Tom Hoffarth / FartherOffTheWall.com
Kirk Gibson, how great thou still art.
On this day 34 years ago, Dodger Stadium rocked, and a city rolled with it.
The greatest sports moment in Los Angeles history. Saturday evening, October 15, 1988.
We know that to be true.
In 1995, collaborating with the Los Angeles Sports Council, super sports historian Rich Perelman orchestrated the publication of a coffee-table sized book titled “Unforgettable! The 100 Greatest Moments in Los Angeles Sports History.”
Considering all there was to consider, the consensus No. 1 event in ’95 had only occurred seven years earlier. Was it too soon?
Enough time has passed for more context, more events taking place, more to consider.
It made as much sense then as it does 27 years later. Which is also our way of saying the list is overdue for a true Hollywood facelift.
These are headline-rich times for sports history in Los Angeles, officially founded as a city on Sept. 16, 1781. The Los Angeles Coliseum marks its 100th season of existence – its first event was USC’s 23-7 college football victory over Pomona on Oct. 6, 1923. The Pasadena Rose Bowl is about to mark the 100th anniversary of its first college football contest. USC’s 14-3 win over Penn State on New Year’s Day ’23 started it all.
With all due respect to Perelman and his staff, we’re ready for a sequential sequel to quench our thirst.
But first, a refresher on how the Top 10 stood in ’95:
Oct. 15, 1988: “I don’t believe what I just saw!” said CBS radio announcer Jack Buck, likely heard live by no one in L.A. that night (with Vin Scully on the NBC telecast and Don Drysdale on the local radio broadcast). Writes Perelman in his “Unforgettable!” entry: “To this day, there are millions of baseball fans who agree with Jack Buck. They saw it and they still can’t believe it.”
Interesting note No. 1: In the new Tyler Kepner book, “The Grandest Stage: A History of the World Series” (released Oct. 11, Doubleday, $30, 336 pages), the New York Times writer is enlightened enough (as confirmed in a Wall Street Journal review) that this moment only happens because the Dodgers’ Mike Davis (hitting .196) somehow draws a rare two-out walk from Dennis Eckersley to make Gibson’s shot a walk-off.
Interesting note No. 2: In the new Joshua Shifrin and Tommy Shea book, “Dingers: The 101 Most Memorable Home Runs in Baseball History” (released in 2016, but updated in May, 2022, Sports Publishing, $19.99, 332 pages), the image of Gibson on the cover is just a ruse. The authors’ top five homers of all time — 1. Bill Mazerowski’s Game 7 walk off for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1960 World Series over the Yankees; 2. Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round The World” for the New York Giants in the playoff over the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951; 3. Hank Aaron’s 715th homer in 1974 that pushed him past Babe Ruth in the all-time list; 4. Joe Carter’s 1993 walk-off homer to bring the Toronto Blue Jays the World Series in the bottom of the ninth of Game 6 as they were trailing the Philadelphia Phillies; 5. Gibson’s 1988 shot. Why not put Maz on the cover then? Also: The 2022 list Top 5 isn’t different from the 2016 Top 5.
By the way: What time did the Gibson homer occur on Oct. 15, 1988?
This illustration, which we found on Etsy, it has a scoreboard recreation with 8:42 p.m.:
It might just be taking info on this by FineArtAmerica.com and Mark Yench. But zoom in on this lithograph called “Classic Chavez Clout” by Bill Purdom in 1992, which we have on a postcard purchased from the Good Sports Art Gallery, it shows four minutes earlier at 8:38 p.m.:
Both renditions have scoreboard mistakes. Above, it has the Dodgers’ lineup accurately has the No. 8 and No. 9 spots with “37” (Davis) and “23” (Gibson and a position under them blank, because both were pinch hitters. Davis wasn’t in the game at “SS” as the above graphic shows, nor was “26 P” – Alejandro Pena, pitcher – in the game any more at the moment it happened. But one has four umpires listed, and the other has six. The Goff art also has “35 RF” for the Dodgers hitting cleanup (they had no No. 35; it’s No. 5, Mike Marshall) and in the A’s lineup, it’s “38 LF,” a number that belonged to relief pitcher Dave Otto, instead of “28 LF” which was Stan Javier.
So … if you’ve got the time for more research …
Like these guys:
July 28, 1984 — The 1984 Summer Olympic Games opening ceremony at the Coliseum. More than 92,000 in attendance — including President Reagan, Prince Charles and L.A. mayor Tom Bradley. Plus all those athletes marching in. Eighty four pianos playing “Rhapsody in Blue.” Card stunts. A guy in a jetpack flies to start it. Diana Ross sings to end it. Rafer Johnson lights the torch in between (and the Wikipedia entry notes: The ceremony was also the first time a person of African descent lit the Olympic cauldron). Thank you Peter Ueberroth, who recently had his plaque added to its Ring of Honor. Got six hours to watch the KABC-Channel 7 coverage?
Nov. 30, 1974 — USC 55, Notre Dame 24. The Trojans trailed at halftime, 24-6, and then scored 49 straight points in 17 minutes to defeat the Irish and go onto win the national championship. This will be the first paragraph of Anthony Davis’ obituary someday. (That, or the six-touchdown game he scored as a sophomore against Notre Dame in ’72 — which is No. 32 on this list — leading to a national title — which is No. 50 on the list?)
March 31, 1975 — UCLA 92, Kentucky 85. In John Wooden’s final game as a coach, the Bruins win their 10th NCAA title in 12 seasons, at the San Diego Sports Arena. “The Wizard of Westwood” was done after 27 seasons, 766 games and 620 victories at age 65.
Nov. 18, 1967 — No. 4 USC 21, No. 1 UCLA 20. The Coliseum stage before 90,772 provided iconic moments for O.J. Simpson (a 64-yard cut-back TD run) and Gary Beban (16 of 24 passing for 301 yards) in what was to decide the city championship, the conference title, the Rose Bowl representative, the Heisman Trophy and a shot at a national title.
May 16, 1980 — Lakers 123, Philadelphia 107. Rookie Magic Johnson starts at center in the Game 6 NBA Finals win at Philadelphia and scores 42 points to go with 15 rebounds and seven assists in the absence of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar locks up the series MVP award.
Sept. 9, 1965 — Sandy Koufax’s fourth no-hitter. This one is perfect, 1-0, against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium. Vin Scully’s magical call of the Dodgers’ Cy Young Award winning performance seals the deal in the memory bank. But take a look at that other clip — pretty fantastic.
July 30, 1932 — The 1932 Summer Olympic Games opening ceremony at the Coliseum. In the depths of the depression, a $1 million profit is made as “Los Angeles Becomes the New Star in the Olympic Movement,” says this entry’s headline.
Jan. 22, 1984: L.A. Raiders 38, Washington 9. Your Los Angeles NFL team wins Super Bowl XVIII in Tampa, Fla. Marcus Allen’s 74-yard reverse-field touchdown run at the end of the third quarter gives carpetbagger Al Davis’ team a title, a first Lombardi Trophy in L.A. history. (The NFL does a great job of not letting anyone use its video. You can find a link here, or just watch this bootleg above).
April 18, 1958 — Dodgers 6, San Francisco Giants 5. The Dodgers play the first MLB game in L.A. with 78,672 on hand at the Coliseum, more than anyone who ever saw a big-league baseball game. (Someone named Juan Goglia posted this video on YouTube.com with the description: “My great uncle Isadore “Izzy” Perruccio attended the L.A. Dodger’s first game … The story goes: Izzy gradually snuck onto the field with his camera. Since not too many people, other than reporters, had video cameras back then, he went unsuspected long enough to get this amazing video, until, eventually, he was kindly asked to go back to his seat. You can see Willie Mays approach the camera, Jayne Mansfield, Edward G. Robinson … I hope you enjoy this historic footage.” We did.
The ’95 list was vetted by the L.A. Sports Council members, area sportswriters and sportscasters, plus more than 5,000 members of the Los Angeles Athletic Club. A special veterans committee was also formed to consider events long ago that might be forgotten.
To be considered for this list, Perelman writes that moments “had to have taken place in the greater Los Angeles area (Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino County) or had to involve a person or team from the area.”
Twenty seven years later, here are 27 more things we believe fit those guiderails for consideration, if not into the Top 10, at least the Top 100, as we list them by year:
April 12, 1997: Tiger Woods, the 21-year-old from Cypress, wins the Masters golf tournament by a record 12 strokes – the first person of color to win a major. Note: In the 1995 Top 100, Pasadena-raised and UCLA star Jackie Robinson breaking the MLB color barrier as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947 is slotted at No. 39. Maybe we need a recount there.
July 10, 1999: Brandi Chastain’s penalty shootout goal gives the U.S. the FIFA Women’s World Cup over China at the Rose Bowl.
Sept. 11, 1999: Compton’s Serena Williams, 17 years old, wins the U.S. Open over No. 1 Martina Hingis for her first grand slam title.
June 4, 2000: Kobe Bryant’s alley-oop pass to Shaquille O’Neal in the closing seconds of Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference finals punctuates a 15-point comeback win over Portland at Staples Center, pushing them into the NBA Finals (and a win over Indiana, the franchise’s first title since 1988). Bob Costas and Bill Walton are on the call:
April 18, 2001: “The Frenzy on Figueroa” is the Kings’ 4-3 overtime win over Detroit in Game 4 of the Western Conference quarterfinals on Eric Belanger’s goal to erase a 3-0 third-period deficit on the verge of elimination. More important than “The Miracle on Manchester”? You decide.
Oct. 6, 2001: No. 1 ranked Long Beach Poly loses to No. 2 Concord De La Salle, which extends its 10-year winning streak, in the first meeting of USA Today top-ranked high school programs. Before you doubt this one, consider it happened before some 18,000 in Long Beach and more than 120 media-credentialed members, including Sports Illustrated.
May 26, 2002: Robert Horry’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer gives the Lakers a win over Sacrament in Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference finals, tying the series, eventually won by the Lakers in seven.
Oct. 27, 2002: The Rally Monkey Anaheim Angels win the franchise’s only World Series title, outlasting the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 at Angel Stadium behind rookie starter John Lackey.
May 13, 2004: Derek Fisher’s game-winning shot with 0.4 seconds left in the Western Conference Game 5 finals at San Antonio gives the Lakers a 3-2 series lead and momentum into the 2004 NBA Finals.
Oct. 3, 2004: Steve Finley’s ninth-inning grand slam in the second-to-last day of the regular season overcomes a 3-0 deficit and gives the Dodgers their first NL West title in nine years.
Jan. 4, 2006: The 2005 BCS championship played at the Rose Bowl sees No. 1 USC (with Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush) fall, 41-38, to No. 2 Texas (with Vince Young). And Keith Jackson’s final call of a college football game.
Jan. 22, 2006: The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant scores 81 points against Toronto, at Staples Center, second-greatest total in NBA history.
June 6, 2007: In their 14th season, the Anaheim Ducks are the first Southern California NHL team to win a Stanley Cup, in five games over Ottawa, with the clincher at the Anaheim Pond.
March 9, 2008: The Dodgers and Boston Red Sox set a Guinness World Record for largest attendance at a baseball game – the Coliseum held 115,300 for an exhibition game celebrating the team’s 50th anniversary in L.A.
Nov. 7, 2009: Zenyatta, a five-year-old filly ridden by Mike Smith, stuns the field in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita over Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird. This, as we continue to tell folks, is the greatest event we saw live in person because it was so unexpected. Trevor Denman said it: This is un-be-lieveable:
Nov. 20, 2011: The Los Angeles Galaxy wins the Major League Soccer Cup on their home field in Carson when Landon Donovan scores the only goal in the 72nd minute off passes from David Beckham and Robbie Kean, 1-0, over Columbus.
June 11, 2012: The Kings, starting the playoffs as the eighth- and-final seed in the Western Conference, win their first Stanley Cup with a 6-1, Game 6 win over New Jersey at Staples Center behind Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick, ending a 44-year franchise drought.
Feb. 23, 2013: Ronda Rousey announces her UFC arrival as the organization’s first female champion, winning the bantamweight title over Liz Carmouche in UFC 157 in Anaheim.
June 14, 2014: Alec Martinez’ goal in the second overtime gives the Kings a 3-2 win in Game 5 over the New York Rangers to clinch the Stanley Cup, the first championship overtime clincher since 1980.
April 13, 2016: The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, at age 37, in his 1,346th regular-season game, take a career-high 50 shots to score 60 points at Staples Center, including the game-winner, capping off a 20-year career.
Sept. 25, 2016: Vin Scully’s final home game as a Dodgers’ broadcaster is capped off by Charlie Culberson’s walk-off home run allowing the Dodgers to clinch the National League West title at Dodger Stadium.
Oct. 27, 2018: Max Muncy’s 18th-inning walk-off home run wins Game 3 of the World Series for the Dodgers in the longest Fall Classic contest ever in terms of innings and time (7 hours, 20 minutes).
Nov. 19, 2018: Rams 54, Chiefs 51, at the Coliseum. As the city was reeling from recent devastating fires, the third highest-scoring game in NFL history takes place on a Monday Night Football game.
Oct. 6, 2020: The LeBron James-led Lakers emerge in a COVID-interrupted season as NBA champions, defeating Miami in six games, all in the Florida bubble – their 17th franchise title, tying Boston for the most in league history.
July 13, 2021: The Angels’ Shoehei Ohtani, a day after competing in the Home Run Derby, is the first in MLB All-Star history to start as a pitcher (recording the win) and hitting leadoff as the DH. He would win the AL MVP award a few months later.
Oct. 27, 2020: The Dodgers’ COVID-punctuated season ends in a World Series title over Tampa Bay in the bubble at Arlington, Texas.
Feb. 13, 2022: The Rams, playing on their home field of SoFi Stadium, outlast Cincinnati 20-17 to secure Super Bowl LVI.
So, now you see how easy this is?
For starters, we note the original Top 100 in ’95 did not include the Rick Monday flag-saving moment at Dodger Stadium on April 25, 1976. We’re putting that back into the broader stroke. Also missing: The Lakers’ 1987 Game 6 NBA Finals win over Boston with Magic Johnson’s sky hook.
Of these couple dozen-plus newbies, maybe just a couple elbow their way into a new Top 10. We could lobby for Zenyatta’s win as well as the 2005 BCS game, knocking out the L.A. Raiders’ Super Bowl and probably the Dodgers’ ’58 opening day.
Most could be considered to slot into 11-to-25 – but even that’s no guarantee. On the original Top 100 list, consider that cluster currently includes:
= The Lakers’ 1985 NBA Finals win over Boston (No. 11)
= The Lakers’ 1988 NBA Finals win to secure coach Pat Riley’s “Three Peat” guarantee (No. 13)
= Orel Hershiser’s 59-inning scoreless streak in ’88 (No. 17)
= The eventual champion Lakers’ 33-game winning streak runs from ’71 to ‘72 (No. 18)
= The L.A. Rams’ NFL 1951 title game win at the Coliseum over Cleveland before 60,000 (No. 20)
= Wayne Gretzky’s trade to the Kings in ‘88 (No. 25)
Back in 2010, someone at Sports Illustrated declared these to be the 10 greatest moments in L.A. sports history – in no particular order:
= The first Super Bowl: Jan. 15, 1967, Green Bay over Kansas City, before 61,946 at the Coliseum (No. 43 on the ’95 list).
= Gibson’s World Series Game 1 homer in ‘88
= The 1984 Summer Olympics
= The ’67 USC-UCLA game
= Koufax’s perfect game of ‘65
= The Rams’ ’51 championship
= The Dodgers’ clinching the 2004 NL West title via a Steve Finley grand slam
= Johnson’s baby hook winning the Lakers’ ’87 title
= Bryant’s 81-point game in ’06.
= Horry’s game winning shot for the Lakers in the ’02 WCF Game 4
So what are we to decide?
If only one thing — nobody touches No. 1. Yet. And we can live with that, probably another 27 years.