Sunday, November 14, 2010
Kirk Gibson talks about historic at-bat
Kirk Gibson rounds the bases after hitting a pinch-hit, two-run home run to beat the Oakland A's in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 15, 1988.
A legendary piece of Los Angeles sports history was sold early Sunday, when the bat that Kirk Gibson used to hit his walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series was auctioned for $575,912.40.
During this season's playoffs, "Baseball Tonight" and "SportsCenter" ran a feature called "I Hit a Walk-Off Home Run" spotlighting some of the most famous walk-off home runs in postseason history.
Producer Lisa Fenn talked to Gibson about the dramatic walk-off home run he hit to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Here is part of that conversation, during which Gibson discussed injuring his knee earlier in the playoffs that season and the lead-up to his historic at-bat:
In Dodgers' postseason history:
That first game, I just sat in the clubhouse icing my knees after those injections and waiting for an opportunity. I watched the whole game and I actually told my wife in probably the sixth or seventh inning to go ahead and go home, because I was hurt and I just said, "There's no way I'm gonna play."
I'm looking at the guys we used, I'm looking at the guys we've used on our bench and who's left and there's myself, Dave Anderson and Mike Davis. So I just started thinking: You know, we get down there in the ninth inning, I might just need to suck it up. Can you do it? Maybe you can do it.
I kind of started dreaming about being up there, and hobbling up there, and thinking about that, when I hear the crowd, they'll go crazy and I'll feel good. I just told myself, "You'll feel good."
And then another inning went on and, and Vin Scully, they kept panning our dugout and saying, "Ahh, there's no Kirk Gibson. And Kirk Gibson will not be in the game tonight." And he just kept saying it and saying it. At the end of the eighth inning, he said it one more time, and I just said, "My [butt]" and walked up and got the bat boy and said, "Set up the tee."
Mitch Pools, our bat boy's name, he goes down to get Tommy [Lasorda]. And Tommy's yelling at him, "Can't you see I've got a game going on, Mitch? Leave me alone." He said, "It's Gibby." "Oh!" So he comes running up there, and I said, "Hit Davis eighth, I'll hit for the pitcher." He said, "You make sure you stay up there," because he didn't want the A's to think that I could hit. So, I stayed up there for most of the inning, but after a while I couldn't help myself, and I went down.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Five things you may not have known about Kirk Gibson's walk-off home run:
Man for the moment: Gibson hit four come-from-behind walk-off home runs in the regular season, one shy of the major league record, shared by Babe Ruth, Frank Robinson, and Fred McGriff.
How rare it was: At the time, Gibson was the second player in postseason history to get a walk-off hit with his team trailing and down to its last out. The other was Cookie Lavagetto, whose two-run walk-off double not only gave the 1947 Dodgers a win over the Yankees, but it broke up a no-hitter by Bill Bevens. Three players have had this sort of walk-off hit since: Francisco Cabrera, Ivan Rodriguez, and Jimmy Rollins.
He stands alone: The Dodgers have won 48 postseason games in their home ballpark, but have only won on a walk-off home run once. They have four other postseason walk-off hits.
Pinch him: To that point in his career, Gibson had 57 pinch-hit at-bats. He had 12 hits, a .211 batting average, and no home runs. He'd finish his career with three pinch-hit home runs, but wouldn't hit any until 1994.
Eckersley knew what to do next time: Gibson's next meaningful at-bat against Eckersley didn't come until Opening Day 1993, when Gibson came up with runners on second and third with two outs in the eighth inning. With a one-run lead, Eckersley took no chances and issued an intentional walk. He struck out Rob Deer to end the inning and the Athletics went on to win the game.
When I got 0-2 actually, I was just thinking, I'm not gonna strike out. That year I was a pull hitter, but our hitting coach, Ben Hines, convinced me to use the whole field. So we developed what I called my emergency stroke and, and when you get two strikes on ya, that's what you do. So when I got 0-2, I just said to myself, "full emergency."
You're just trying to get back into the count. It's 0-2, it's 1-2, another foul ball, 2-2, foul ball, foul ball, Mike Davis steals. Then I got to 3-2, and we had a scout, his name was Mel Didier, who came up to me and told me before the series even started, the scouting report. He said, "Partner, as sure as I'm standing here breathing, you gonna see a 3-2 backdoor slider from Eckersley if you get in that situation."
So, when that came to 3-2, I just stepped up and said those exact words, Dennis started to go to his set position, I turned around and called timeout and then I stepped in, he threw the 3-2 backdoor slider, and the rest is history. Ugly swing, good result.
When I hit the ball, you know I immediately knew that it was gone. And I remember just watching the reaction of, it was like slow motion. [Jose] Canseco just kind of turned around and started to go after it and he knew it was gone, and as I was following the ball, I remember seeing the brake lights come on for all the people that were leaving Dodger Stadium.
Then [there were] just great emotions, many of the trials and tribulations that I had to overcome through my career, many people doubting me, a lot of the mistakes I made, only determined to correct it, and do things right, play the game right, act like a professional.
I don't think that I was thinking about where it would play out in the history of the game. It was more I think reflective on how I got to where I was and just the moment of us, really winning that game, when nobody expected us to win that game, and the reality of it, that we had a legitimate chance to be world champions.
What do I see when I watch it now? It's the same thing. We get farther and farther away from it I love watching it, still love watching it. I'll never turn it down.
You can see the whole at-bat right there on the bat. The red ink from the foul balls, the cleat marks in the head of the bat, from me hitting my cleats in between pitches, the tar that was all over it, It was a Worth WC157.
You get 12 bats in an order and what you do is you go through and you weigh them all, and then you pick them up and you kind of can feel which ones feel balanced and which ones don't feel balanced, and that bat right there was a reject bat. I used to use a 33-34-35 inch bat, and that bat was a 31-31½-inch bat and I never felt comfortable with it, so I just kind of stocked it in the back bat room.
But, at the end of the year, I started to get really tired, and then when I got hurt, I started going to look for all my light bats because I really didn't have my legs under me, and that one's got an "X" on the end for X-out, no-good bat. It turned out to be a pretty good bat, didn't it?
Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information compiled this report.