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March 28, 2006

Kirk Gibson’s Forgotten Clutch Homerun

by @ 6:20 pm. Filed under Dodgers History

The spring season is winding down, and hope springs eternal for every baseball fan (okay, maybe not Royals fans).  Each team starts with a clean slate and last year’s follies are long forgotten.  It’s good time to think happy thoughts.

Which got me thinking about the last time the Dodgers won the World Series.  It’s hard to believe that’s been 18 years.  After back to back 89 loss seasons, the Dodgers weren’t thought of as contenders in 1988.  They did make a big splash by signing outfielder Kirk Gibson after he was set free from Detroit because of the collusion problems that the league had.  In a lot of ways, outside of Gibson, the Dodgers were bringing back a similar team from the previous two years.

Kirk Gibson is remembered for two things.  The first was a homerun in game five of the 1984 World Series.  The Tigers were up three games to one and they lead the Padres 5-4 in that game.  Kirk Gibson hit a three run homerun in the bottom of the eighth inning to put the game away.  And then his most memorable moment was in game one of the 1988 World Series when he hit a walk off two run homerun off of Dennis Eckersley to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the World Series.  I contend that neither of these homeruns were his most important clutch homerun.

At the end of April, the Dodgers were an impressive 13-7 and they were a half game back of the Astros.  By the end of May, they had turned the tables and they were a half game ahead of the Astros.  In the NL East, the powerhouse Mets were rolling.  In June, after winning nine of ten at one point, the Dodgers had built a nice cushion that would hold.  The Astros, Giants and Reds all made runs at the Dodgers, but they finished with a comfortable seven game lead over the second place Reds.

The Dodgers finished with 94 wins that season and they were definitely the underdogs against the Mets, who had won the World Series just two years before in 1986.  The Dodgers didn’t get off to a good start.  In game one, Orel Hershiser was just as good as Dwight Gooden for eight innings.  In the top of the ninth, the Dodgers tagged Hershiser for two runs and then J.P. Howell gave up the go ahead run and just like that, the Dodgers were down by a game.

Game two went a little better and they tied the series up 1-1.  Game three went to the Mets and game four looked pretty dire.  The Mets jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, and that lead held until the top of the ninth.  John Shelby drew a lead off walk, and then catcher Mike Scioscia, who had three homeruns in 408 at bats all season, took Dwight Gooden deep to tie the game up.  The Mets went down in order in the bottom of the ninth and the game went into extra frames.

Neither team scored in the tenth or the eleventh.  Then in the top of the twelth and with two outs, Kirk Gibson hit a solo homerun off of reliever Roger McDowell, and the Dodgers had the lead.  Tim Leary and Jesse Orosco loaded up the bases in the bottom of the twelth, but Hershiser came in and got Kevin McReynolds to pop up to end the game.

That solo homerun, in my opinion, was way more important then either of Gibson’s other two big homeruns.  In 1984, the Tigers already had the lead in that game, and had they lost, they still would have had two more games to put the Padres away.  If the Dodgers would have lost game one of the 1988 World Series, they would have needed to win four of six to walk away with the win.  And with Orel Hershiser set to throw in three of those six games, I still would have liked the Dodgers chances.  In the 1988 NLCS, had Gibson not come through, the Mets could have taken a critical 3-1 lead, and the Dodgers appearance in the 1988 World Series might not have ever happened.

4 Responses to “Kirk Gibson’s Forgotten Clutch Homerun”

  1. TigerBlog » Blog Archive » Kirk Gibson’s Clutch Homeruns Says:

    [...] launch in April, has a solid column on the Kirk Gibson’s clutch homeruns.  Good stuff. Permalink | Posted in Tigers History, 1984 Tigers News Post acomment [...]

  2. John Scott Says:

    Good piece on Gibson’s clutch homeruns.

    The San Diego homerun was off Goose Gossage. Padres manager Dick Williams (who was wearing a mic) went to the mound and told Gossage to walk Gibson, but the Goose insisted he could stike him out. Also of note is the photo taken of Gibson circling the bases in his scruffy beard and dirty uniform, pumping both fists.

  3. Brian Says:

    They always used to play those highlights during rain outs and they always played up the whole thing with Gossage wanting to challenge Gibson. Great stuff, and I remember it well.

  4. RC Says:

    Gibby is definitely known for his ’84 and ’88 WS shots.
    However, he hit many homeruns over his career with Det and LA
    in key situations that either won games or allowed his team
    to ultimately pull a win out. The guy was definitely clutch.

    Gibby was a very special athlete/champion. It must have something
    to do with his time at Michigan State University in the late ’70s.
    Magic Johnson and Gibby were student-athletes together at MSU from
    ’77-’79!

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