At 8:38 p.m. on Tuesday, October 27, Julio Urías fired a third strike past Willy Adames, and the Los Angeles Dodgers were the 2020 World Series champions. As Vin Scully might have put it: “In a year that has been so doleful, the delightful has happened.”
It was delightful for longtime fans who remembered L.A.’s last championship in 1988 and wondered if they’d live to see another. They included Santa Barbara attorney Trevor Large and Mike Gerken, a teacher and coach at Dos Pueblos High.
After their latest postseason failure, the Dodgers had put together another strong contender this year, but one of their usual assets — vocal fan support — was missing. They played a COVID-impaired 60-game schedule in empty stadiums, and despite achieving the best record in baseball, they had to go through the playoffs far from home at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
But 11,500 spectators were allowed to attend each World Series game, and after the Dodgers clawed back from a 3-1 deficit against the Atlanta Braves to win the National League pennant, Trevor Large said, “My wife and I looked at each other. She said, ‘You have to go.’”
He connected to StubHub and bought a pair of tickets to Game 5 for himself and his daughter Reese. “She’s 12 years old,” he said. “I was 12 in 1988.” He remembers running through the house screaming when Kirk Gibson hit his iconic home run 32 years ago.
Large hoped to see the Dodgers win this series in five games, as they had in 1988, but the series was tied 2-2 after the Dodgers had made like the Keystone Cops trying to stop a Tampa Bay Rays rally in the ninth inning of Game 4. That made the Sunday evening game crucial for both teams and for Clayton Kershaw, L.A.’s starting pitcher, a star-crossed figure in previous postseasons.
“It was a blast,” Large said. “My daughter is a big Kershaw fan. We saw him warming up in the outfield. The stadium was so quiet we could hear him talking.” He estimated that 80 percent of the fans were wearing Dodger blue. They were gratified to see Kershaw grind out his second win of the series, with the help of the bullpen, and put the Dodgers on the brink of the ultimate triumph.
Mike Gerken grew up in the days of the Garvey-Lopes-Cey-Russell infield and described himself as “a passionate, diehard Dodger fan.” He was 18 in 1988, going cuckoo in Rancho Cucamonga over Gibson’s shot. He graduated from UCSB and remained in town, making many commutes to Dodgers Stadium. He took his firstborn daughter, Lauren, to a game when she was four months old. “I got her a Dodgers onesie,” he said. “I didn’t want her to get one from my wife. She’s a Giants fan.”
When a friend in Texas called Gerken to tell him he had a spare ticket to Game 6 of the World Series, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse. “Thirty-two years is a lot of buildup,” he said. Surely this time the Dodgers were destined to win. He canceled a practice by the Dos Pueblos softball team on the day of the game and took a 6 a.m. flight to Dallas.
Through five-plus innings that night, Tampa Bay seemed poised to play the spoiler. But after a questionable pitching change, Mookie Betts’s bat and his peerless base-running put the Dodgers ahead 2-1. Betts added a homer to make it 3-1, and Urías nailed down the drought-busting victory.
“It was a more emotional experience than I thought it would be,” Gerken said. “People of all ages were crying.” He flew home in the morning and was back on the softball diamond in the afternoon with the DP Chargers, including his younger daughter, Ashley. They had a joyful practice.
EPILOGUE: I covered the first game of the 1988 World Series and witnessed firsthand Gibson’s swing, his joyous hobble around the bases, and the pandemonium that erupted in Dodger Stadium. The rest of the series is a blur in my memory, as were Orel Hershiser’s pitches in the eyes of the Oakland A’s.
The 2020 playoffs and World Series were unique in many ways, but they presented some of the best tension-producing and memory-stirring moments that baseball has to offer, the stuff that binds generations. Spectacular catches, Corey Seager connecting time and again, blunders and bang-bang plays, a squeeze bunt, Justin Turner pulling off a twin killing (and lamentably arousing controversy after he tested positive for COVID on the last day), Ji-Man Choi performing acrobatics at first, Mookie Betts sliding into home, and Manuel Margot tagged at the edge of the plate after boldly trying to do what Jackie Robinson did 65 years ago.
No asterisk should be applied. It was a Fall Classic.
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