Posts tagged Los Angeles Dodgers

“It was my worst moment, but it was my best”

“I don’t believe what I just saw!”

Avid baseball fans will recognize those words.  That’s what radio broadcaster Don Drysdale yelled when Kirk Gibson of the Los Angeles Dodgers hit a two-run homer to beat the Oakland A’s in Game One of the 1988 World Series.

Those words describe my reaction as well as I watched the game that night on television, 25 years ago. Gibson was a star for the Dodgers that season, but as the Series began he had a pulled left hamstring and a swollen right knee.  He didn’t even dress for the game, and didn’t come out for pregame introductions.

But he was down in the team locker room, watching the game on TV.  In the ninth inning the Dodgers were down 4-3, and the A’s had baseballs best closer, Dennis Eckersley, on the mound.  Two men were out, and one Dodger was on base, when Gibson surprised everyone by emerging from the dugout and hobbling to the plate.

The guy could hardly walk, much less run.  He could barely swing the bat, and didn’t seem to have any power.  And yet somehow he hit a home run that won the game for the Dodgers and sent the crowd into a frenzy.  It’s one of the great moments in baseball history, and it still sends chills down my spine when I watch the replay.  As the great Vin Scully said on the television broadcast, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

Gibson didn’t play for the rest of the series, but his one at-bat helped spark the Dodgers to a 4-1 series win over the favored A’s.

I’m sure many have written of Gibson’s heroics as a metaphor for never giving up, for battling life’s obstacles, etc.  But today I read an article about that game, and caught something that impressed me just as much.  Another man stepped up that day, and that was Dennis Eckersley, the pitcher.

'it was my worst moment, but it was my best moment'

Eckersley watches from the mound as Gibson’s homer ends game one of the 1988 World Series

When Gibson hit his homer, Eckersley recalls that he was “in shock, total shock.”  He makes some interesting observations about what it was like to be a loser that dramatic night.  “Everything went into slow motion.  It was incredible.  Once it sunk in, I turned around to walk off.  The whole place was going nuts.  I had the total opposite emotion.  What a feeling. … There are 50,000 people screaming and nobody feels as bad as you.  It was terrible.  Walking up the runway, no one said anything.  It was dead silence.”

And here’s the quote from Eckersley that caught my eye:  “After the game, there were a zillion questions from the media. … For me, I needed to do it, to accept it.  Looking back, it was the best thing I ever did.  I answered questions.  It was my worst moment, but it was my best moment in a lot of ways.  Standing up to it.  Accepting what comes with defeat, taking responsibility.  That was a proud moment for me.”

Wow, what an example.  Eckersley knew he made a bad pitch, and the last thing he wanted to do was talk about it to the press.  But he stepped up and did it.

How many men face similar situations, yet refuse to accept responsibility?  How many young men make mistakes and insist on putting the blame on others?

I’m sure Dennis Eckersley is tired of still talking about that worst moment from 25 years ago.  But it sure is easier to accept responsibility than to run from it.

Click here to read a Sports Illustrated oral history commemorating Gibson’s home run.

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