|Banks County Opinions...||
May 16, 2001
By Todd Simons
The Banks County News
May 16, 2001
Gibson's limp to homer history
I recently had the opportunity to watch a replay of one of the best baseball moments I have ever seen. For me it was not only the storybook ending of game one of the 1988 World Series, and the memories of being a young baseball zealot, but it was that I saw a moment in time when the game was transforming. Twelve years later I had nearly forgotten about my old passion for the game, that heroic moment when Gibson limped to the plate and how different the game had been.
Vin Scully, the greatest baseball announcer still talking when I came around, called the '88 Series.
The A's of 1988 were a great team. I hated them because they were great. Just like I hated the 86 Mets, every Yankees team, FSU and Notre Dame.
The year before Mark McGwire had hit 49 homers and no one had hit 50 since Gorman Thomas. Remember Gorman Thomas?
Thirty had become the standard of excellence. Sixty-one was unimaginable. Maris' 61 gave way to Bob Gibson and Luis Tiant and the era of the pitcher. In 1961 the American League ERA was 4.02 and the league batted .256 with 1534 home runs. In 1968 the American league ERA was 2.98 and the league batted .230 with 1104 home runs.
Steve Sax stole 42 bases in 1988. What happened to that game?
Who changed it? McGwire started it and 70 punctuated it.
I never saw the offensive-minded baseball of the fifties and early sixties, but it must have looked a lot like the '88 World Series. It might have looked a lot like baseball does now.
After Canseco was hit by a pitch in the first he hit a grand slam in his next at bat. It was a drive that was rising when it hit the outfield seats.
Scully called it," A two iron."
Canseco said,"I'm not a home run hitter, Mcgwire is."
"And the chairs aren't even warm yet," Scully announced. Prophetic.
By the time Maddux came from the heartland to Hotlanta the game was heading in a new direction. Offense was becoming the way to win. Bunts and steals were becoming of a bygone era. Finesse pitching was stepping aside to the three run homer. The stolen base was useless when weak pitching and bulging biceps make it possible to rap a double off the right field fence.
"Good pitching always beats good hitting, and visa versa," is what Yogi Berra said on the matter.
Mike Scott's split finger seemed to be the biggest advance of the time, but it couldn't outmaneuver having Tim Raines, Ozzie Smith or Vince Coleman leaning toward second. As astro turf went so did the team built around slap hits and stolen bases. The Cardinals were built that way and went to three World Series in the eighties.
Old School becomes new school and classes are taught again and again.
The cycles make sense. They are everywhere.
Back to 1988.
Before Eckersley even threw one pitch to Gibson the TV showed that Eckersley hadn't given up a homerun since August, 24. Then a fastball, foul and then two throws over to first.
Then a foul ball that was just right of the third base line. Not only had Gibson limped to the plate, he hobbled down the line on that foul ball. He fouled another pitch off, after Eck had thrown a ball. Then another ball. The count was 2 and 2 and another throw at the Dodgers' Mark Davis on first. Eckersley threw the next pitch, Davis took off, and now the count was full with first base open.
Davis was the tying run at second with two out. Sax was on deck.
Gibson called time.
He steps ten feet out of the batter's box. He steps back in, the pitch, he turns the bat and...
"High fly ball into right field... she is gone," Scully announced.
The Dodgers won. I was brought to my feet.
"In a year that has seen the improbable, the impossible has happened," Scully said.
"The only question was whether he could make it around the base pads unassisted," Scully's voice rose.
The entire crowd on its feet. The national League MVP at the plate and injured. Eck had given up only five home runs all year. A 3-2 count and Dennis Eckersley threw a slider. I don't think I have ever seen a better moment. It was a moment that announced the Homerun generation.
The ball wasn't juiced, but the game was changing right before my eyes.
Todd Simon is a reporter for the Madison County Journal.
Put down the cell phones!
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