Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully took to social media on the 32nd anniversary of Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit game-winning homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series to share his memory of the moment.
“It’s going to the bottom of the ninth inning and we’re in the commercial,” Scully explained. “And I just happened to do, which I would rarely do, I said to the producer, ‘Do me a favor. When we come out of the commercial, follow me.’ In other words, whatever I say, put the camera on me and follow my words”.
Scully went on to say,
“When we came out of commercial I said, ‘If you were here, the first thing you would do is look into the Dodger dugout.’ And up came the picture of the dugout. The producer now knew what I was trying to do and I said, ‘If you look carefully, in the Dodger dugout’ and the camera now panned the whole length of the dugout. And I said, ‘Obviously, Kirk Gibson is not there and so obviously, he will not play tonight.’
“Little did I know exactly what was going on inside of Gibson’s head, as well as his heart. He was sitting in the trainer’s room all along, two big bags of ice, one on each leg, looking at the television set and listening to me say ‘and so it’s obvious that Kirk Gibson will not play tonight.”
Scully then laughed and said,
“Typical reaction from Gibson? Fertilizer. Or a reasonable facsimile. And then he said to the clubhouse man, ‘Tell (manager) Tommy (Lasorda) I’ll be right down.’ None of this was going on to our knowledge. And then, as I happen to say, ‘Well, look who’s here.’ And here comes Kirk, up the steps and into the dugout, a baseball bat used as a cane. And the rest is history.”
Despite nursing serious injuries to both legs, Gibson pinch-hit for pitcher Alejandro Pena and clouted a two-run homer off Oakland Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley to give the Dodgers a 5-4 victory. It wasn’t so much a walk-off homer as it was a limp-off homer. It was also a propellant that ignited LA’s five-game World Series upset of the heavily-favored A’s.
Suppose Gibson Chose the Gridiron?
As the Dodgers ready for the third World Series in four seasons against the Tampa Bay Rays, that 1998 Fall Classic remains the most recent title by the team.
Here’s a frightening thought for Dodger fans to consider – what if Gibson had opted to pursue an NFL career instead?
Major League Baseball recently lost a high-end prospect. Kyler Murray signed with the A’s. Then Murray, the 2018 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners, hedged his bets. He changed his mind and opted to instead join the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
Gibson was presented with the same scenario. He was an All-American receiver for the Michigan State Spartans. As a senior in 1978, Gibson set career highs in receptions (42), receiving yards (806), and touchdown receptions (seven). The 806 yards was a school record. The Spartans earned a share of the Big Ten title. Gibson played in the Senior Bowl and was a coveted gridiron prospect.
Gibson also played one season for the Spartans baseball team. He hit .390 with 16 homers and 52 RBIs in 48 games. He was selected in the first round of the Major League Draft by the Detroit Tigers and in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by the Cardinals, then situated in St. Louis. He then chose to pursue baseball.
Gibson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
Playing two big-league sports wasn’t really a thing when Gibson made his call. Others would later embrace the concept wholeheartedly. Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders played in both MLB and in the NFL. Brian Jordan and Drew Henson, like Gibson a Michigan State player, also turned this unique double play.
Others followed Murray’s lead and chose football. Tom Brady was drafted by the Montreal Expos but pursued football.
The most famous two-sport Dodger was Chuck Connors. He played just one game for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 and also played basketball for the Boston Celtics. Connors gained his true fame in LA’s most famous big-league sport, acting. He starred on the screen for several years and is especially remembered for the TV series The Rifleman.
Connors would come to the aid of the Dodgers in 1965. With pitching aces Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale embroiled in a contract holdout, Connors served as an intermediary between the players and Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi, helping the two sides come to an agreement.