LOS ANGELES -- Kirk Gibson's says his eye-black inspired walkout on the first day of spring training is highly overrated in the making of the 1988 National League West Division champions.
When reliever Jesse Orosco lined the Los Angeles left fielder's hat with eye-black, Gibson stalked out of the Dodgers training facility. His reaction was spontaneous and not planned to drive home a point.
No matter, says Los Angeles Manager Tommy Lasorda, who believes Gibson is without question the Most Valuable Player on the Dodgers and in the NL.
'When you start talking about what a guy has to do to win the MVP, you realize Gibson should be MVP,' Lasorda said. 'What would we have done without him? Where would we have finished?'
Well for starters, you can kiss first place good-bye. After that, who knows?
'You're talking about one of my favorite individuals now,' Lasorda said. 'He's a tremendous competitor. He puts his heart and soul into the game. He can beat you with his legs, with his glove and with his bat.
'He's a great situation hitter. He can beat you with a base hit to left or a home run. He's done it. He's a great, great player.'
Gibson is widely theorized as the man who changed the attitude on the Dodgers from losers to winners. Evidence: two 16-under .500 seasons before Gibson, one division championship with him.
'You mean Mike Scioscia didn't want to win? You mean Steve Sax didn't want to win? Fernando Valenzuela didn't want to win? Mike Marshall? ... These guys all want to win.
'What we had the past two seasons were a lot of people on the disabled list. We were in a position to win on August 1st the last two years. We just didn't do it.
'What Gibson brought to our team was 25-26 home runs and 78-80 RBI, a player that loves to play the game, a leader. Our guys love this guy, they look up to him, they respect him.'
But the incident, Kirk, the incident. Tell us about the incident.
'It was not planned. I guess what I wanted was to let them know that it didn't fit in with my pre-game preparation.
'Everybody gets ready differently and I respect that. I just wanted to let them know to leave me out of it. It was blown way out of proportion. We dealt with it quickly in a clubhouse meeting the next day and it was out of the way.'
Gibson thinks Lasorda had a great deal to do with Los Angeles jumping out to a quick lead and fending off the challenges of Houston, San Francisco and Cincinnati.
Initially, Lasorda was not sure who would play where. It was possible before spring training that as many as seven positions would be manned by different people than the year before.
It didn't turn out that way. Lasorda got a look at the talents of his players and 'when we left spring training,' Gibson said, 'everybody know their role.'
He made a switch early in the season when third baseman Pedro Guerrero got a pinched neck nerve and when Mike Marshall begged off first base.
Jeff Hamilton did well as Guerrero's fill in, so well the Dodgers felt they could trade Guerrero to St. Louis and get left-hander John Tudor for the stretch and playoffs.
Marshall's request to return to right was eased when Mike Davis, signed as a free agent before Gibson, did not hit. Franklin Stubbs took over at first.
'I had confidence the Dodgers were tired of their losing ways,' Gibson said, 'that's why they acquired me and the other guys. I knew the Dodgers had the makings of a good team. And you know I'm not out here playing for second place.'
'He's a great guy -- a big Teddy Bear,' Lasorda said, 'but a lot of people don't know it. You should see him play with his son.
'But he plays baseball the way my wife shops -- all day long.'