Topics often fall into multiple categories. Kirk Gibson is no exception.
I had difficulty deciding if I should put him into the "Players I Hate to Love" category or adding him to my "I Love The 80's" collection.
I chose the latter, because his iconic performances stir up baseball memories (albeit mostly painful) that were generated from one particular era: the 80's.
His career lasted 17 seasons in which he played for four different teams (Tigers, Dodgers, Royals, and Pirates). During that time, he collected over 1,500 hits and 250 round trippers... the majority of these were accomplished during the 80's... a decade in which Mr. Gibson was a pain in my butt.
In an interview with Steiner Sports, he said "I was an average player in my career, but I did some exceptional things at some really important times". He went on to talk about his home run off of Goose Gossage during the 1984 World Series against my favorite team: The San Diego Padres.
Gibson went 3 for 4 with two home runs in the fifth and final game of the series... knocking in 5 runs... and single handedly clinching the game for the Tigers.
And of course... there's one of the greatest moments in World Series history. Gibson was not expected to play because of injuries to his left hamstring and his right knee. But with a runner on base in the ninth inning... down 4 to 3 to the Oakland Athletics (my other favorite team)... with two outs... and Oakland's all-star closer (& ALCS MVP) on the mound... Tommy Lasorda called Gibson's number and he went in to pinch hit.
Dennis Eckersley started off strong and quickly got an 0-2 count. But Gibson fought back and eventually worked his way back to a full count. He sent the next pitch over the right field fence with one of the most painful (for both him and me) walk-off homeruns I've ever witnessed.
Gibson and the Dodgers erased the 4-2 lead, Jose Canseco's second inning grand slam gave them... and never looked back. They won the 1988 World Series in five games and for the second time in a decade... he had ripped out my heart with clutch performances.
As sports fans... we've all experienced heart breaking moments in sports. Sometimes it's when your favorite player is traded to a team you hate... Rickey Henderson (1984).
Maybe it's when your favorite quarterback throws a crucial interception in overtime during the NFC Championship Game, which leads to a game ending field goal for the other team (Brett Favre - 2008 - last season with the Packers).
It could even be when your team gets eliminated from the playoffs (year after year after year after year) after working so hard to get there (the San Jose Sharks).
What are some of your painful sports memories?
C'mon... I know it's hard to talk about... but it's time to open up and let us help you heal.
Okay... time to get ready for the big game... the Women's World Cup Final game between Team USA and Nadeshiko Japan. This is exactly the finals matchup I hoped for. Nationality vs. Ancestry.
Ironically... there hopefully won't be any painful memories for me today. I'll be pulling for Wambach, Solo, Rampone, and the rest of Team USA. A win today would wrap up an amazing tale that climaxed with an amazing fairy tale win over Brazil last Sunday. Talk about greatest sports memories and heartbreakers (if you were cheering for Brazil)... do yourself a favor and watch this video:
If you're strapped for time... skip to the 5 minute mark and watch the historical play develop right before your eyes. The video was shot from a fan's perspective and gives you the feeling that you were actually there. Hopefully today's game will be just as exciting with a similar outcome.
However if Japan pulls off a miracle, I won't be too disappointed. After seeing the damage the tsunami caused earlier this year... they can use a little positive mojo in their lives.
Have a great day... and sayonara!