We Need Moments Like This

Published: April 2, 2024

By Jim Lichtman
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Let’s face it, we’re a mess.

We’re living moment to moment, crisis to crisis at home and abroad. Every time you watch the news it feels like another brick to the head. I want a respite from the endless bombardment of anger, hate, and violence. I want a moment of triumph where everyone stands up and cheers.

Last Sunday, I watched the L.A. Dodgers come back from a 4-run deficit to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5 to 4. And just like that, I recalled another moment of Dodger lore, one of the most memorable moments of personal achievement under pressure I’ve ever seen.

The Date: October 15, 1988

The Place: Dodger Stadium

The Event: The 1988 World Series between the Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Dodgers

Oakland slugger Jose Canseco hit a grand slam in the second inning. However, the Dodgers picked up 3 runs before going into the ninth inning. The Dodgers were down to their last out in the first game of what promised to be a great series.

Reliever Dennis Eckersley was on the mound. Eck had not given up a home run since August 24th of that year. Dodger speedster Mike Davis, at first, was waiting for manager Tommy Lasorda to pull the trigger on a steal. The pitcher’s spot was was coming up, but at the last minute something changed.

As soon the pinch hitter stepped out of the dugout, more than 50,000 fans . . . on their feet. They all knew who it was before veteran announcer Vin Scully called it:

Kirk Gibson.

“I was hurting pretty bad,” Gibson told Sport’s Illustrated. “I had a torn hamstring tendon in my left leg and a strained medial collateral ligament in my right leg.

“During the game, I was hanging in the clubhouse . . . I was just sitting there watching the game on TV, icing. Ice on, taking it off. Ice on, taking it off. Ice on, taking it off. The next thing you know, I remember on TV, they were panning the dugout . . . and Vin Scully says, ‘There is no Kirk Gibson. It doesn’t look like he will be playing tonight.’

“I got up and said, ‘My ass.’ I got dressed . . . [and said] Go tell Tommy that I can hit.”

Mitch Poole, the assistant clubhouse manager “yelled at Tommy from one end of the dugout to the other. He said, ‘What do you want?’ And, I said, ‘Tommy, get over here. Gibby says he can hit.’ Tommy ran right up the ramp.”

Gibson was standing in the tunnel as he told Lasorda, “Hit [Mike] Davis eighth [meaning, put him in the game] and I’ll hit for the pitcher if you want me to.

“He said, ‘Hell yeah, I want you to.’ He told me to stay up there. He didn’t want me to be on the bench because he didn’t want Oakland to look over and see me.”

As soon as he saw Gibson on the dugout steps Scully—in the most beautiful, poetic blank verse baseball has ever heard—called the moment.

“And look who’s coming up!

“All year long they looked to him to light the fire, and all year long he answered the demands until he was physically unable to start tonight with two bad legs: the bad left hamstring and the swollen right knee.

“And with two out, you talk about a roll of the dice, this is it. If he hits the ball on the ground, I imagine he would be running about 50 percent to first base.

“So the Dodgers trying to catch lightning right now…”

“4-3 A’s, two out, ninth inning…”

Mike Davis gets the signal from Lasorda and . . .  like a shot, he’s gone. Second base is his. And now, it’s hard to hear Scully over the crowd.

“Now the Dodgers don’t need the muscle of Gibson, as much as a base hit.

“And on deck is the lead off man Steve Sax.

“3-and-2 [count on Gibson], Sax waiting on deck, but the game right now is at the plate.”

Gibson swings and . . .

“High fly ball into right field . . . she is . . . GONE!!!”

Scully is silent. Doesn’t say a word. The fans have taken over. (And you HAVE to watch the full 10 minute video to truly absorb the moment. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to understand, you’re fully engaged.)

After more than a minute, Scully goes to his coda.

“In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

The Dodges went on to win the series.

We need these kinds of moments now, more than ever.


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