Closing Shot: Made In Hollywood
It’s easy to think of the Los Angeles Dodgers now as industry juggernauts. After all, the club has led Major League Baseball in attendance each of the last six seasons; it has won the NL West six straight years too, and reached at least the NL Championship Series four times in that span, including this year’s edition against the Milwaukee Brewers; and it is perennially among the game’s top spenders in payroll.
Despite that success, however, it has been 30 years since the Dodgers last won the World Series. That year’s Fall Classic against the Oakland A’s ended in five games but is remembered for just one swing: a two-out, two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning by a hobbled Kirk Gibson off future hall of famer Dennis Eckersley.
It was the only plate appearance of the series for Gibson, but it provided one of the most unforgettable moments in baseball history. The inspired Dodgers, who had taken out the favored, 100-win Mets in the National League Championship Series, soon did the same to the vaunted 104-win A’s that featured “Bash Brothers” Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.
Thirty years later, Gibson’s home run represents one of MLB’s most iconic and oft-repeated highlights, punctuated by his vigorous fist pumps as he rounded the bases on two injured legs, and the legendary Vin Scully’s call on NBC: “High fly ball into right field … she is … gone!”
The Gibson homer and its movie-like sequence also represented the centerpiece of a recent MLB Network documentary on the 1988 Dodgers, “Only In Hollywood,” which premiered this past summer.
Since winning that title, the sixth in franchise history, the Dodgers have gone through three separate ownership groups and spent more than $3 billion in total player payroll fervently chasing another World Series crown.
This year’s Dodgers team, with its star-studded roster and nine-figure payroll, in many ways bears little resemblance to the 1988 squad. But at least one longtime Dodgers employee can hear the echoes of 30 years ago.
“The thing I always remember about 1988 is that no matter what was happening in the game, I still had a feeling we were going to win,” said Sam Fernandez, Dodgers executive vice president, general counsel and a 35-year team employee. “Watching these guys now, I have a lot of the same feelings. It’s been a joy to watch.”