Some of you may know that the first game of the World Series begins tonight between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers. Many of you may respond by saying, “what, huh?” Or, “Who Cares?” Well, I do care because it represents a memorable and significant evening I shared with my late and great father 23 years ago.
In the 1988 World Series, my beloved Los Angeles Dodgers were playing the “Unbeatable” Oakland Athletics. The heavily favored A’s were predicted to win the series quite easily in a 4 game knockout sweep. Not too keen on being, once again, athletically disappointed, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to witness the Dodgers getting the crap kicked out of them. Therefore, I was somewhat easily persuaded by three of my friends to attend a high school dance that Saturday evening. After mentioning game one of the World Series was on that night, they really didn’t care. They had girls in their, I mean on their minds.
Only a sophomore in high school, I still had to run things by my father and mother before sneaking out of the house. So, when asking dad if I could attend this dance that evening, he pondered my request for less than a second and said, “Negative…..You will be watching the World Series with your mother and me tonight. The memories of this game will be far more important later in your life than a half ass ridiculous high school dance where you’ll just end up getting in some sort of trouble. You need to focus on school and sports…….not girls”. He couldn’t have been more right or prophetic that magnificent Fall evening.
Now, when my father said to any of his seven sons they were not allowed to do something, arguing was simply not an option. His word was Stone Cold Gospel. When he told his six daughters they were not allowed to do something, they didn’t quite cower to him like the boys. They were always far tougher and a little more outspoken than us. They still remain the same. (I’m only still friends with them because I am afraid of them)
Secretly, wanting to watch the game, it was easy to tell my peers I would be unavailable for The West Valley High White Dance Down. They knew, and liked my father, but also knew when Rodney E. Gannon said, “no”, …well that was that. They just strolled out of our living room without much to say but, “sorry”.
Now for the boring details of the game: Kirk Gibson played for the LA Dodgers that year and was apparently ferociously competitive. He helped lead them to the World Series even though suffering numerous injuries during the course of this long season. His knee injuries did not allow him to start in the first game of that World Series. That was disappointment number one for dad and me. Early on in the game, a very respected man in the baseball community (steroids) known as Jose Conseco, (I hope I spelled his name wrong) hit a grand slam putting the A’s up 4-0. That was disappointment number two. I’m glad my mother’s clam dip was so good that night because it was the only thing keeping me from running away from home.
Much like baseball, a son only gives his father three chances before saying, “I’m Out”. He was down to his last disappointment strike. While stuffing myself with chips and dip, trying to ignore the game, I noticed the Dodgers were making an attempt to come back and make a game out of this debacle. With Kirk Gibson, not even on the bench, but in the training room, barely able to walk, the Dodgers chipped away at the A’s lead making it 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth. It was then when Kirk Gibson asked the batboy to get him a batting tee. The manager, Tommy Lasorda, also known as Tommy Lasagna (he once claimed to have never turned down food ending with a vowel) had no intentions of allowing this hobbling athlete to enter the game. However, down to their last out facing Dennis Eckersley, thee most feared closing pitcher in the game, he considered putting Gibson in as a pinch hitter. With two outs, and nobody on base, a lesser known player, Mike Davis, drew a walk. Thus, the winning run would come to the plate. Lasorda beckoned for Kirk Gibson. Unable to run, a game winning home run was the only option. On a three and two count, with fifty thousand fans screaming, Gibson jacked a backdoor slider into the right field stands of Dodger Stadium for the game winning home run sending the loyal followers into a high five frenzy. It was his last at bat of the series.
The Dodgers went on to beat the “unbeatable” Oakland A’s to win the World Series. I couldn’t thank my dad more for keeping me home that evening.
We celebrated by having mom’s Saturday evening burgers and making fun of the fools inevitably getting their hearts broken at that coveted dance. I didn’t sneak out that night. I also realized that dad wasn’t being a tyrant keeping me home. He just wanted to watch the game with the last of his seven boys. That was one hell of a memorable moment, not just for baseball, but for a father and son who didn’t always see eyeball to eyeball.
After my last and closest brother left for college, I was left alone with mom and dad for those high school years and it wasn’t always easy for any of us. After that evening, dad and I became a little closer.
That was 23 years ago, almost to this day. Ironically, or coincidentally, Kirk Gibson was wearing the number 23 that night.
Baseball Moments – Footage of Gibson\’s World Series Pinch Hit