Ninth-inning hero

Kirk Gibson came on as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and swatted a two-run homer in Game 1 of...

Kirk Gibson came on as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and swatted a two-run homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

BOB ELLIOT

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

Greatest game you ever covered? If that's the assignment, sure, no problem.

On the other hand, why not ask which George Strait song we liked best, or whether it was more enjoyable seeing Devon White hit a triple than Robbie Alomar turning a double play?

But we'll give it a go.

The Blue Jays' back-to-back World Series wins are out. The wins were a blur.

We had 13 staffers -- give or take a sidebar guy -- writing two or three stories each night. The game coverage was an all-out assault and each person was just a small part.

In 1992, when Dave Winfield doubled home two runs in the 11th for the Jays' first title, we wrote how as a franchise the Jays finally got over the hump.

The next year, as the Jays clinched, our assignment was to write about the most valuable player, Paul Molitor. Easy pickings watching him score the game-winner after Joe Carter's home run.

To name the best game you ever covered, I think you have to be flying solo, and my most memorable is Game 1 of the 1988 World Series at Dodger Stadium.

It's one of two nights where row upon row of cynical, laptop-lugging media wretches jumped out of their seats as if auditioning for the role of Raymond's father in Everyone Loves Raymond, screaming "Holy crap."

(The other would be Game 6 of the 1986 World Series when Mookie Wilson's ground ball trickled between Bill Buckner's legs to allow the Mets to live another day. Down two runs with two out, the Mets scored three against the Boston Red Sox.)

In 1988, the A's were heavy favourites. The Dodgers' Kirk Gibson was injured. He had a hamstring strain in his left leg and a sprained ligament in his right knee.

The Dodgers had what many considered the worst Series lineup ever: Steve Sax (.277 average, five homers, 57 RBIs). Franklin Stubbs (.223, 8, 24). Mickey Hatcher (.293, 1, 25). Mike Marshall (.277, 20, 82). John Shelby (.263, 10, 64). Mike Scioscia (.257, 3, 35). Greg Hamilton (.236, 6, 33). Alfredo Griffin (.199, 1, 27). And starter Tim Belcher.

Nary a .300 hitter. Only one hitter with 20 homers. And not so much as one man who produced more than 83 RBIs.

The injured Gibson had hit third, batted .290 with 25 homers and 76 RBIs during the season.

Of course, when the pre-game show panned the Dodgers lineup, calling it the worst in post-season history, manager Tommy Lasorda announced it to his team in a fire and brimstone speech.

Gibson's knee, hamstring and ankle ached. Yet he was in uniform, using a bat as a cane to hobble around the clubhouse. He took a golf cart from the parking lot to the dugout when he arrived for the game.

Given injections of cortisone to treat his right knee, Gibson didn't come on to the field for pre-game introductions.

The Dodgers scored twice in the first on a Hatcher homer off Dave Stewart.

The A's scored four times -- three on a Jose Canseco homer -- against Belcher in the second. As Gibson paced from the clubhouse to the trainer's room, Scioscia singled in the sixth to cut the A's lead to 4-3. Oakland headed into the ninth with Dennis Eckersley -- who had 45 saves -- on the mound.

"The man who has been there for the Dodgers all season, Kirk Gibson, is not in the dugout and will not be there for them," broadcaster Vin Scully told listeners.

With an ice pack on his sore knee, Gibson told hitting coach Ben Hines to tell Lasorda he'd pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth, if the Dodgers managed to get a runner on against Eckersley.

Eckersley popped up Scioscia and got Hamilton looking. Gibson was at the end of the dugout, helmet pulled down. Mike Davis pinch-hit for Griffin and worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch.

Gibson hobbled to the plate with 56,000 fans on their feet.

Gibson fouled off a first fastball, then looked awful, fouling off a sinker.

Eckersley threw a slider outside to make it 1-2. Gibson fouled back a pitch, then a fastball was wide to even the count at 2-2. Davis stole on the next pitch, running the count to 3-2.

Catcher Ron Hassey decided to go with a slider and it was on the outside corner. Using only his wrists, Gibson swung.

The ball sailed over the outfield fence. "I don't believe what I just saw," announcer Jack Buck said.

Gibson began a crawl around the bases, raising his arm as he reached first, then limping the rest of the way home. The Dodgers went on to win the World Series in five games.

It was a slow trip around the bases, yet we remember it as if it happened last week.


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