Kirk Gibson wrote a Hollywood ending in Tinsel Town itself in Game 1 of the World Series Saturday night.
Captain Kirk, the hobbled hero, limped off the bench and to the rescue with a pinch-hit, two-run, two-out, full-count home run off baseball's best reliever in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Dodgers a stunning 5-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics."I told Tommy (manager Lasorda), `I think I can do it. I think I can give you a good shot,"' Gibson said.
What a shot!
Gibson fouled off four pitches, three with two strikes, and then sent a breaking ball from A's bullpen ace Dennis Eckersley far over the right-field fence. The Dodgers poured from the dugout to greet their hero, who had not played since his injury forced him from Game 7 of the playoffs Wednesday night.
"I figure if I could get up there with a guy on and the crowd into it, I could suck it up for one AB," said Gibson, who visibly favored the bad leg.
Gibson limbered up as pinch hitter Mike Davis walked. With Gibson at the plate and the fans screaming, Davis stole second.
"I tried to swing a bat in my living room today and didn't think I could," Gibson said. "So I tried to visualize making a good swing."
Oakland manager Tony La Russa considered intentionally walking Gibson but "I thought our best chance was to go after him. The guy on deck (Steve Sax) is a pretty good hitter."
Gibson won the fourth game of the playoffs with a 12th inning homer and broke open the fifth game with a three-run homer.
This, though, was better.
"It's hard to match, a storybook," he said. "What a team!"
It's Gibson's team. The Dodgers were 16 games under .500 before Gibson arrived from Detroit, where he helped the Tigers win the World Series in 1984. The National League playoffs turned around on Gibson's homers.
"I heard (Dodgers announcer) Vin Scully say they were looking for me on the bench, but that I probably wouldn't be able to play," Gibson said. "I said, `That's enough' and sent a batboy to get Tommy. Tommy came back and I told him I'd try. That's all he wanted to hear."
"He hobbled up there like a one-legged man," Lasorda said. "That's a guy who has a lot of power. He could hit the ball out of the Grand Canyon. ...
"Here we were staring defeat right in the eyes and all of a sudden the guy hits one out."
Eckersley, who led the majors with 45 saves during the season and saved saved all four Oakland victories in the American League playoffs, had given up only five home runs all year. He relieved Dave Stewart to start the ninth, retired Mike Scioscia on a popup and struck out Jeff Hamilton before walking pinch-hitter Mike Davis.
Jose Canseco's grand slam shook the flagpole and the Dodgers in the second inning. But the can-do Dodgers, who beat the New York Mets in the playoffs after a tying, two-run, ninth-inning homer by Scioscia, hung tough and came back and now have ace Orel Herhiser going in Game 2 Sunday night against Storm Davis.
Stewart and Dodgers starter Tim Belcher engaged in an early beanball battle that prompted umpire Doug Harvey to warn both teams. Belcher hit Canseco with a pitch in the first inning and Stewart hit Steve Sax to open the bottom of the first.
Canseco homered against Belcher, a former minor league teammate.
Belcher hit Canseco with a pitch in the first inning and Oakland went on to load the bases before Terry Steinbach flied out to end the threat. Belcher, a rookie who beat the New York Mets twice in the National League playoffs, wasn't so lucky in the second.
Glenn Hubbard led off with a single and Stewart, batting for the first time since 1983, drew a one-out walk on a full-cout pitch. Carney Lansford's walk loaded the bases and Belcher then struck out Henderson.
Canseco had hit several tremendous blasts during batting practice, drawing cheers from the normally laid-back Los Angeles fans, and this time he hit the ball even harder. Canseco sent a low line drive to center field that zoomed past the 395-foot mark and clanged off the flagpole.
Stewart overcame a two-run homer by Mickey Hatcher in the first inning and worked around Mike Scioscia's RBI single in the sixth.
Stewart and Belcher each were familiar with the other team. Stewart pitched for the Dodgers in the 1981 World Series and Belcher was sent by the Oakland organization to Los Angeles in August 1987.
Stewart fasts on days of games because he gets nervous, and he got off to a shaky start. After hitting Sax in the back to open the first, Stewart balked with one out; he led the majors a record 16 balks this season.
Hatcher, subbing in left field and in the third spot for Gibson, followed with a home run deep to left and danced around the bases. Hatcher, who had only one home run during the regular season, became the 19th player to homer in his first World Series at-bat and the first NL player to do it since Dusty Rhodes in 1954 for the New York Giants.
Belcher, however, could not hold the lead. The Athletics traded him away because he had control problems and his wildness set up Canseco's slam.