Batboy who helped Kirk Gibson says 1988 World Series home run ‘supernatural experience’
LOS ANGELES — Mitch Poole sat in the third-base dugout at Dodger Stadium on Thursday afternoon and pointed toward the right-field bleachers.
Thirty years after it happened, Poole said, he can see the spot where Kirk Gibson’s home run from Game 1 of the 1988 World Series landed.
“Exactly,’’ he said, peering at the empty seats in right field.
Poole would be a good place to start if the Dodgers, trailing the Boston Red Sox 2-0 heading into Game 3 of the World Series on Friday at Dodger Stadium, hope to generate Gibson-like magic and win their first championship since 1988.
Then a 24-year-old clubhouse attendant and bat boy for the Dodgers, Poole helped Gibson, then a star outfielder, prepare for a moment that propelled the underdogs past the mighty Oakland A’s.
While recounting the story, Poole told USA TODAY he was getting goosebumps.
“I think it was a supernatural experience, is what it was,’’ said Poole, who now manages the visitor’s clubhouse and has worked for the club for 33 years. “I really do. I mean, especially the way I feel about it every time I talk about it.’’
One of six bat boys in 1988, Poole drew the short straw and ended up working inside the clubhouse picking up towels and clothes. He said in about the sixth inning he entered the trainer’s room where Gibson was getting treatment for his strained left hamstring and bruised right knee.
“The hamper was right there. It had a few towels in it, so I went to grab them,’’ he said. “And then Vin Scully comes over on the radio on the speaker that’s like right over where (Gibson’s) table that he was being worked on (was) and he said, ‘The Dodgers are going to be without the services of Kirk Gibson.’ And it incensed (Gibson), and he just jumped off the table and he said, ‘Mitch, get my uniform.’
“So I took what I had in my hand, threw it in the washer and went and got his uniform and brought it back to him and he suited up right there.’’
Soon after, Poole said, Gibson instructed him to set up a tee so he could take some practice swings. Poole did as he was told.
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“After a while, I could hear him wincing and everything from swinging, then he goes, ‘All right, I need to see a little movement, so I want you (to) toss (the baseballs) in that direction.’ …
“He stopped all of the sudden and said, ‘Mitch, this could be the script.’ ”
This particular script called for another character: Tommy Lasorda, then the Dodgers manager.
At Gibson’s behest, Poole said, he went to pass on the news about Gibson’s status to Lasorda, who was in the dugout with the Dodgers trailing 4-3. He said he crept up the tunnel leading to the dugout because he was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and didn’t think he belonged in the dugout.
“I go, ‘Tommy!’ ‘He goes, ‘What do you want?’ ” Poole recalled. “I said, “Get over here.’ So he comes over there and I go, ‘Look, I got word from Gibson that he wants to hit, he can hit, and he’s up there and he wants to talk to you.’
“And so he ran up there like a bolt of lightning, if you can imagine that.’’
The portly Lasorda, running like a bolt of lightning. Almost as improbable was what happened next.
'I'm getting goosebumps right now'
Poole said he was in the dugout by the time Gibson was introduced as a pinch hitter with the Dodgers trailing 4-3 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Mike Davis on base and A’s closer Dennis Eckersley on the mound.
As Gibson began fouling off pitches — he would foul off four of them before the count was full — Poole said “something came over me right then.’’
“And I looked out to right field out there and I just imagined this ball going out,’’ he said. “And I’m sure we’ve all had that kind of situation in our lives but this was, I’m getting goosebumps right now, which happens most of the time when I even talk about this.’’
On 3-and-2, Gibson got the backdoor slider he was looking for and, with that left-handed swing, sent the ball in flight. The same flight Poole said he imagined it would take.
“Totally same flight, it landed in the same spot and it was just, I couldn’t talk after that,’’ he said. “I just watched. It was just great to watch.’’
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