OCTOBER 16, 1988, SPORTS
Copyright 1988/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY
It Could Happen Only in Hollywood
Well, you can believe that if you want to.
As for me, I know a Warner Bros. movie when I see one. I’ve been around this town long enough to spot a hokey movie script.
I mean, this is Rambo IV, right? That was Sylvester Stallone who came out of the dugout in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. That wasn’t a real player?
Believe this one and you’ll think Superman is a documentary.
The country is never going to buy it. This is the thing Hollywood does best. But it never happens in real life. In real life, the hero pops up in this situation. In an Italian movie, he dies. He doesn’t hit a last-minute home run with two outs and two strikes and the best relief pitcher in baseball throwing. This is John Wayne saving the fort stuff. Errol Flynn taking the Burma Road.
A guy who can hardly walk hits a ball where he doesn’t have to. A few minutes before, he’s sitting in a tub of ice like a broken-down racehorse.
Kirk Gibson is the biggest bargain since Alaska. He should be on crutches — or at least a cane. He wasn’t even introduced to the World Series crowd in the pre-game ceremonies. He wasn’t even in the dugout till the game got dramatic. Some people were surprised he was in uniform.
Some were surprised he was upright.
The odds against his hitting a home run in this situation were about the odds of winning a lottery. The manager was just milking the situation, trying to keep the crowd from walking out early. No one seriously expected a guy with two unhinged knees to get a hit, never mind the hit.
Here was the situation: The Oakland Athletics, who are less a team than a packet of mastodons, baseball’s answer to a massed artillery attack, had the game all but won, ahead by one with two out, one on.
Somehow, a quartet of Dodgers pitchers had held this mass of muscle to four measly runs. The Dodgers had somehow pasted together three. They got two of them when Mickey (Himself) Hatcher, who may be himself a figment of the sound stages, hit his second home run of the year.
Oakland got back four when Jose Canseco hit his 46th homer of the year.
So, the score was 4-3, favor of Oakland. Two were out, the crowd was streaming out, the traffic jam was starting, when pinch-hitter Mike Davis drew a walk.
Out of the dugout came Our Hero. Tom Mix, Frank Merriwell, the Gipper never had a better part.
The wonder was, they didn’t have to carry him up there. There should have been a star in the East or lightning playing around his forehead the way this postseason has been going for Kirk Gibson. He had posted the most devastating .154 average in the history of playoffs (his slugging average is .800) this fall. Every hit he gets wins a game. Three out of three of them have been home runs.
A World Series crowd doesn’t know much about baseball. But a Hollywood crowd knows all about happy endings. They know an MGM finish when they scent one, too. They began to holler and scream.
You wanted to say, “OK, nice touch,” to the manager, Tommy Lasorda, but you wanted to tell the crowd, “Grow up! This isn’t Disneyland.”
On the mound, Oakland pitcher Dennis Eckersley didn’t believe in fairy tales or Horatio Alger Jr. dime novel plots, either. Neither did Oakland Manager Tony La Russa.
If they did, they would have walked Kirk Gibson. Even when the count went to 3 and 2, they were putting their money on logic, reason, percentages.
Eckersley threw a here-hit-this! pitch.
If you saw Sands of Iwo Jima, Hondo or even Singing In the Rain, you know what happened. When last seen the ball was headed to the moon.
Fadeout. Up the music. Roll the credits. The guys in the white hats win again. The big bad rustlers from Oakland, the hit men, the seat-breakers, had to stand there helplessly while the good guys won again.
It had everything but a schoolmarm and a dog. Or Gibson riding slowly off into the sunset.
You knew it would happen. A movie is nine reels of disaster and calamity befalling the star. But the last act finds him getting fanned into consciousness by his horse and led by Rin Tin Tin to where the outlaw has his fiancee and he rescues her in the nick of time, the ninth inning, so to speak.
It’s the way we do things here in Hollywood. You have to figure that’s what happened. Somewhere out there, the screenwriter in the sky brought in this ending where the hero takes a called Strike 3 while everybody cries. Or he pops up to the pitcher. But somewhere out there, C.B. or L.B. takes a disgusted look and says, “You call this a picture! What’s this dreck! Take it back and write me something for Doug Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, something that’ll sell in Dubuque. When I want a three-handkerchief picture I’ll remake Camille.”
Well, look at it this way: You got a better explanation for what happened at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night? You believe it, do you?!
Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.
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