Oh what a night!
One of the many extraordinary, incredible things that happened all over social media after Justin Turner’s storybook walk-off Sunday night was the immediate comparisons to the last time a Dodger made postseason history doing something amazingly similar…exactly 29 years ago to the day.
For the most part, common sense dictates that a lot can change in 29 years – many Dodger fans weren’t even born yet, or were too young to remember October 15, 1988 – but in some ways, incredibly, they can stay the same. Despite the world changing in countless ways, the Dodgers are still thrilling fans all over the world.
Justin Turner … you just joined Kirk Gibson as the only Dodgers with a postseason walk-off HR
Kirk Gibson's was 29 years ago today
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 16, 2017
In the fall of ’88, I had just spent the summer the way many teenage girls spend their summers – hanging out with friends and working – but also watching as many Montreal Expos games as was humanly possible back in the pre-internet, pre-MLB TV days. The Sports Network here in Canada carried the rights to Expos games back then and though I enjoyed as many as I could, as they did every year, they missed the playoffs, and so I watched the playoffs half-heartedly. It was still baseball, after all, but it wasn’t “my team” playing. (It never was back then)
It was however, the “team” of Gord Johnson (aka Dad), the rare lifelong Canadian Dodgers fans. Dad, a year older in October ’88 than I am now, recalls the Gibson HR as being much more dramatic than Turner’s, because it seemed so unlikely. “Eckersley was like Jansen is now – basically invincible. Besides Gibson actually appearing the game at all, him hitting anything against Eckersley was the very last thing I expected.”, he told me today. Oakland had been the better team all season, and Eckersley had been the guy to get them there, so to let Gibson go deep off of him added to the absolute improbability of it all.
29 years later to the day (not coincidentally, 29 has been my favorite number since Tim Wallach started wearing it in 1981), that teenage girl, now 46, in these new and improved MLB TV days, has just spent the summer and the 3 summers before it watching literally every single Dodgers game. Life, through its many twists and turns, has brought me to this place of die-hard, fully immersed Dodgers fan. Times have certainly changed in many regards, but I still love baseball, more emotionally invested than ever. Every game means a lot, but winning this game and heading to Chicago up 2-0 would put “my team” in a place I’d never seen them in before.
[button color=”red” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”newwindow” url=”https://dodgersnation.com/dodgers-justin-turner-on-his-walk-off-home-run-in-game-2-of-the-nlcs-kl0292/2017/10/16/”]Dodgers’ Justin Turner On His Walk-off Home Run In Game 2 Of The NLCS[/button]
In 1988, barely able to walk, Gibson had battled in his at-bat and it seemed to go on forever, building the tension and adding to what has become Dodgers folklore. In 2017, most of the drama had been built in the two at-bats previous to Turner’s, specifically the walk drawn by Chris Taylor off of 38-year old non-reliever John Lackey. For thousands of Dodgers fans at the stadium and all over social media, the Taylor at-bat had that same “go on forever” feel to it, adding unprecedented tension as the minutes went by. At one point, Lackey went 2 minutes and 12 seconds between pitches to Taylor. It seemed endless.
The at-bat would go on for very close to 6 minutes, and fans everywhere sweated, paced, hydrated, and practiced deep breathing exercises (Or was that just me?). Once Taylor finally walked after running the count full, and Turner came to the plate, fans everywhere were emotionally spent. The bullpen had been outstanding all night, but if they didn’t score here, who knows what could happen in extras…
Some moments are hard to put into words, especially when they are so shocking and unprecedented in their development. I was fortunate enough to have been at Dodger Stadium on September 25, 2016, and hope to never forget the sight of Charlie Culberson’s 10th inning HR sailing into the Dodgers dugout, and the emotion in the stadium as Vin addressed the crowd and played Wind Beneath My Wings with his wife by his side. Memories of that day, for me, are uniquely special for so many reasons, but as far as the single most exciting hit I’ve seen in my 36 years of watching baseball, that honor now belongs to Turner’s walk-off HR. As the ball sailed into the glove of a season ticket holder wearing an Utley uniform, the hair on my arms stood up and goosebumps covered my body. Normally a fairly subdued person, I screamed so loud there is a pretty good chance I woke the neighbors. The moment was the perfect culmination of the Dodgers efforts as a team this year…so far.
In another 29 years, I hope to tell that story to another generation of Dodgers fans who are experiencing their own postseason drama. I have a feeling that I’ll never forget it.
Like me, Dodger fans across Dodgers Nation will have stories of where they were and who they were with when they watched Game 2 of the NLCS, and/or will also have unique experiences of the Dodgers postseason antics tying generations together. Tell us about yours in the comments!
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