Nearly as synonymous with Kirk Gibson’s dramatic home run that propelled the Los Angeles Dodgers to a World Series title in 1988 was the role longtime scout Mel Didier played in Gibson delivering against Oakland Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley.
Prior to Game 1 of that year’s World Series, Didier’s scouting report for the Dodgers on the right-hander highlighted Eckersley’s tendency to throw a backdoor slider against left-handed batters with the count full. So as Gibson battled in his pinch-hit appearance that bit of information became all the more valuable.
He clubbed a slider from Eckersley into the right-field pavilion, spawning one of Vin Scully’s most infamous calls and one of the more memorable moments in Dodgers franchise history.
The hit lives on, but sadly Didier passed away Tuesday at the age of 90, according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports:
Sad to report that Mel Didier, beloved Toronto #BlueJays scout,has passed away at 90, according to his wife, Elana. What a beautiful life.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) September 11, 2017
In remembrance of the longtime scout, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times shared a copy of the famed scouting report on Eckersley:
— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) September 11, 2017
Gibson stepped out of the batter’s box with the count full, and later said it was at that moment Didier’s words, “Padner, as sure as I’m standing here breathing, you gonna see a 3-2 back door slider.”
When Didier was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, he called Gibson’s home run “by far my greatest accomplishment.” In addition to working for the Dodgers, Didier spent time with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, Montreal Expos and most recently, Toronto Blue Jays.
A shoulder injury ended his playing career with the Detroit Tigers organization in 1949. Didier remained connected to the sport for nearly 70 years.