The Los Angeles Dodgers got into the playoffs on the backs of two men.
One was Orel Hershiser. Bulldog went the entire month of September without giving up a single run, breaking Don Drysdale's consecutive scoreless inning streak set 30 years earlier.
The team leader was Kirk Gibson. Even though he did not lead the league in any category, Gibson, who had starred with the Tiger championship squad 4 years earlier, helped the team with his competitiveness and would be named NL MVP.
In the NLCS against the Mets, these two had played key roles. Even though he had given up his first runs in over a month in the 9th inning of game 1 won by the Mets and was roughed up a little in game 3, Hershiser came back and relieved in game 4, getting the save, and then threw a 5 hit shutout in the game 7 clincher. Gibson only hit .154 in the series, but he made a game saving catch in game 3 and hit the game winning homer in game 4 along with another in game 5. But in the process he sustained injuries to both legs and was not expected to be available in the World Series.
Their Series opponents had stars of their own. The Oakland A's had run roughshod over the American League and swept the Red Sox in the ALCS. They had their own 20 game winner in Dave Stewart and the best closer in the game in Dennis Eckersley, a former starter whose career blossomed when Tony LaRussa put him in the bullpen. But where the A's had the distinct advantage was on offense. They were led by the Bash Brothers, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, who combined to hit 72 homers and drive in 223 runs during the season.
This was the setting as the teams prepared to meet in game 1 at Dodger Stadium.
Since he had pitched a complete game shutout in game 7 against the Mets, Hershiser was not available to start game 1. Instead, Tommy LaSorda went with Tim Belcher. A well rested Stewart started for the A's.
Mickey Hatcher got the Dodgers on the board first with a two run homer.
In the second, Canseco answered with a grand slam to make it 4-2.
The Dodgers came within 1 in the 6th with an RBI single by Mike Sciosia.
That set up one of the most dramatic finishes in World Series history.
As he had done all year, Eckersley was brought in to shut the door in the 9th.
After Sciosia popped out and Jeff Hamilton struck out, Eckersley walked pinch hitter Mike Davis. During this time, the announcers were ruing the fact that Gibson was unavailable even as a pinch hitter, since he could hardly walk. But unbeknownst to them and almost everyone in the stadium, Kirk had been in the clubhouse warming up.
With two outs in the ninth inning and Mike Davis on first and the best closer in baseball on the mound. a loud cheer came out of the stands when they looked and saw their injured star limp out of the dugout.
Even though every swing just brought excruciating pain and there was no way he could be expected to run the bases if by some miracle he got on, Gibson batted Eck to a full count before sending the 7th pitch he saw to deep RF.
As the ball cleared the fence one could see Gibson pumping his fist as he limped around the bases. In the words of Jack Buck-"I can't believe what I just saw."
It was the only appearance Gibson would make in the Series. But buoyed by their star's heroics, the Dodgers went on to win in 5 in one of the great upsets in World Series history. Hershiser pitched two complete games, giving up only 7 hits and 2 runs and was the Series MVP. Canseco's grand slam turned out to be his only hit in the Series. McGwire also had only one hit, also a home runl.
With a stomach virus and two bum legs, Kirk Gibson had only one chance to be a hero. He came through with flying colors.