If the link to the video at the bottom of this blog entry does not give you chills I don’t know what will.
Arguably the most dramatic home run in Tiger history was Kirk Gibson’s 1984 World Series clinching home run off of Goose Gossage.
With the Tigers leading 5-4 in the eighth inning, one out, runners on second and third, first base open and the dangerous Kirk Gibson at the plate, conventional baseball wisdom called for an intentional walk to set up a double play or at least a possible force out at the plate. (In the bottom of the first Gibson had launched a solo home run into the right field upper deck off of Mark Thurmond.)
What followed was the signature moment of the ’84 World Series and the biggest blunder of the Hall of Fame careers of Goose Gossage and Dick Williams.
Three years ago for a Baseball Digest article I wrote on Gibson’s heroics, Sparky Anderson shared with me his memory of what happened next.
“I always watched the other manager because I wanted to see what he was going to do. I saw Dick (Williams) say “four” meaning walk him. But Gossage was such a competitor and had struck out Gibson so many times Goose thought he could just get him again.”
When Gossage shook off his manager’s sign, Williams walked to the mound to confer with his pitcher. Television viewers could read the pitcher’s lips, “let’s go after him.”
“When Dick walked back to the dugout, I screamed to Gibby, ‘he don’t want to walk you’,” says Anderson. “Let me tell you, Gibby will not allow you to embarrass him, that ain’t going to happen. You’re going to have problems on your hands.”
For Kirk Gibson, standing on baseball’s biggest stage with all the surrounding drama was the only place he wanted to be on that foggy, cool night.
“Gossage had owned me and he struck me out in my first major league at bat,” Gibson told me. “He threw hard, I swung hard, and he was just one of those guys who gave me trouble. I knew he thought he could strike me out again. I flashed ten fingers and yelled back to Sparky, ‘ten bucks they pitch to me and I crank it.’
“I couldn’t stand there in the box when they were talking and think he’s going to strike me out. I had to reverse that thought so I visualized upper deck, it was right there, come on. I was thinking you’ve had your success against me and you’ve had your last laugh. The fact that he wouldn’t walk me was even more challenging. I’m thinking I’m going to get you when it counts and it counts right now, that was my thought process.”
As Gossage stared in at Gibson catcher Terry Kennedy failed to step out for a pitch out. It was clear the battle of two titans was on.
The game’s ace reliever reared back and threw an outside fastball for ball one as the electrified crowd buzzed. On his second delivery, Gibson’s eyes lit up on another fastball that he sent deep into the night and the right field upper deck, just as he pictured it.
The three run blast created a roar out of Tiger Stadium that could be heard for blocks.
“I knew then it was all over, and to be honest I realized I would be the first manager to win a World Series in both leagues” says Anderson.
In the 1984 World Series highlight film, Sparky Anderson is wearing a microphone and you can see and hear Anderson yelling out to Gibson, “he don’t want to walk you.” The camera and sound then shows Anderson’s reaction to Gibson’s home run.
However I just came across the complete unedited version of the isolated camera on Anderson in the dugout that shows much more. It is amazing to see and hear Anderson while Gibson is at the plate. I suspect most people have never seen this full version.
My favorite line from Sparky is when he tells Tiger pitching coach Roger Craig, “No son of a bitch is going to going to tell me what to do. I’ll guarantee you that.”
Prior to the homer, Sparky says three times to Gibson, “He don’t want to walk you.” Then with his wrists like he is holding a bat, he yells to Gibson, “use these.”
You then see Anderson looking up to the night sky as the crowd roars with the ball sailing towards the upper deck. Sparky’s eyes are lit up, his hand goes to his mouth and he yells, “get outta here!!” No fewer then six times after the homer, Sparky yells, “Don’t walk him!” By the time Gibson enters the dugout, Sparky says seven times, “he didn’t want to walk him.” And then twice he says, “he didn’t want to walk you.”
I was lucky enough to have been there that night sitting far back in the lower deck right field stands. To see this video with Sparky in all his excitement brings back a flood of wonderful memories.