Michael Martinez: I saw Gibson’s HR, well, sort of

I saw Kirk Gibson’s home run.
Then again, I missed it.
Here’s the truth: I was there, assigned to cover the game for the New York Times, but at the moment Gibson crushed his pinch-hit home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, I had abandoned my spot in the Dodger Stadium press box.
I admit this a bit sheepishly. Like a lot of other reporters who were working frantically on deadline, I had rushed downstairs to wait outside the Oakland A’s clubhouse. They had a one-run lead, and with Dennis Eckersley coming into the game, many of us decided to head downstairs so we could be first inside the winning team’s locker room.
Except it didn’t happen that way.

We were bunched together in a waiting area between the two teams’ clubhouses, with a small color TV turned on above us. That’s where several dozen of us, mouths agape, saw Gibson’s home run. We heard the crowd erupt — it was a sound that could be heard in Glendale, and the stadium literally rocked — but we never witnessed it live.
Even so, the one distinct memory I have of that night was Eckersley standing in front of his locker answering the same questions over and over. Today, players are ushered into a conference room where they sit in front of a microphone and face reporters and TV cameras for a few minutes. But 25 years ago, we squeezed into a clubhouse, sometimes eight or 10 deep, to get our quotes.

I had never seen a player handle postgame adversity with such calm as Eckersley did that night; I still haven’t. He stood there for what must have been 45 minutes as the same questions kept being asked — how did he feel, what went through his mind, how he could recover from such a devastating loss.
What I thought then is what I feel now: As grand as that moment was for Gibson, it was just as shining for Eckersley.