John Rocker, you’ll be shocked to know, has said something that most of you won’t agree with. He was on a Cleveland radio station today and said that the Steroid Era gave fans “a better game” and that there wasn’t anything more entertaining than McGwire vs. Sosa and all that jazz:
“Honestly, and this may go against what some people think from an ethical standpoint, I think it was the better game … was there anything more entertaining than 1998 – I don’t care how each man got there – was there anything more entertaining than 1998?…watching Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire chase 61 home runs? That was a mesmerizing time for every baseball fan out there…the people were getting their money’s worth.”
I’m probably the last guy to get on the “steroids are bad, mmkay” train. But Rocker is just wrong. I mean, yes, there are a lot of people who dug the longball, but from an aesthetic point of view the crazy McGwire-Sosa days were bad baseball. Pitching stunk, defense was way worse than it is now and all of those games that were 7-5 by the third inning were as boring as all get-out.
With the Dodgers trying to make it back to the World Series for the second year in a row — and trying to win it for the first time in 30 years — it’s worth looking back at the last time they won it. More specifically, it’s worth looking back at the signature moment from the last time they won it. Which, really, was one of baseball’s all-time signature moments.
Yep, I’m talking about Kirk Gibson’s famous game-winning home run off of Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, which happened 30 years ago tonight.
All playoff magic for anyone too young to remember Bill Mazeroski’s homer in 1960 is measured against Gibson taking Dennis Eckersley downtown to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 win. Heck, even if you were around in 1960, it’s far less likely that you saw Mazeroski’s homer than it was for you to have seen Gibson’s. Nationally broadcast in prime time to a nation of millions who had not yet fragmented into viewers of hundreds of obscure cable channels and various forms of streaming entertainments, it was a moment that sent shockwaves through the world of sports.
For my part, I was fifteen years-old, sitting in my living room in Beckley, West Virginia watching it as it happened. Like most of the rest of the country, I was convinced that the Dodgers had no chance to beat the mighty Bash Brothers and the 104-win Oakland A’s. Especially given that the Dodgers’ leader, MVP-to-be Gibson, was hobbled and not starting. Even when he was called on to pinch hit, I had no faith that he’d be able to touch Eckersley, the best relief pitcher on the planet, let alone hit the ball with any kind of authority.
But, as Vin said when he called it, the Dodgers’ year was so improbable that, in hindsight, it made perfect sense for Gibson to have done the impossible: