Judge Ryan Keefer doesn't believe what he just saw!!!
"That was the most dramatic home run I've ever seen. The man was hobbling around here all day like a one-legged steer, and he hits it out. He's so strong that he hit it out with one hand."—Steve Sax
Vin Scully described the season where the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Oakland A's in the World Series as follows: "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened." The A's assuming the throne as World Series Champions was to be a foregone conclusion. With mammoth rookies Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, the veteran leadership of Dave Parker and Dave Stewart, the team steamrolled over the competition. In fact, Canseco and McGwire were so large that many people came early to the ballparks to watch them take batting practice and launch baseballs into the stratosphere. They did it during the games as well, and fans would watch with awe and wonder at the spectacle of their batting accomplishments. During the regular season, the A's won 104 games, and Canseco became the first to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases, and wound up hitting 42 home runs and driving in 124 baserunners and winning the American League's Most Valuable Player award, and sweeping the Boston Red Sox en route to the World Series against the Dodgers.
On a tangent here for a second, boy oh boy, weren't we all a little bit naïve then, huh? The world got to be a little more darker since then for baseball, culminating with the Mitchell Report, and Canseco and McGwire, well, let's just say one of them is a little more willing to talk about the past than the other. Who would ever have thought a guy who appeared on a reality show with Flavor Flav would seem to be prophetic of the current look at steroids in baseball. People scoffed, but now seem to begrudgingly give a lot of credit to him. Upon further review, it also seems to make the Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds wins over the A's in World Series play a little bit more poetic, doesn't it? The whole idea of working hard and playing fundamental baseball prevailed over strength and power; that's the impression I'm left with now, two decades after the Dodgers' improbable win.
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The Los Angeles Dodgers weren't overly extraordinary by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, they weren't considered to be the best team in the National League. That honor would go to the New York Mets, who finished 1988 with a better regular season record and the presumptive Most Valuable Player in Darryl Strawberry, generator of 39 home runs and 101 runs batted in. Surprisingly though, Kirk Gibson, who hit fifteen fewer homers and twenty five fewer RBIs received that honor. The Dodgers did have Orel Hershiser, who broke the Major League record for consecutive scoreless innings with 59. That's six straight games, assuming "The Bulldog" pitched all nine innings in a game. So riding the wave of Hershiser, the Dodgers took the Mets on in the 1987 League Championship Series and beat the Mets in a decisive seventh game.
The 1988 series is one for that one magical event. You know the one, Gibson's home run in Game 1 of the Series. Gibson was battling a sprained ligament in his right knee and a pulled hamstring in his left leg, and walking around as gingerly as one could imagine. To paraphrase Bob Costas' appearance on Ken Burns' Baseball miniseries, Gibson's appearance in the dugout was straight out of Roy Hobbs in The Natural, right down to the comment that Gibson had "one good swing in him" before going to bat. He was facing Dennis Eckersley, A's relief pitcher who had been as tough to hit as any pitcher that season. He pitched in relief, meaning he only had to face one or two batters at a time, and walked the equivalent of one batter a game. Gibson catches a break, and muscles a pitch over the right field wall in the bottom of the ninth to earn the win. So many things about the events still resonate to this day; Vin Scully's call of the homer, the brake lights of a car leaving the park that can be visible from the field, Gibson's limping around the diamond, they're all transcendant moments. Oakland never stood a chance after that. Gibson's pinch hit home run was his only at-bat in the Series, what else did they need him to do? Momentum is a wonderful thing when it comes to sports and yes, the impossible can happen, especially when the year has been improbable.
I'm no dummy, this boxed set of discs coincides not only with the twentieth anniversary (has it been that long?) since the Dodgers' improbable win, but also with the Dodgers' fiftieth year of playing in Los Angeles. It includes interview footage with the participants after the games and also includes moments from the '88 season, like Hershiser's breaking of the scoreless innings record and additional looks at "the homer." While the video quality appears to be straight from the original tapes and not in the best of shape presentation wise, this set is worth owning for any Dodger fan out there.
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