At 8:37 p.m. on Oct. 15, 1988, Kirk Gibson reached out across the plate from the left-handed batters box at Dodger Stadium.
He flipped his bat awkwardly with as much arm strength has he could generate since his legs were of little use at that point.
The result was a fly ball that kept going and going and going, and the backdoor slider from future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley landed in the right-field pavilion.
On the replays, maybe you see the red tail lights from people hitting the breaks on their cars as they’re leaving the stadium parking lot, convinced the game was over.
Anyone else who stayed in the park for that moment wasn’t going anywhere.
Gibson’s two-run pinch-hit home run wasn’t just one for the ages, but for the rages. The only thing missing were sparks flying out of the Dodger Stadium light standards, and Robert Redford greeting Gibson at home plate.
The Dodgers’ 5-4 heart-stopping comeback win over the Oakland Athletics with two out in the bottom of the ninth in Game 1 of the World Series was the launching point to an improbable 4-1 series victory capped five days later in Oakland.
Or, as Vin Scully described it on the NBC telecast: “In the year of the improbable, the impossible has happened.”
In author Josh Suchon’s recently published book, “Miracle Men,” recapping that season, Scully admitted: “My only thought when he came up to hit was, ‘Please God, don’t let him strike out.’ My thought was only being this is the national stage. This guy has been absolutely inspirational all year long, spurring on the team.”
Scully then admitted afterward, like most, he couldn’t sit down.
“I kept walking and walking, trying to burn off whatever energy this was, that was manufactured by the home run.”
Suchon, the former KABC (710) DodgerTalk co-host currently calling games for the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque, was a huge A’s fan living in the Bay Area at the time.
He devoted 37 pages in his 330-page book to that game, “but I could have done another 37 pages just on people’s memories.”
One of those he included were a father and a son who watched together at the park, Bob and Sean Mercer.
Bob stayed, and saw it. Sean left early, and hasn’t stopped hearing about it.
“I thought I had all the answers,” said Sean, a Valencia resident playing baseball at College of the Canyons. “I wanted to beat the traffic. I was probably halfway through the parking lot and I heard the roar of the crowd. It was nothing I ever heard before. I couldn’t believe I missed one of the greatest moments in baseball history.”
Suchon recalls that future Dodgers right fielder Shawn Green admitted he and his family also left early. So did Steve Edwards, the co-host of KTTV’s”Good Day L.A.” His wife made him a jacket that read, “Left Early.”
“During book signings, I’ve heard from hundreds more people about that game,” said Suchon. “It’s one of those moments in life where you don’t just remember exactly where you were, you remember the most finite details too. It’s uncanny.
“Not only that, but people feel compelled to tell you their story. It’s like they have to tell you exactly where they were, exactly what they were doing, exactly what they felt, and exactly the impact that game had on them as fans of the Dodgers and baseball.
“Even talking to the other Dodgers players, you could hear in their voice how giddy they were. They all turned into school yard kids, acting deliriously then, and recalling the memory 25 years later with a similar level of child-like wonder. Nobody was too cool for school when discussing that game. In fact, they couldn’t stop talking about the game.”
OK, Josh, where were you and what do you remember?
“I watched the whole game at home in Pleasanton, Calif. with my Dad,” said Suchon, 15 at the time. “In the ninth inning, he was in the kitchen. I’m pretty sure Dad was doing the dishes from dinner. I was off the couch, just a couple steps from the TV, either on my knees or bent over at the waist. I distinctly recall that after one of the foul balls, I channeled the line from the Sensei at the end of ‘Karate Kid’ and yelled at the TV, ‘Finish him Eck!’
“When the ball went over the fence, I dropped my head between my legs in disbelief. I couldn’t look at the TV. I didn’t move for a minute or two. Finally, I got up. I didn’t even look at my Dad or say a word. I just walked upstairs and went to bed. I don’t remember anything about the rest of the night. I didn’t see any of the replays until sitting down to watch Game 2 the next night.”
The Los Angeles Sports Council still lists Gibson’s home run as the greatest moment in the city’s sports history in a vote taken in 1995, but it could hardly be a moment supplanted in the years since.
The ball that Gibson hit? It hasn’t officially been identified as belonging to anyone, but stories exist of those who claim to have it.
Gibson recently sold at auction his bat, helmet and jersey used from that game, to a Southern California collector who has yet to put it on public display.
Replays of the NBC telecast with Scully’s call are on YouTube. So are calls of the play made by CBS Radio’s Joe Buck (“I can’t believe what I just saw”) and Dodgers radio broadcaster Don Drysdale (with his voice cracking “Way back! It’s back! It’s gone!”)
Drysdale’s call is the one heard on the car radio by those who decided to leave early. Wonder how many had to take their cars into the shop the next day to have their breaks repaired.
== Online: Reactions to the home run, 25 years later, from L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti to Dodgers Spanish language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, to Dodger fans across Southern California.
== Online: A breakdown of the game, and the boxscore recap, pitch by pitch at Baseball-Reference.com.