In the world of World Series baseball, a home run smacked by Kirk Gibson for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Oct. 15, 1988, may rank as the most famous.
Fans will argue. Certainly you can make the case for others for the ages, including:
* Babe Ruth's "called shot" that helped the Yankees sweep the Cubs in 1932. Ruth's 15th and final post-season home came after he took two strikes from pitcher Charlie Root. After each pitch in this Game 3 fifth-inning encounter, Ruth is said to have pointed either at Root or toward the center-field bleachers. After taking the second strike and being hollered at by Cubs players and fans at Wrigley Field, Ruth is said to have pointed toward center and sent the next pitch more than 440 feet.
* Bill Mazeroski's blast that ended the 1960 World Series, one that won it all for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Yankees in the lone Game 7 walk-off homer in World Series history. Mazeroski's blast won the game, 10-9 for Pittsburgh, giving the Bucs their first World Series title in 35 years.
* Joe Carter ended the 1993 World Series with a walk-off homer for the Toronto Blue Jays. Carter's liner down the left-field line sent the Phillies and reliever Mitch Williams (who threw a good pitch) packing. Carter's 3-run blast won the game, 8-6.
* Locally, Kirby Puckett's home run to left-center field off Braves reliever Charlie Liebrandt ended Game 6 of the 1991 World Series and brought everyone back to the Metrodome for the Game 7 classic, one in which Jack Morris started on the mound and won for the Twins, 1-0 in 10 innings.
Me? I'd go with Gibson, not because of the stage in the series in which it came (Game 1), but, rather, for the unexpected drama. Gibson, you see, wasn't going to play that game, if at all during the 1988 World Series, as he came into the competition on two injured legs; a torn left hamstring and a swollen right knee. Gibson, the National League MVP that season, hobbled to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning only after Oakland A's Dennis Eckersley walked pinch-hitter Mike Davis (who had a paltry .196 average), the A's leading 4-3. It was the first free pass issued by Eckersley in two months.
The sight of Gibson limping to home plate caused a roar in Dodger Stadium, their "Mighty Casey" coming to bat.
Davis, it should be noted, stole second base on a 2-2 pitch and Gibson leaned toward, if not across home plate, perhaps preventing A's catcher Ron Hassey, who initiated contact with Gibson, from making a throw. Doug Harvey, who umpired behind home plate, made the right call by not calling interference.
Gibson now only needed a bloop hit or a seeing-eye grounder to score Davis and tie the game. He said later that's all he was trying to do, make contact and, somehow, get Davis home to knot the score, 4-4.
He worked the count to 3-2 in an at-bat that lasted nearly 7 minutes. And then, Eckersley, threw a slider that Gibson got the barrel of the bat on and, boom, the ball disappeared into the bleachers at Chavez Ravine, the most famous ball in Dodgers history and one that, to date, has never surfaced.
TV commentator Vin Scully, calling the game for NBC, allowed the sight and sound to breathe, as you might expect for the best baseball announcer ever. Scully didn't say a word for 70 seconds as Gibson limped around the bases, pumping his arms as he rounded second base, grinning ear-to-ear. The cameras shook with the stadium before Scully, the Dodgers' local announcer interjected, "In a year that has been so improbably, the IMPOSSIBLE has happened!"
Speaking to a national radio audience, Jack Buck, my pick as second-best baseball announcer of all-time, exclaimed, "I don't believe what I just saw."
The Dodgers won 5-4 and went on to dominate the A's four games to one to win the World Series, their most recent classic in the Fall Classic. Gibson, who is 61 now and battling Parkinson's disease, didn't play again in the 1988 World Series, or in any postseason game the rest of his career.
He didn't need to. His one appearance 30 years ago this week cemented his World Series legend.