. He had 45 saves that year and the A’s were favored by many to take the Series.
Gibson came up in the bottom of the ninth with one man on base and the Dodgers trailing 4-3. Gibson had not played in this game at all due to injuries and could barely walk to the plate. The runner on first stole second during the at bat and everyone would have been more than happy if Gibson could find a way to get a hit and tie the game.
Then a bit of foreshadowing occurred. NBC put up a stat stating that Eckersley had not given up a home run since I believe sometime in August. I don’t remember the date exactly, but when I saw the stat, the first thing I thought was how ironic it would be should Eckersley give up the homer to Gibson.
Then, with the count 3-2, Eckersley threw a slider that Gibson proceeded to deposit into the right-field bleachers. The entire crowd went wild. I was going beserk in my bedroom watching the game on a little black and white television. The Dodgers had made a improbably comeback to win the game and take a 1-0 lead in the series.
What many did not realize at the time was that the Dodgers would go on to win the 1988 World Series 4 games to 1. When the Dodgers won Game 1, I said to myself that Oakland had no chance to win. Their heart had just been stomped on and their closer defeated by a man that could barely walk.
Kirk Gibson finished his career with the Detroit Tigers in 1995 having batted .268 for his career with 255 homers and 870 RBI’s. He is currently the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 1988 World Series homer was the highlight of his career and is the one moment in history that immortalized Gibson. It also stands out as the greatest baseball moment I’ve ever witnessed.