Yesterday evening, Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter in his first career postseason game. I turned the game on in the sixth inning, and when I saw that the Reds hadn’t scored yet, my first thought was, “I wonder if Halladay has given up any hits.” With Roy Halladay, that’s a logical thing to wonder.
It turns out that he hadn’t, and I knew immediately that he wouldn’t. I had my wife sit and watch with me, because I knew it was something special. I explained to her and our kids that the last time someone threw a no-hitter in the postseason, my parents were the age that our son is now. (Craig Calcaterra should have tried something like that with his son — kids need a frame of reference.) Anyway, so we watched the end of the game, and it was a pretty awesome thing for a baseball fan to do with his wife and kids.
My daughter is at the age where she loves to hear stories about when Mommy and Daddy were kids. A while after the game was over, she asked me for a story. Still in a postseason-baseball-history sort of mood, I told her about when I was 11 years old, when the Dodgers (she KNOWS about the Dodgers) were losing by one run in the last inning in the World Series (she doesn’t know what the World Series is, but the girl’s got a knack for context, so she was appropriately enthralled), and a man named Kirk Gibson came up to bat even though both of his legs hurt so bad that he could barely walk. I reminded her from her T-ball days that you need your legs to do a good baseball swing, and Kirk Gibson’s legs hurt so bad that he didn’t know how he was going to swing. I told her how my whole family was watching the game together, and how much we wanted Kirk Gibson to hit a home run. And then I asked her to guess what happened next. This girl, she knows how to tell a story, and she knows that it would be a pretty lousy story if the last line was “and then Kirk Gibson struck out.” She said, “He hit a home run!” And I said, “He sure did!” And then I told her how her grandma started hyperventilating, screaming “He did it! He did it! He did it!” I did an awesome impression of Grandma Snider, and both kids got an enormous kick out of it.
And then my wife had a great idea: “You should show them the video.” I got the 1988 World Series on DVD for Christmas a year or two ago, but I hadn’t yet had occasion to pop it into the DVD player. So I pulled out game 1 and queued it up to the bottom of the ninth inning. Mike Scioscia popped up, and Beth and I marveled at how young he looked compared to when we met him a few months ago. Jeff Hamilton struck out looking, and we felt bad seeing how overmatched he was against future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley and his mullet. At some point during Hamilton’s at-bat, the camera showed Gibson in the dugout with a helmet on, and Vin Scully mentioned that it would be up to Mike Davis to extend the inning to give Gibson a chance. Sure enough, after Hamilton struck out, Davis came up and worked a walk against Eckersley.
And then I started saying every word along with Vinny. “And look who’s coming up. … All year long they looked to him to light the fire, and all year long he answered the demand. Until he was physically unable to start tonight, with *two* bad legs! You talk about a roll of the dice, this is it.”
I could write a book about how much I love Vin Scully. (And really, after the way Curt Smith botched an unbotchable topic, maybe I should.) Everything about Vinny is magical. I watched — and LOVED — “For the Love of the Game” with Kevin Costner just because Vinny was the announcer throughout the movie. I pay many dollars a year for an MLB.tv account just so I can watch a Dodger game and listen to Vinny. So I think it is perfect that Vinny was doing the World Series in 1988. Joe Garagiola was there in the booth with him, and he was good, but Vinny was magical.
One thing I often forget about the Gibson at-bat is how long it was. There were seven pitches (including two foul balls with two strikes). There were three or four throws to first by Eckersley. There was a throw to first by catcher Ron Hassey, whose curly mullet was a perfect compliment to Eck’s feathery straight mullet. There was a stolen base by Davis on the 2-2 pitch. I didn’t time it, but I bet it was close to four minutes between when Gibson came to the plate and when he hit it out.
And it almost didn’t happen. There were a couple close calls. Strike two was a weak ground ball down the first base line that went foul just before Mark McGwire could pick it up. When Davis stole second, umpire Doug Harvey very easily could have called Gibson out for interference as he stumbled into Hassey’s throwing line. But he didn’t, and everything was set up perfectly.
At this point, my wife looked at me and giggled about how into it I was. It’s been 22 years next week, and I’ve seen it literally hundreds of times, but I love it just as much every time. My son kept asking me, “Is this were you’re gonna scream?” I kept telling him he’d know it when he saw it. And now, finally, I told him, “It’s this next pitch!”
“High fly ball into right field, she is … GONE!”
“He did it! He did it! He did it!”
The kids were jumping around, half in excitement that Kirk Gibson hit the home run, and half in excitement about how excited Grandma Snider had been. They watched Gibby pump his fist twice as he rounded second. And we listened as Vin Scully said … nothing. And that’s what makes him so great. My brother and I have often wondered what happened in the booth. Did Vinny put a muzzle on Garagiola, or did they both know to shut up. It’s a full minute at least, nothing but crowd noise. Then, a long time after saying “she is gone,” as Gibson celebrates with his teammates, Vinny says:
“In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
Joe Posnanski recently wrote about Vinny for Sports Illustrated, and he said Vinny believes that line was a gift from God. I think it was just an extension of the gift from God that is Vin Scully. (That article by Posnanski is 100 times better than Curt Smith’s biography.)
Look, I know it’s just baseball. I know it’s not important in the grand scheme of things. But I also know that I am closer to my family because we grew up watching baseball together, and I hope to be closer to my kids through baseball too. And if it brings families closer together, then it’s a good thing.