If you appreciate the finer things in life, you have to love Doug Flutie. He’s 5 feet tall and 100 years old, and despite playing for Marty Schottenheimer, the perennial non-achiever among NFL coaches, he steps in at QB and lights up the scoreboard against Minnesota last week. That kind of performance is nothing new to Flutie; he’s been doing it for years. The San Diego Chargers are living testimony to the fact that your QB can give you inspiration, and your head coach can give you perspiration. And if poor Lad Tomlinson played on a real NFL team with a real offensive line, he’d rack up 3,200 all-purpose yards every year. Marty, if I buy the Chargers, no need for you to wait for THE phone call. Doug, could I interest you in a head-coaching job perhaps?
Story of the Week
The seating capacity of Dodger Stadium is approximately 56,000. But there were 560,000 there for Game 1 of the 1988 World Series when Kirk Gibson hit that pinch-hit home run off Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley with two outs in the ninth to win the game. There really weren’t 560,000 people in the park that game, but 560,000 people have all told me they were there.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t! I watched the game on TV at a restaurant in Westlake Village, CA., and when Gibson did the deed, I literally did a "jump and jive" on my booth seat, and I know my feet hit the tabletop as well. It was the most exciting single play I’ve ever been spectator to. Robert Redford starred in The Natural in 1984; Kirk Gibson did the sequel that night. That was Gibson’s only appearance in the 1988 World Series due to injury, but what an appearance, and it was the catalyst to the Dodgers’ World Series win.
Gibson starred as an All-American for Michigan State U. at flanker/wide receiver in football and outfielder in baseball. He set several Spartan football records, and was drafted by the St. Louis Football Cardinals. In 1978, the Detroit Tigers made him their first round draft pick after his only season of college baseball, and signed him. He played minor league baseball in Evansville, and was brought up to Detroit in 1980. He led the Tigers in homers and RBI’s until a broken wrist in June forced him to miss the remainder of the season. But he had shown what he was made of; power, speed, and an absolutely fierce competitive attitude.
The highlight of his Detroit career was 1984 as he led the Tigers to the AL Championship Series. He was voted MVP of the Series after batting .417 against Kansas City. In the World Series, Gibson clouted two homers with five RBI’s in the decisive fifth game for the victorious Tigers against the San Diego Padres.
Gibson had a running battle with Detroit management, and an arbitrator awarded him what he wanted after the 1987 season, free agency status. He joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in January, 1988. As was his history with Detroit, he ripped his teammates in L.A. for failure to support, the message was heard, and he assumed clubhouse leadership. Kirk Gibson was voted MVP of the National League in 1988. He drilled two key homers against the Mets in the NLCS, his homer in Game Five providing the winning margin. And then the World Series of 1988, and baseball immortality.
He left the Dodgers at the end of the 1990 season, playing his final few years with Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and back to Detroit, where he retired after a 17-year career.
His stats do not tell the full story of this man; a career batting average of .268 with 284 stolen bases, 985 runs, 870 RBI’s, and 255 homers. The fact is that Gibson was plagued by injuries his entire career, and played through those injuries. He was as fierce a competitor as I have ever seen, with unsurpassed intensity. Not exactly the sweetest guy in the Western world, Kirk Gibson came to the ballpark to win period. He could play for my team anytime.
Last Week’s Trivia
What were the two games a mediocre catcher named Joe Glenn took to his grave? In 1933, as a catcher for the Yankees, he caught Babe Ruth’s last pitching appearance. In 1940, as a catcher for the Red Sox, he caught the two innings pitched by Ted Williams. To quote Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story.
Trivia Question of the Week
What NHL goaltender is the all-time leader in shutouts? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.