Oct-15-1988: Kirk Gibson’s Epic Home Run
It was about 11:30 p.m. eastern time and I had just turned on the television. It was Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
The American League was represented by the Oakland A’s, who dominated the American League with a 104-58 record and swept the Boston Red Sox to win the pennant. The A’s featured the Bash Brothers, Jose Canseco (the league MVP) and Mark McGuire who combined for 74 home runs, and the AL’s top pitching staff featuring Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley in relief.
The National League was represented by the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose lineup Bob Costas famously derided as one of the worst in World Series history. It did include NL MVP Kirk Gibson and Cy Young winner Orel Hershiser, who not only led the league in wins, ERA, complete games, shutouts and innings pitched but also broke Don Drysdale’s record with 59 consecutive scoreless innings to end the regular season.
Bottom of the 9th
In the bottom of the 9th inning, the heavily favored A’s were closing in on a 4-3 victory with ace reliever Eckersley on the mound. He quickly retired the first two batters, walked the third and then Kirk Gibson stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter. Gibson was hobbled with a pulled left hamstring and a swollen right knee, but in his only at bat in this World Series he took an Eckersley fastball into the right field stands for one of the most dramatic home runs in World Series history.
As Vin Scully’s play-by-play explained:
High fly ball into right field! She i-i-i-i-is gone! (long pause where only crowd noise can be heard) In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!
With this win and Series MVP Hershiser’s pitching, the Dodgers would go on to stun the A’s 4-1.
History Imitating Art
Gibson’s home run was remarkably similar to the epic home run by the fictional Roy Hobbs played by Robert Redford in The Natural.
In fact, by the time Kirk Gibson reached his locker after Game 1, bullpen coach Mark Cresse had written “R. HOBBS” on a piece of paper and taped it over Gibson’s nameplate.