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A BIG BLAST IN L.A.
Peter Gammons
October 24, 1988
A dramatic homer set the Dodgers off toward a 2-0 World Series lead
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October 24, 1988

A Big Blast In L.a.

A dramatic homer set the Dodgers off toward a 2-0 World Series lead

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Almost forgotten in the face of the Gibson histrionics, in fact, was Canseco's flair for October dramatics. In Oakland's first five postseason games he hit four homers, all of which either tied the score or put the A's ahead. Hollywood Jose has big-time style too. Against Belcher he crushed the ball, looked up and flipped the bat away as if he were discarding a chicken bone, and then began a strut around the bases.

To set the stage for Gibson's appearance, the Dodgers got seven shutout innings from relievers Tim Leary, Brian Holton and Pena. Leary had two on and none out in the third and escaped. Dave Henderson doubled to lead off the fourth but committed a baserunning gaffe: He got tagged out between second and third when Canseco sent what seemed certain to be an infield hit deep in the hole at short. In the sixth Stewart gave up a run on three singles but avoided further damage by inducing Jeff Hamilton to bounce to Lansford, who started an inning-ending double play.

So they went into the ninth inning, A's 4, Dodgers 3. In the seventh, former Athletic Alfredo Griffin—whose nickname is El Brujo (the sorcerer)—had predicted to Dodger teammates Mike Sharperson and Fernando Valenzuela how it would end, with Gibson homering off Eckersley. "Eckersley will look around, realize he's back in a National League park, and the [Chicago] Cub will come out in him," Griffin had said.

It was during the inning after Griffin's prophesy that Gibson heard Scully write him out of the script. That seemed logical enough. There was no sign of Gibson, after all, and that afternoon he'd been given injections of cortisone and Xylocaine for the sprained ligament in his right knee.

"I jammed an ice bag on my knee and pulled on my uniform top," said Gibson, who asked Hines to get him a batting tee. Hines found one and told Poole to put the balls on the tee for Gibson. "We didn't want him bending over and hurting himself," Hines said later. After he'd hit about half a bucket of balls, Gibson said, "I told Mitch to go down and tell Tommy [Lasorda] that if someone got on, I wanted to try to hit." Lasorda came up the runway, and Gibson told him he was ready. "As soon as he heard that I wanted to hit," Gibson said, "he took off. I never got a chance to say I think...."

Gibson admitted later that he had no idea how he would feel once Scully's words inadvertently incited him to action. "I tried to swing a bat in my living room in the morning and couldn't do it," he said. "But once I got up in that cage, I didn't feel anything again until I was going around the bases."

Davis, another Oakland refugee, became a central player in the final act. One thing the Dodgers wanted to do against Eckersley was step out of the batter's box and force him to disrupt his rhythm. Davis did just that, stepping back, calling time. "The guy's hitting a buck ninety—what the hell's he doing calling timeout?" Eckersley said later. Davis accomplished his purpose: He infuriated the Eck and coaxed a base on balls from a pitcher who had allowed only nine unintentional walks all season.

Lasorda had sent Anderson into the on-deck circle as a decoy. "I figured Eckersley would pitch more carefully to Davis with the righthander on deck," Lasorda said. "If he'd seen Gibson, he would have pitched Davis differently."

Eckersley's first two pitches to Gibson were in the strike zone. Gibson fouled off both. The third delivery was a hard sinker, the one that Gibson dribbled down the first base line. But as he dragged himself out of the batter's box, it trickled foul. Then Eckersley tried to sweep a slider that would come back and catch the outside corner. "That was the key pitch, because I was able to stay back, lay off it," said Gibson. "And it just missed the strike zone."

After Gibson fouled off another pitch and Eckersley threw outside for ball 2, Davis stole second. "That was important for me, because then all I had to think about was shortening my swing and trying to get a hit to score him," said Gibson. Then came the slider. "It was dumb," said Eckersley. "It was the one pitch he could pull for power. He hit the dogmeat out of it."

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