Publish date:


Twenty-five unforgettable scenes from the chronicle of sports

"I need a breather," said Illinois junior halfback Harold (Red) Grange to his quarterback, just 12 minutes into the game with Michigan. With those words, Grange showed for the only time all afternoon that he was human. Little wonder that No. 77 was short of breath—he had already scored four touchdowns: on a weaving, 95-yard return of the opening kick-off; on a 67-yard run from scrimmage down the right sideline; on a 56-yard punt return that left Wolverines all over the field; and on a comparatively mundane 45-yard run. It was at this game that sportswriter Grantland Rice dubbed the young phenom the Galloping-Ghost, and football found its first superstar.

"I need a breather." Such are the moments we treasure in sports. We can store them on a shelf, shake them up like those little souvenir snow globes, and gleefully watch them happen all over again. Arrayed below are 25 of those snowballs. Some of them you have shaken and seen before, some you may not even know about. They are not the 25 greatest achievements in sports, nor are they the 25 most important moments, though some would certainly fall into those categories. They are, simply put, our 25 Classic Moments. Enough said. The moments are at hand.

OCT. 18, 1924
It wasn't as if Illinois' Red Grange had taken Michigan by surprise. Days before this battle of the unbeatens, Wolverine athletic director Fielding Yost had warned, "Mr. Grange will be a carefully watched young man anytime be takes the ball." He was also watched by 67,000 Illini fans—in Champaign to christen brand-new Memorial Stadium—and the cream of the nation's sporting press. "The man Red Grange is three or lour men and a horse rolled into one," wrote Damon Runyon. "He is Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Al Jolson, Paavo Nurmi and Man O' War." The Fighting Illini won 39-14, and Grange finished the afternoon with five touchdowns, 402 yards on the ground and six completed passes—including one for a touchdown. Ob, yes, he also held for the kicker.

SEPT. 22, 1927

Jack Dempsey was the fun-loving ex-champion. The new champ, Gene Tunney, read Of Human Bondage while he trained. Asked for a prediction on their rematch, Tunney said, "My first defense of the title finds me quite confident that I will be victorious." Dempsey told reporters, "I'll knock that big bookworm out inside of eight rounds."

A crowd of 104,943 people filled Chicago's Soldier Field. Tunney controlled the bout until the seventh round, when a Dempsey left hook suddenly sent him to the canvas. Thus began what forever would be known as the Long Count. Instead of going to a neutral corner, Dempsey went to his own. Referee Dave Barry chased him to the right corner, taking as many as seven seconds before he began the count. Tunney rose at nine; he lasted the round, regained command and won a 10th-round unanimous decision. Despite the ensuing controversy, Dempsey never held a grudge. "Gene has often told me he could [have gotten up]," Dempsey wrote, "and I have no reason not to believe him."

OCT. 1, 1932

Chicago's Wrigley Field was howling when Babe Ruth stepped in the plate for the New York Yankees in the first inning Of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series. Ruth grinned, yelled something that was no doubt arrogant and (jointed to rightfield. Then he hit a three-run homer into the rightfield bleachers.

That, however, was not the Called Shot that became legend. In the fourth, the Cubs tied the score after Ruth missed a shoestring catch, much to the fans' delight; when he came to bat in the fifth, a lemon rolled past his feet. He would later say, "I never had so much fun in my life." With a 2-2 count, Ruth and Cub pitcher Charlie Root started jawing, and that was when the Babe made his gesture. Some people say he (jointed to centerfield, some say he met eh waved Ins arm. But clearly he indicated to Root and the Cubs that he was going to hit another home run.

He did—a blast deep into the centerfield bleachers. As Ruth circled the bases, he said to himself, "You lucky bum. You lucky, lucky bum." From a box seat near home plate, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then a candidate for President, threw his head back and laughed.

APRIL 7, 1935

The situation was this: Craig Wood had just birdied the 18th to go three strokes up on Gene Sarazen, who had lour holes left in this second edition of a fledgling tournament in Augusta, Ga. Walter Hagen turned to Sarazen and said. "Well, Gene, it looks like it's all over." Sarazen look umbrage. "I dunno," he said. "They could drop in from anywhere."

Moments later, Sarazen drove his tee shot down the middle of the par-5 15th. The green lay 220 yards away; Sarazen lookout his four-wood—his favorite club—and struck the ball. It sailed over the small moat in front of the green, landed on the apron, bounced twice and rolled into the cup for a double eagle. Up in the clubhouse, Wood said, "What can you do to beat a guy like that?" Not much. In a 36-hole playoff the next day, Sarazen lira Wood by five strokes, and the Masters was an instant institution.

AUGUST 4, 1936

He was a black man competing under the glare of Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and each of the four gold medals won by Jesse Owens was a denunciation of the Nazi claim of a master race. Yet the most remarkable moment of those Gaines was one of comradeship. Owens, the world-record holder in the long jump, was on the brink of elimination after fouling on his first two attempts in the preliminaries; before his third jump he-was approached by Lutz Long, Germany's best hope in the event, who amiably made a suggestion: Why not place a towel six inches before the takeoff board to avoid fouling? Owens followed the advice and qualified easily.

The two men dueled in the finals that afternoon, with Owens prevailing. On his final jump, Owens set an Olympic record of 26'5½"; Long rushed over, held Owens's hand high, and shouted to the huge crowd, "Jesse Owens! Jesse Owens!" The two men exiled arm-in-arm. Their friendship was brief; Long died in combat during World War II, a soldier in Hitler's army.

JUNE 22, 1938

When the young Joe Louis was knocked out by the savvy Max Schmeling in the 12th round of their first bout, in '36, the Brown Bomber was not yet a folk hero and the German not yet a stock villain. But by the summer of '38, anti-Hitler sentiment had over taken racial prejudice in this country, and Louis had become a symbol not only for blacks, but for all Americans.

More than 70,000 people filed into Yankee Stadium, and from the opening bell. Louis was a man possessed. At one point during the first round, Louis hit his opponent in the ribs with such ferocity that Schmeling screamed in pain. After a third knockdown, at 2:04 of the first round, referee Arthur Donovan stopped the fight.

America rejoiced that night. And Heywood Broun wrote, "One hundred years from now some historian may theorize, in a footnote at least, that the decline of Nazi prestige began with a left hook...."

MAY 2, 1939

There were only a few thousand fans at Briggs Stadium in Detroit that day, and when they arrived they had no way of knowing that they would be witnesses to history. Fourteen years before, Lou Gehrig had replaced Wally Pipp as the Yankees' starting first baseman; since then, he'd played in an astounding 2,130 consecutive games. But he was clearly not himself in spring training of '39. Nobody knew then he was suffering from the fatal disease that would come to bear his name. Gehrig thought he could solve his problems by-switching to a lighter bat.

In the eighth game of the season, Gehrig stranded five base runners in a 3-2 loss. But the real tip-off to him in that game was when teammates heartily congratulated him after a routine play. Gehrig later recalled, "They meant it to be kind, but it hurt worse than any bawling out I ever received in baseball. I decided then and there I would ask [manager Joe] McCarthy to take me out of the lineup."

Gehrig told McCarthy of his decision the morning of the game in Detroit. After the Yankee lineup was announced, with Babe Dahlgren at first base, a buzz spread through Briggs Stadium. When Gehrig emerged from the dugout and carried the lineup card to home plate, the fans stood and joined together in respectful applause.

Gehrig spent much of the game quietly weeping on the bench. Pitcher Lefty Gomez, trying to lighten the mood in the dugout, went up to Gehrig and announced, "Just think, Lou. It took 15 years to get you out of there. I'm out sometimes in 15 minutes." And Gehrig smiled.

NOV. 9, 1946
The two finest college football teams in the land came into packed Yankee Stadium with the national championship at stake. Notre Dame was led by quarterback Johnny Lujack; Army, with running backs Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, was working on a 25-game winning streak and a third straight title. The Cadets had embarrassed the Fighting Irish by winning 59-0 in 1944 and 48-0 in '45; at practice, Notre Dame players chanted, "Fifty-nine and forty-eight/This year we retaliate." Late in the third quarter of this epic defensive struggle, Blanchard raced around right end and down the sideline. The only man in his path was Lujack; Blanchard made a last-second feint, but Lujack hit him with a crunching tackle. The so-called Battle of All time ended the way it started: 0-0. But the Irish "won" when voters awarded the national crown to Notre Dame.

OCT. 3, 1951

It remains the most memorable moment in baseball history. In their third and deciding playoff game, the Brooklyn Dodgers led the New York Giants 4-2; one out, two on, bottom of the ninth. The Giants' Bobby Thomson stepped up to face reliever Ralph Branca. "I was so nervous my eyeballs were vibrating," Thomson said later. On Branca's second pitch. I horn son hit the ball on a line to left. Here's the radio call by Russ Hodges: "There's a long's gonna be...I believe...the Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"

Afterward, Thomson and manager Leo Durocher shared a Giant embrace (above); up in the press box, Red Smith finished off his column: "Ralph Branca turned and started for the clubhouse. The number on his uniform looked huge. Thirteen."

MAY 6, 1954

The four-minute mile once seemed an unassailable fortress. There was even talk that the runner who conquered it risked his life. But Roger Bannister, a 25-year-old British medical student with unconventional training methods, went so far as to blaspheme the barrier that obsessed all other milers. "The four-minute mile has no intrinsic value," Bannister said. "Records are ephemeral. The winning of an Olympic title is eternal."

Yet Bannister wanted that record, and for the attempt he chose an unpublicized meet at Oxford. It was a wet and windy day—"stupid weather," Bannister said—but the race was on. Bannister reached the hallway point in 1:58.2 and with 300 yards to go took the lead, his face contorted in pain, his head rolled back. He breasted the tape and collapsed. For a few moments, fears that the four-minute mile was fatal seemed founded. But he revived and heard the announced time: 3:59.4. Among the 1,200 hardy spectators, pandemonium broke loose. But to confirm the record, the track had to be resurveyed; the new measurement showed that Bannister had actually run one mile and one hall inch.

OCT. 8, 1956

He was 3-21 in 1954 for the Orioles. His Baltimore manager, Jimmy Dykes, said of him, "The only thing he fears is sleep." As a Yankee in the spring of '56, he made headlines when he drove into a tree at 5 a.m. Don Larsen was hardly perfect. But in Game 5 of the '56 World Series, Larsen's 97th pitch—a high fastball to Brooklyn's Dale Mitchell—was called strike three, and Larsen owned the only perfect game in Series history.

Larsen was a regular at McAvoy's bar in Manhattan, and after the game, the other patrons polished his stool and put a sign on it: THIS SEAT RESERVED FOR DON LARSEN. But they figured he'd be celebrating in more glamorous places. Late that night, though, Larsen showed up and smiled at the gleaming stool. He closed the place. For Larsen, it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

DEC. 28, 1958

It was a 16 Power: fullback off right tackle. On third-and-goal from the one, the score 17-17, Baltimore Colt quarterback Johnny Unitas gave the ball to Alan (the Horse) Ameche, and suddenly a huge hole appeared. When Ameche crossed the threshold at 8:15 of overtime in the Colts' NFL Championship Came with the New York Giants, so did pro football. The first sudden-death contest in league fusion made lifelong fans of the 50 million people who watched it on television, not to mention the 64,185 in Yankee Stadium. SI called it THE BEST" FOOTBALL GAME EVER PLAYED, and it may still be. Insofar as it created a blessed union between the NFL and TV, it is certainly the most important football game ever played.

In a game of many heroics, Ameche got the last call. He also got two great blocks—one by right end Jim Mutscheller on linebacker Cliff Livingston, the other by halfback Lenny Moore on safety Emlen Tunnell—to open wide the hole made by right tackle George Preas. Ameche plunged through. "Easiest touchdown I made all year," said I he Horse.

APRIL 15, 1965
Boston Garden, seventh game, Pastern Division finals; Celtics 110, Philadelphia 76ers 109; five seconds to go. Philly's Hal Greer inbounds to Chet Walker, but Boston's John Havlicek leaps in and lips the ball to teammate Sam Jones. The play is bronzed forever when Johnny Most, the Celtics' radio man, screeches, "Havlicek steals it!... Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over!... Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!"

MAY 25, 1965

"Get up and fight, sucker! Get up and fight!" The picture, of Muhammad Ali standing over the fallen Sonny Piston, shouting at him to get up off the canvas, was worth thousands of words from The Greatest. In that tableau from Lewiston, Maine, we saw not only his arrogance but also his ascendance. In February 1964 in Miami Beach, Cassius Marcellus Clay had become world heavyweight champ when Piston refused to get off his stool for the seventh round. A fluke, some called it. A fix, said others. Clay still had a lot to prove. For the rematch, Clay had changed his name and sculpted a leaner, stronger body.

Ali opened the fight with a surprise hard right cross. Another right a half minute later shook Piston again. And then another right hand, this one so fast most people missed it. The Bear was down at 1:42. What ensued was one of the wildest scenes in boxing history. While Ali yelled at Liston, referee Jersey Joe Walcott tried to get the champ to a neutral corner; Liston lay on the canvas for some 17 seconds, but Walcott never began a count. When Liston rose, Walcott wiped off his gloves, a sign for the fight to continue. But then Nat Fleischer, publisher of The Ring magazine, shouted at Walcott to stop the light; while Walcott turned toward Fleischer, Liston and Ali flailed at one another. Though Fleischer had no official authority, Walcott stopped the bout at 2:12. Skeptics were quick to dub Ali's third and decisive right the "Phantom Punch," but subsequent photos revealed that it had in fact lifted Piston off his feet. And Ali into legend.

JAN. 9, 1969

The date-above is not that of Super Bowl III, the landmark game-in which the New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts 16-7 and brought the AFL parity with the NFL. January 9 was the Thursday before that 1969 game, the day Joe Namath, drink in hand, told the gathering at a Miami Touchdown club banquet, "We're going to win Sunday, I'll guarantee you." With that, the Jet quarterback went a bold step beyond his earlier remarks at an impromptu poolside press conference, when he told reporters, "We're a better team than Baltimore."

When Namath's guarantee hit the papers the next morning, Jet coach Weeb Ewbank moaned, "Ah, Joe, Joe. You know what they're gonna do? They're gonna put that on the locker room wall. Those Colts are gonna want to kill us." (The point spread, fluctuating between 17 and 19 points, reflected that same opinion.) But Namath replied, "Well, Coach, you've been telling us for the last two weeks that we're gonna win, right? I just let the rest of the people know what you've been thinking. Coach, don't you think we're gonna win?"

His cockiness was contagious, and by game time Namath bad Ewbank so confident that before the Jets took the field, the coach gave them instructions on how lie wanted to be carried off the field, to protect the hip he had injured when he was borne on their shoulders alter the AFL title game. Namath, who completed 17 of 28 passes that afternoon, saw to it that those instructions, and the coach, were carried out.

SEPT. 20, 1969

It happened in the 1969 Ryder Cup match at England's Royal Birkdale. The biennial competition between U.S. and British golfers was very important in Britain, and the Cup bad come down lo the final match: 29-year-old Jack Nicklaus against 25-year-old Tony Jacklin. Walking up the 18th fairway, with the match tied, Nicklaus asked Jacklin if he was nervous. "Tin bloody petrified," Jacklin said.

Jacklin's second shot landed: In led from the pin, Niklaus's 15 feet. Jacklin left his putt two feet short; Nicklaus putted live feet past, then knocked his ball into the cup. Whereupon Nicklaus picked up Jacklin's marker and said, "I don't think you would have missed that—putt but in these circumstances, I would never give you the opportunity." The Ryder Cup thus ended in the first tie in its 42-year history, and the two men walked off together, arm in arm.

MAY 8, 1970

In Game 5 of the 1970 NBA finals between the New York Knicks and the L.A. Lakers, Willis Reed, the Knick captain, had gone down with painful muscle strains in his right thigh (below). The Knicks had won, but then lost Game 6 with Reed on the bench in civilian clothes.

It appeared unlikely that Reed could play in the final game, in Madison Square Garden, and he Tailed to come out of the trainer's room to join the team for warmups. But at 7:34 p.m., one minute before tip-off, Reed emerged, walking deliberately, despite enormous pain. When 19,000 Tans rose and cheered as one, Knick forward Bill Bradley thought. I cannot imagine any place on earth that I would rather beat this moment.

On the first possession of the game, Reed bit a jumper from the top of the key. It was over.

DEC. 23, 1972

The Pittsburgh Steelers Hailed the Oakland Raiders 7-6 with only 22 seconds left in their AFC playoff game, and the Steelers were faced with a fourth-and-10 on their own 40. As quarterback Terry Bradshaw faded back to pass under a heavy blitz, he saw that his primary receiver, Barry Pearson, was covered. Scrambling, Bradshaw spotted halfback Frenchy Fuqua at the Oakland 35 and desperately heaved the ball in his direction. Fuqua and Oakland safety Jack Tatum collided, with the ball caroming upheld. The Steelers' hopes were dashed, the game was over...until, suddenly, from out of nowhere, came rookie fullback Franco Harris. "When the play got messed up," Harris later said, "I was running toward Fuqua, hoping he'd get the ball and I could block for him."

The ball headed right for Harris, who, in full stride, scooped it up just above the grass. He raced down the left sideline and scored. Before the play, Steeler founder and owner Art Rooney had disconsolately headed down to the field in an elevator. When the doors opened, a guard shouted at him, "You won!"

So miraculous was the play that it became known, of course, as the Immaculate Reception. Raider coach John Madden, for one, was a disbeliever and argued—in vain—with officials. "Tomorrow morning when I wake up and read the paper," said Madden, "I still won't believe it."

MARCH 26, 1973

The UCLA Bruins were aiming for their seventh straight NCAA basketball title, their ninth in the previous 10 years and their 75th victory in a row. Coached by John Wooden and led by redheaded junior center Bill Walton, the so-called Walton Gang turned every opponent into a beloved underdog.

The Bruins took the floor in St. Louis Arena before an antagonistic crowd that was looting heavily for a very tough Memphis Suite team. Early in the second half, the game was tied at 45—and Walton was in foul trouble. The crowd smelled an upset. Then, with UCLA up 51-47, Bruin guard Greg Lee lofted a lob pass to Walton who slammed it home, and a two-shot "undercutting" foul was called. He made the free throws, completing the four-point play.

The Bruins never looked back, only up, as Lee continued to find Walton with those lob passes. With less than three minutes remaining and UCLA leading In 15, Walton fell to the Hoot with a sprained left ankle. He had scored 44 points, hitting 21 of 22 field goals; as he limped to the bench, the once-hostile crowd roared in appreciation.

JUNE 9, 1973

No horse had won the Triple Crown since Citation had done it 25 years before. So when the starting gate sprang open for the 105th Belmont Stakes, Secretarial not only had to outrun four other rivals but history as well. Under Ron Turcotte's familiar hands, Secretariat wont to the front. Sham, the hard-luck horse who had finished second to Secretarial in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, stayed with his nemesis for a while, but Big Red began to widen his lead. He ran the first half-mile in :46[1/5]—much too fast, thought some; he'll burn himself out. "Uh-oh," said owner Penny Tweedy in her box. "I'm scared."

The time for the mile was a mind-boggling 1:34[1/5]; at a mile and a quarter, Secretarial had a 20-length lead. In later years, Turcotte would say that the most striking thing about the ride was a realization that he could no longer hear the thudding hooves of any other horse. He and Secretarial were alone. He glanced over his left shoulder at the toteboard teletimer and saw a chance for a record. "Then I set my horse down for the only time in the race. We both must have wanted the record—and we got it." The winning time of 2:24 was the fastest mile and a half ever run on dirt, and it shattered the track record set in 1957 by the great Gallant Man by the equivalent of 13 lengths.

As Whitney Tower wrote in SI, "It would be-as if Joe Namath threw 10 touchdown passes in a game or Jack Nicklaus shot a 55 in the Open." As for others in the field that day, Twice a Prince finished second, lengths back. Poor Sham, broken by immortality, crossed the wire dead last.

JULY 19, 1976

On the first day of competition at the Montreal Olympics, she stole the show. She was, of course, Nadia Comaneci; on the uneven bars that day, the 14-year-old Romanian gymnast scored the Olympics' first-ever 10. So remote was the concept of gymnastic perfection that the scoreboard couldn't handle it; her score registered as a 1.00.

In all, Nadia scored seven 10s, four on the uneven bars and three on the balance beam; one of the latter was recounted in SI by Frank Deford: "A jump to straddle, one leg up in an L; presses to a bandstand, then a one-fourth pirouette and step-down; skips and steps, kicks again to a back flip-flop step-out; more steps and full turn backward; a body wave, dance steps, pose and aerial forward; side aerial to flip-flop step-out, leap, lies down on beam, does a Valdez through a back walkover to a knee perch, cartwheels to a stand; a back walkover to a handstand in the split position; two flip-flops, split leap, body-waves; a round-off, double-twisting somersault dismount." The routine took all of 90 seconds. It lasted much longer.

FEB. 22, 1980

In Italian, eruzione means eruption, which is son of what happened when Mike Eruzione took a pass from Mark Pavelich and sent a shot past the left leg of goaltender Vladimir Myshkin. The goal, at 10:00 of the third period, gave the United States a 4-3 lead over the Soviet Union in the first game of the medal round of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. The shouts of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" seemed to bounce off each and every one of the Adirondack Mountains.

There still remained 10 minutes to play, but goalie Jim Craig turned back shot after Soviet shot. When the buzzer sounded, the American players threw their sticks to the rafters and hugged and danced and rolled around the ice. Their Russian counterparts waited patiently for the ceremonial postgame handshakes. Said Mark Johnson, who scored two goals for the U.S., "The first Russian I shook hands with had a smile on his face. I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it. We beat the Russians."

Two days later, the U.S. team beat Finland 4-2 to win the gold. But it was the win over the Soviets that captured the fancy of the nation; after that victory the U.S. players filled the locker room with an impromptu rendition of God Bless America. "All of a sudden we were all singing," said forward Dave Silk. "We got to the part after 'land that I love' and nobody knew the words. So we kind of hummed our way to 'from the mountains, to the prairies,' and we finished it. It was great." That it was.

JULY 5, 1980

By itself, the score of the match spoke volumes: 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18 in the tiebreaker), 8-6. Bjorn Borg, 24, beat John McEnroe, 21, in a match that came with other extraordinary numbers. In the 28 games that went to Borg, he won 190 points; McEnroe got 186 points in his 27 wins. The tiebreaker lasted 22 minutes, during which Borg lost five match points. On the 34th point, Borg tried to hit a drop volley off a hard, topspin McEnroe return, and the ball fell off his racket.

That moment might have been the end of Borg. This is terrible, bethought. I'm going to lose. But after dropping the first two points of the fifth set, Borg changed his mind. "I say to myself, I have to forget. I have to try to win." He served the next point and won; in fact, he won 28 of his final 29 service points. Afterward, McEnroe, who had entered to boos and exited to cheers, said reverentially, "He's won Wimbledon four straight times, he'd just lost an 18-16 tiebreaker. You'd think maybe just once he'd let up and just say forget it. But no." No, not Borg.

NOV. 23, 1984

Because it was the day after Thanksgiving, much of America was turned in for the nationally televised game between Boston College and Miami. BC's Doug Flutie, a 5'9¾" senior and the Hurricanes' Bernie Kosar, a 6'5" sophomore, gave the country an aerial display. With Miami up 45-41 and only six seconds remaining, the Eagles had the ball at the Miami 48; coach Jack Bicknell tried to send a play in. Flutie waved him off. He already knew the call: Flood Tip (everybody go long).

Gerard Phelan, Flutie's roommate, was one of the three receivers deployed. "You get on the same frequency with Doug," Phelan said later, "and somehow things happen." Flutie scrambled to his right; at his own 37 he let fly. Two Miami defenders went up for the ball. Recalled Phelan, "I was falling, and [the ball] came down right here [groin level], and when I rolled over, I could see writing on the ground. Colored writing. I was in the end zone!" It became one of the most celebrated passes in the history of college football. But two days later, the Eagles reviewed the films and discovered that Flutie had made a mistake on the play. His tight end, Peter Casparriello, was wide open in the end zone. Flutie was awarded the Heisman Trophy anyway.

OCT. 15, 1988

As the L.A. Dodgers sat in the dugout in the ninth inning of Game 1 of their World Series with Oakland, they heard rhythmic sounds emanating from the wall behind them. Crack, clank. The crack was bat against ball; the clank was the ball rattling off a metal cage. Crack, clank. Kirk Gibson was getting ready.

He was hobbled by a strained left hamstring and an injured right knee. Earlier, when the NBC camera panned the Gibsonless dugout of the underdog Dodgers, broadcaster Vin Scully said, "Gibson's definitely out for the night." One listener was Gibson, sitting in the training room. "Bull——," he said.

The A's led 4-3 with two outs, one on in the ninth, Dennis Eckersley pitching. Suddenly, there was Gibson, limping toward the plate, and chills ran up the spines of the 55,983 in Dodger Stadium. The count went to 3 and 2, then Gibson swatted the ball into the night, and into the right-field bleachers. As the place went crazy, the only drama left was whether Gibson could wobble around the bases. He made it.

The most dramatic homer in Series history? Carlton Fisk's was big, Bill Mazeroski's was very big, but Gibson's brought his team from defeat to victory in one stroke, and keyed the Dodgers' improbable five-game pasting of the A's. It was Gibson's first and last at bat in the Series, and it really won four games.