25 years ago today, the LA Dodgers hosted the powerful Oakland A’s in the first game of the 1988 World Series. Oakland was heavily favored to crush the shorthanded Dodgers, who playing without their leader, 1988 NL MVP Kirk Gibson.
When the game started, Gibson was nowhere in sight, he was in too much pain to even come out for the introductions. After getting two cortizone shots during the day, he watched the first 26 outs of the game in the trainer’s room with icebags on his legs.
Leading 4-3 and facing the 7-8-9 hitters in a soft Dodger lineup, Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley appeared appropriately relaxed as he warmed up before the bottom of the ninth inning started. He was easily the best closer in the game, recording 45 saves while striking out 70 in 72.2 innings.
For Eckersley, things were going as planned: Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia popped out to short. Third baseman Jeff Hamilton struck out looking. Pinch hitter Mike Davis strolled to plate like a lamb to slaughter. Davis had hit just .196 with two homers for the 1988 Dodgers, but Eckersley pitched around his former teammate like he was Babe Ruth, likely thinking about the 22 homers Davis had hit with the 1987 Athletics.
Davis walked, just the 12th free pass issued by Eckersley all season. Gibson emerged from the dugout and those Dodger fans that decided to stay in the ballpark cheered loudly as he swung the bat wildly in the on-deck circle trying to get loose. Only the words of Vin Scully can’t effectively describe what happens…