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Sunday, October 21, 2007
Eyewitness accounts of baseball "miracles"

ESPN.com

Kirk Gibson

Kirk Gibson

Baseball history is full of stories that border on miraculous. They've included amazing comebacks, extraordinary plays, unexpected feats, out-of-nowhere players, and improbable teams -- like the 2007 Colorado Rockies, winning 21 of 22 games to reach the World Series.

We've all seen them. They're the ones that defy logic, making us sit up and say, in the immortal words of Jack Buck, "I can't believe what I just saw!"

In light of the Rockies' unbelievable run, six of ESPN.com's experts share their personal accounts of baseball "miracles" -- and half of them involve an October night in Los Angeles 19 years ago.

JAYSON STARK: 'I STILL GET A CHILL'
To me, you know you've witnessed a miracle when something happens that couldn't possibly happen -- but did. Somehow. So when I think back on Kirk Gibson's homer off Dennis Eckersley in 1988, I'll never forget that feeling of seeing that baseball, hanging there in the October sky, and suddenly realizing what was about to happen. The most untouchable closer of his time had just served up a home run to a guy who could barely walk to home plate, a guy who wouldn't play again in that entire World Series. How did that happen? I'm still not sure. But I still get a chill every time I remember the sight of that baseball floating in the night.

STEVE PHILLIPS: 'POOR BILL BUCKNER'
Two outs in the bottom of the 10th. It seemed like there was no hope. The curse could finally be broken. Some Mets' fans and players were ready to concede the 1986 World Series to the Boston Red Sox while others were praying for a miracle. In the top of the 10th, Dave Henderson's solo homer and Marty Barrett's RBI single had given the Red Sox a 5-3 lead. But singles from Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight made the score 5-4. Then Mookie Wilson came to the plate for the fateful at-bat. A wild pitch scored the game-tying run and then the soft grounder to poor Bill Buckner at first. With Mookie flying down the line, Buckner took his eye off the ball and it went through his legs. The winning run scored, and even though the Mets win tied the Series at three games to three, the Series was over.

BUSTER OLNEY: 'A ONE-LEGGED WOODEN SOLDIER'
There was no reason to think the Dodgers would win the 1988 World Series. They somehow survived the Mets in the playoffs, but as a rabid Dodgers fan then, I really had no hope for them to win a game in the World Series against Oakland's Bash Brothers. But somehow, they were within a run going into the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 1, facing the game's greatest closer in Dennis Eckersley. Mike Davis walked, and Kirk Gibson -- thought to be unavailable because of a knee injury -- hobbled out of the Dodgers' dugout like a one-legged wooden soldier, and the phone in my Nashville apartment rang. It was Greg Boro, a friend from Vanderbilt, a Red Sox fan. "Isn't this great?" he said. "Isn't baseball great?" He was right. No matter what happened, the Dodgers would have their best guy at the plate, a chance to tie the game, and I couldn't ask for more than that. And then Gibson swung at the hanging slider, and Greg and I started screaming in a way that must've been heard in Dodger Stadium.

TIM KURKJIAN: 'ONLY IN STRAT-O-MATIC'
It was Aug. 21, 1990, at Dodger Stadium. The Phillies were losing, 11-1, after seven innings. By then, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda had taken the first six hitters out of the game to give them a rest. The Phillies scored twice in the eighth, but there was no chance in the world that they would come back and win. And yet, they scored nine runs in the top of the ninth to win, 12-11. The big hit was a pinch-hit, three-run home run by John Kruk off Tim Crews. Lasorda was furious after the game. The Phillies were incredulous. I asked Lenny Dykstra, the Phillies' center fielder, if he had ever been a part of a game where a team scored nine runs in the ninth to win. He said, smiling, "Only in Strat-O-Matic against my brother.''

JERRY CRASNICK: 'A RECIPE FOR UNFORGETTABLE'
I've been fortunate enough over the years to witness Bucky Dent's home run and Bill Buckner's matador act on that Mookie Wilson groundball, a Tom Browning perfect game, and Joe Carter's climactic home run off Mitch Williams -- not to mention a certain October earthquake in San Francisco. But for sheer lightning-bolt-from-the-sky suddenness, nothing will ever come close to Kirk Gibson's Game 1 homer off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series. When you combine a gallant, limping hero, a seemingly indomitable closer, the magnitude of the moment and the poetry of Vin Scully, it's a recipe for unforgettable. There were 55,983 sets of goosebumps at Dodger Stadium that day, all on account of a single baseball miracle.

JIM CAPLE: 'I BELIEVED STRICTLY IN BASEBALL'
I saw two last-place teams from the previous season meet in the 1991 World Series. I watched a catcher literally stand on his head to make a play. I watched a burly first baseman who grew up in sight of the stadium lights douse a rally with a WWE-sanctioned pickoff move. I watched a pitcher who grew up seven miles from the stadium refuse to leave the game and wind up throwing a 10-inning shutout in Game 7. I watched a center fielder who grew up in the Chicago projects carry not only his team on his shoulders but an entire state. And after seeing all that (and more) in the 1991 World Series, I stopped believing in miracles. After that series, I believed strictly in baseball.