Babe Ruth couldn't have done it any better.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Kirk Gibson hit a 3-2 pitch for a two-run, pinch-hit homer to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 5-4 victory Saturday night over the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of the World Series.Gibson, who did not start because of a strained right knee, limped around the bases as his teammates ran from the dugout. When they met at the plate, the Dodgers had won one of the most dramatic games in World Series history.
"I wasn't thinking about the injury going around the bases," Gibson said. "It was a struggle but I knew when I got to home plate the game was ours."
Gibson, who struggled the last month of the season, driving in just seven runs, played the National League playoffs against the New York Mets with a pulled left hamstring. In Game 4 of the playoffs, he hit a 12th-inning game-winning homer and the next game hit a three-run homer that gave Los Angeles a 6-0 lead.
He injured the right knee sliding into second base in Game 7.
"I came in Friday and it was very sore," Gibson said. "It was becoming obvious I couldn't play because I couldn't even jog.
"I stayed in the training room all game but I told Tommy in the ninth I could pinch hit."
Dennis Eckersley relieved Dave Stewart to start the ninth and got two outs. Pinch-hitter Mike Davis then walked, bringing up Gibson, who was batting for pitcher Alejandro Pena.
"I put Dave Anderson in the on-deck circle thinking they would pitch more carefully to Davis," Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda said. "Then I surprised them by bringing up Gibson."
Gibson hobbled to the plate and Eckersley quickly got a two-strike count. Davis stole second on a 2-2 pitch after Gibson fouled three pitches off. And Gibson then suprised everyone with a homer over the 360-foot sign in right.
"I wasn't thinking about a home run," Gibson said. "I was visualizing getting a hit. I tried swinging in my living room and I could hardly swing."
Gibson, who led the Dodgers with 25 home runs, tied for seventh in the National League, is supposed to hit big home runs in big games and that's just what he did.
So often in World Series play recently, the lesser players have provided the most important contributions.
In 1962, on a team that featured Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, San Francisco utility infielder Chuck Hiller became the first NL player to hit a grand slam. Other overachievers to dot the World Series landscape include Al Weis of the Mets, Brian Doyle and Bucky Dent of the New York Yankees and Rick Dempsey of the Baltimore Orieoles.
Gibson said he "wants to be in games like this. That's what it's all about. It killed me not to be able to start."
"This guy is amazing," Lasorda said.
Even though Gibson has only one at-bat, he's the leading candidate for the World Series MVP, too. That's the award he won in 1984 while playing for Detroit. He hit two homers and drove in five runs in the decisive fifth-game victory against the San Diego Padres.