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On This Date in Sports October 15, 1988: Hollywood Ending

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

If ever there was a World Series decided by one swing in Game 1 it was this one. Down 4-3 in the ninth inning, with two outs the Los Angeles Dodgers sent Kirk Gibson to the plate as a pinch hitter, with two injured legs. Gibson hits a two-run home run off Dennis Eckersley to win the game 5-4 as the Dodgers beat the Oakland Athletics in five games.

It was a monster season for the Oakland Athletics managed by Tony LaRussa, who won the American League West with a record of 104-58, beating the Minnesota Twins by 13 games, as Jose Canseco was named MVP by producing the first 40-40 season in baseball history. In the ALCS, the Athletics continued to dominate as they swept the Boston Red Sox in four straight games with Dennis Eckersley who transformed the role of closer, from a multi-inning job to a one inning shutdown closer earning series MVP.

The Tommy Lasorda led Los Angeles Dodgers spurred by the signing of Kirk Gibson rebounded from two disappointing seasons to win the National League West with a record of 94-67. As Gibson won the MVP, Orel Hershiser won the Cy Young, setting a record with 59 straight scoreless innings to close the season. Hershiser continued his strong pitching into the NLCS, winning one and having a key save to win the MVP as the Dodgers upset the New York Mets in seven games. During the regular season, the Dodgers were dominated by the Mets, losing 10-of-11. The key game in the series was Game 4, with Mike Scioscia hitting a two-run home run to tie the game in the ninth inning off Dwight Gooden. Los Angeles would win the game 5-4 on a home run by Gibson, who also hit a key three-run shot as the Dodgers 7-4 in Game 5.

As the World Series began the Dodgers worry centered around Kirk Gibson, who was unable to start Game 1 due to both legs being hurt. The A’s had their ace Dave Stewart on the mound, while rookie Tim Belcher made the start for the Dodgers. Los Angeles struck first with Mickey Hatcher hitting a two-run homer in the first. The lead would not last long, as Jose Canseco homered off the centerfield camera in the second inning. Oakland would not score again, as Mike Scioscia got the game closer with an RBI single in the sixth inning. With the score 4-3, Oakland was in the catbird seat with the reliable Dennis Eckersley on the mound. Eck got the first two batters, but issued a two-out walk to Mike Davis, setting the stage for one of the most dramatic moments in World Series history. Kirk Gibson who was too injured to even participate in the pregame introductions came to the plate on two bad legs, pinch-hitting for pitcher Alejandro Pena. Gibson fell behind early as he was clearly in pain, as Davis stole second, the Dodgers MVP fought back to a 3-2 count. Using all the strength he had, Kirk Gibson muscled the 3-2 pitch into the stands for a two-run walk-off homer to win the game 5-4 as he hobbled around the bases both teams having a swing of emotion with the Dodgers in ecstasy as the A’s could not believe what they just saw.

Orel Hershiser was on the mound for the Dodgers in Game 2, while Storm Davis was on the mound for Oakland. The Dodgers took control of the game with five runs in the third inning, highlighted by a three-run blast by Mike Marshall. In the fourth, Hershiser aided his own cause with a two-run double. Meanwhile, on the mound, it was all Orel Hershiser for the Dodgers as he pitched a complete game three-hitter with eight strikeouts in a 6-0 win.

As the series shifted to the Oakland Coliseum, the Athletics facing a must-win had Bob Welch on the mound, while the Dodgers turned to John Tudor. The A’s got an early run on an RBI single by Ron Hassey in the third inning, while the Dodgers scored on double by Franklin Stubbs in the fifth. The game remained tied 1-1, thanks in part to a strong relief outing by Rick Honeycutt for Oakland who earned the win. Meanwhile Dodgers closer Jay Howell got the loss as Mark McGwire hit a walk-off home run in the ninth.

Looking to even the series, the Athletics sent Dave Stewart on the mound in a rematch of Game 1 against Tim Belcher. The Dodgers struck early scoring two runs in the first inning with the help of a passed ball and an error. Canseco drove in a run in the bottom of the inning, but the Dodgers added another unearned run in the third on an error by shortstop Walt Weiss. Carney Lansford got a run back in the sixth, but the Dodgers answered with an RBI by Tracy Woodson. The Athletics got an RBI double from Dave Henderson in the seventh but got no closer as the Dodgers won 4-3 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

In Game 5 the Dodgers had Orel Hershiser on the mound with a chance to close it out against Storm Davis. Los Angeles gave Orel two runs in the first on a two-run home run by Mickey Hatcher. Oakland scratched on a run in the third on a sac-fly by Stan Javier. In the fourth, the Dodgers put a dagger into Oakland, when Mike Davis who was former Athletic hit a two-run shot to make it 4-1. Rick Dempsey made it 5-1 with an RBI double in the sixth. Javier drove in a second run for Oakland in the eighth, but it’s all they could muster against Hershiser who struck out Tony Phillips to end the game, as the Dodgers won 5-2 with Orel Hershiser winning the World Series MVP.