Dodgers Knock on Playoff Door, Bringing Back Sweet Series Memories
My pals and I have been talking, reminiscing actually, about our favorite Dodger memory. With this season looking more and more like we’re headed to the postseason (our magic number is one), we’re all feeling fat and happy.
Actually, Vin Scully got us started this evening. The “Aflac Trivia Question” was about the number of runs the Dodgers scored in the bottom of the ninth to clinch their last trip to the playoffs.
Well, I was driving back from Stanford University that day, where my son had run in a cross-country meet. Since the Dodgers were playing the Giants in the season ending series, I was listening to the game on the radio.
Down in the bottom of the ninth, I started grumbling. A few minutes later, Steve Finley hit a walk-off grand slam, capping a seven-run ninth, and the Dodgers were playoff bound. I cruised through traffic, heading north on Highway 101, blowing my horn.
Folks must have thought I was nuts. Truth be told, I was—for about three minutes.
Back in 1981, a player’s strike (or maybe it was an owner’s lockout, I forget) interrupted the season. This event ushered in the first two-tiered playoff, a chance for the first half champs to play the second half champs in each division to determine which teams would go into the League Championship.
“Remember how Rick Monday tore up the Astros and the Expos?” asked my pal.
“What about Fernandomania?” asked another. We all agreed that was a great run.
And when the Dodgers took out the Yankees in six games, after being down two games to none was something special. So many Dodgers stepped up that season, that MLB had to give a three-headed MVP award, honoring Steve Yeager, Ron Cey, and Pedro Guerrero.
“Remember how Steve Garvey thought he was getting it, too?” We all did remember Garvey pushing his way into the post-game interview, thinking he was the Steve getting the trophy.
“Well, what about that run to their last World Series Championship?” someone asked. That season was loaded with stories, such as Orel’s scoreless streak or beating the Mets after Jay Howell was ejected for having pine tar on his glove. We know what’s coming, though. “You’ve got to say it was Gibby’s homer!”
UCLA was up at Cal that day, and many Bruins had gotten together for the game at Strawberry Canyon. It was a beautiful day, and we all left, happy with a victory. We piled into our cars and headed over to a buddy’s house in Oakland for a barbeque, and to listen to the Dodgers play the A’s in the first game of the Series.
Before we even got to his house, Canseco took out a TV camera in center field, and we worried that the Dodgers’ fantasy run was over. I mean, these were the “Bash Brothers,” and they had Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley.
Sure enough, we were down a run in the bottom of the ninth. Mike Davis, after having had a disappointing season, produced a great at bat, coaxing a walk out of Eck. He doesn’t get enough credit, because if he didn’t get on base Gibson would still be hitting off a tee in the club house.
Back at my friend’s house, half of the crowd is strutting around, sporting their A’s gear. The other half—my half—is sitting, rally caps on, chewing our nails, lips, shirts, or whatever we can fit into our mouths. We’re dying.
And then, the magic happens. It’s a complete turnaround. The guys who were strutting collapsed in their tracks. The lip-chewing, rally-hat-wearing nerve cases were suddenly flying around, high fiving and screaming. It was sweet justice, to be sure, that we got to celebrate in the A’s backyard.
Manny and Andre Ethier might be part of the next Dodger memory. Or maybe Lowe and Kuroda. Martin and Loney?
I can’t wait to find out.
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