FSN's one-hour documentary series, BEYOND THE GLORY, has established itself as a cornerstone of the network's original programming through four seasons of compelling athlete profiles. Now, the Sports-Emmy nominated series opens a new chapter as it relives one of the greatest games in sports history. BTG's examination of the historic Game One of the 1988 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers airs Friday, Oct. 1 at 10:00 PM. The program will replay Sunday, Oct. 3 at 8:00 PM.
The 1988 World Series looked to be a complete mismatch on paper with the underdog Dodgers going up against the star-studded A's. The fate of the game seemed to have been decided before either team stepped onto the field. But once they did, everything changed.
The Oakland A's were unstoppable that season. After struggling to reach .500 with an 81-81 record in 1987, the 1988 A's developed an identity, a swagger, led by their two sluggers, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Oakland came out of the gates hot, winning fourteen straight games in a row. The "Bash Brothers," – plus Dave Stewart – the AL's most feared starter – and Dennis Eckersley – the game's top closer – led the A's to baseball's best record of 104-58 going into the postseason.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were a different story. Though they also struggled in 1987 with a record of 73-89, the 1988 squad lacked the star power that the A's had. Their only shot at winning the pennant came from some key preseason acquisitions, adding outfielder Mike Davis, closer Jay Howell, shortstop Alfredo Griffin and outfielder Kirk Gibson. Gibson immediately stepped in and proved to be a no-nonsense type guy, leading the way for the "bulldog" attitude that carried the blue-collar Dodgers to a 94-67 record at the end of the regular season.
Early into the playoffs, things were panning out as everyone expected. The A's were on the verge of their 4-0 sweep of the Boston Red Sox and the Mets held a 2-1 lead in their series against the Dodgers. However, in Game Four, the Dodgers turned the series around with a great comeback, tying the series at two games apiece. In Game Five, Gibson broke the game open with a three-run home run, but suffered a serious left leg injury while trying to break up a double play later in the game. Gibson returned for Game Six, but ended up injuring his right knee as well. Pitcher Orel Hershiser threw a masterful Game Seven and sent the Dodgers to the World Series to face-off against the A's. But Gibson's injuries seemed to be serious enough to keep him out for the rest of the playoffs, leaving the Dodgers scrambling.
No one gave the Gibson-less Dodgers much of a chance against the A's. Game One started off with an unexpected home run by Dodger Mickey Hatcher, however Oakland quickly bounced back. Then, Dodgers' starting pitcher Tim Belcher put himself in a tough position as he loaded the bases for Canseco – who didn't disappoint. Canseco hit a ball that "never went up and never went down, it just got out" for a grand slam, putting the score in Oakland's favor, 4-2. But the A's never scored again. By the sixth inning, Los Angeles had managed to push across another run to trail the A's 4-3. Stewart then shut out the Dodgers in the seventh and eighth innings, giving way to the game's best closer, Eckersley.
Eckersley felt if he could get past Mike Scioscia, he would be home free. Scioscia popped up to the shortstop for the Dodgers first out. The next batter for the Dodgers, Jeff Hamilton, quickly struck out. With two outs, Eckersley's former teammate Mike Davis came to bat. With the count at 3-2, Eckersley saw Dave Anderson on deck for Los Angeles. Knowing he had only hit twelve home runs in his career and fully aware
of Davis's power from the previous season, Eckersley elected to risk putting Davis on base with a walk instead of giving up a game-tying home run. And then the unthinkable happened. Gibson emerged from the dugout to replace Anderson as the pinch-hitter.
Gibson had been frustrated all game, not being able to play. He was feeling as if he had let his teammates down. Throughout the game, Gibson went in to the training room and iced his knees. In the eighth inning, Gibson told the ball boy to set up a tee in the cages. Bad knees and all, he began to take his cuts off the tee. Following a few swings, Gibson let manager Tommy Lasorda know he was ready if needed.
With Davis on first, Lasorda gave Gibson the signal. Stepping out of the dugout, the crowd erupted. He walked gingerly to the plate to face Eckersley and worked the count to 2-2. On the next pitch, Davis stole second, giving Gibson a full count. Before stepping up to the plate, he called a time-out, remembering that whenever Eckersley had a full count on a lefty, he threw a backdoor slider. "I told myself it was coming." said Gibson. When the slider came, Gibson hit it into the right field bleachers to win the game 5-4. The home run and win were devastating to the A's as they never recovered and lost the series 4-1. Gibson did not play again in the Series, but his name lives on in the history books forever.
Those interviewed include: former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, former Dodgers general manager Fred Claire, Los Angeles Dodgers' Kirk Gibson, Rick Dempsey, Mike Davis, Mike Scioscia, Dave Anderson, Tim Leary, Orel Hershiser, Mickey Hatcher and John Shelby, Oakland A's Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley and Don Baylor, former Dodgers ball boy Mitch Poole, Dodgers scout Mel Didier.
More excerpts from the documentary:
Kirk Gibson (on what he told himself as he emerged from the dugout): "You're going to go up there, the crowd is going to go crazy, you won't think about being hurt and you're going to find a way to get it done."
Gibson (on what he was feeling as he rounded the bases): "Words can't describe what I was feeling right there."
Gibson: "I always believed go 'til you break and when you break, go get fixed…and then go out and break again."
Tommy Lasorda: "He's got his uniform on and he says 'Skip, I think I can hit for you'…And that's when I said 'Okay Big Boy, now you get out there."
Mike Scioscia (on Gibson's home run): "This was the poem 'Casey at the Bat' and this time Casey hit a home run."
Dave Stewart: "We came into spring training in shape to dominate the league. We felt we were the most talented team in baseball."
Dennis Eckersley (on what he thought after sweeping the Red Sox): "I was hoping we'd play the Dodgers 'cause they weren't as good as the Mets."
Eckersley (on his thoughts after Gibson's first swing): "He looked so feeble that I thought 'Alright, get back in there. I'll throw you another one."
Ball Boy (on Gibson in the cage just before his home run): "He was in pain. Every time he swung you could hear him groan and moan."