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Kirk Gibson home run turns 25

Kirk Gibson and closer Dennis Eckersley recall that memorable moment on Oct. 15, 1988, when Gibson hit a 3-2 pitch over the right field wall at Dodger Stadium to win Game One of the World Series.

By Gabrielle Levy
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Kirk Gibson home run turns 25
Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson (R) talks to one of his coaches during the Diamondbacks game with the Washington Nationals at Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ June 5,2011. UPI/Art Foxall | License Photo

(UPI) -- A quarter of a century ago Tuesday, Kirk Gibson came off the bench into Game One of the World Series. It was the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Dodgers were behind 4-3.

Gibson swung at a 3-2 pitch from Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley, and the rest is history.

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"I stepped back in," Gibson recalled. "He threw the pitch and the ball went out."

The moment is one of the most memorable in baseball history, but it almost didn't happen. Gibson was injured, having spent the day and most of the game icing a torn hamstring tendon. Ahead of the ninth, the slugger was in the clubhouse, not even wearing his uniform.

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"I remember on TV, they were panning the dugout before going to a commercial and Vin Scully says, 'There is no Kirk Gibson. It doesn’t look like he will be playing tonight.'"

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"I got up and said, “My ass.” I got dressed and told Mitch Poole to set the batting tee up."

Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda kept Gibson in the clubhouse until the very last minute before bringing him out to pinch-hit in the pitcher's spot to face Eckersley, himself a future Hall of Famer.

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"It took Gibson forever to get up to the plate," Eckersley recalled. "Forever. It was grueling waiting for him to get to the plate."

"We assumed he wasn’t going to play. So I was surprised," he said. "I had a long time to think about Gibson coming into the game. You could have written a book in the time that it took him to get ready."

With Gibson falling behind early -- he fouled off the first two pitches -- Eckersley thought he'd have him.

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"He fouled away the first two pitches, and, after he swung, he looked so feeble," Eckersley said. "I thought I was going to blow him away. I thought he was a lamb. I'm thinking I'm going to throw him a high fastball and he's done."

But Gibson knew what was coming.

"Now remember, and don't ever forget this, if you're up in the ninth inning and we're down or it's tied and you get to 3 and 2 against Eckersley... Partner, sure as I'm standing here breathing, you're going to see a 3-2 backdoor slider."

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That moment, putting his team ahead, made all the pain disappear.

"When I was running around the bases, I could feel no pain at all," he said. "I was jubilant."

"Obviously, I was happy to do it for my team," he remembered. "I could feel the fans and their emotion, but for people who were doubters, that was a cool feeling. You have to fight through a lot and fight the notion to respond to them."

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The Dodgers went on to win the World Series in five games. Now, 25 years on, the 2013 line-up goes up against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Five of the National League Championship Series, hoping to return the boys in blue to the October Classic for the first time since.

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