ESPN continues MLB Encore Tuesdays, a series of classic game broadcasts, Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET with Game 1 of the 1988 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, a game capped by one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history.
• What you need to know: Suffering from a pulled left hamstring and swollen right knee, Kirk Gibson wasn’t expected to play in the game, but even with a healthy Gibson, the 1988 Dodgers weren’t exactly an offensive powerhouse. They hit a meager .248/.305/.352 with just 99 home runs. Their only hitters to reach 20 home runs were Gibson, who hit 25, and Mike Marshall, who hit 20. They scored just 628 runs, which would rank next-to-last in the 2019 National League. While 1988 was a much lower run-scoring environment than 2019, the Dodgers ranked 11th (of 12 teams) in the NL in OBP and eighth in slugging percentage. Without their best hitter, the Dodgers’ lineup was even weaker. Mickey Hatcher hit third — after hitting one home run all season. John Shelby, batting fifth, had hit .263 with 10 home runs. Third baseman Jeff Hamilton had hit .236 with a .268 OBP. Shortstop Alfredo Griffin hit .199. Yes, the A’s were heavy favorites to win the World Series.
• Did you know? Gibson’s home run, in his lone at-bat of the World Series, is the only walk-off homer in postseason history by a team trailing and down to its final out; it came on a 3-2 count, so the Dodgers were down to their final strike. And coming off Dennis Eckersley, who had a league-leading 45 saves in 1988, it is one of just two World Series walk-off homers off a current Hall of Famer. (The Giants’ Dusty Rhodes hit one off Cleveland’s Bob Lemon in 1954.)
• The view from the field: “It was terrible. Just terrible. We were in the dugout thinking he shouldn’t have even tried to hit.” — Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser, recalling the team’s reaction when Gibson fell behind 0-2 after two feeble swings.
“He didn’t swing at that ball very hard. He actually just flipped it. I knew it was gone, and I got very vulgar about it in the dugout.” — A’s manager Tony La Russa
• One thing you might miss: After Jose Canseco hit a grand slam off Tim Belcher in the second inning to give the A’s a 4-2 lead, manager Tommy Lasorda interestingly pinch hit for Belcher in the bottom of the second inning. It was a pretty low-leverage situation with a runner on first and two outs, but Lasorda obviously didn’t like what he’d seen from Belcher, who had walked four batters and hit another in the first two innings, aside from allowing the home run. This meant Lasorda needed seven innings from his bullpen. Knowing he had Hershiser going in Game 2, Lasorda called on No. 3 starter Tim Leary, who would pitch three scoreless innings in relief. Brian Holton and Alejandro Pena each followed with two scoreless frames, giving Gibson a chance for his bottom-of-the-ninth heroics.
• You probably forgot he was in this game: That’s 37-year-old Dave Parker playing left field for the A’s, after serving primarily as the team’s DH in the regular season. What’s interesting about these Bash Brothers A’s is how they were known for their brawn. Indeed, with Canseco, Parker, Mark McGwire, Don Baylor and Dave Henderson, it was certainly a physically intimidating team. You wouldn’t want to get into a brawl with them. But for all the forearm bashes, their relatively modest total of 156 home runs ranked second in the American League (Parker hit 12 in 101 games). Even in 1989, when they won the World Series, they hit just 127 home runs and ranked sixth in the AL.
• Quote of note: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.” — Part of Vin Scully’s call of Gibson’s homer on NBC’s television broadcast