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THE WORLD SERIES : OAKLAND ATHLETICS vs. LOS ANGELES DODGERS : Gibson May Not Be Able to Start : Injured Right Knee Is Hampering Dodger Left Fielder

October 15, 1988|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

Amid the clubhouse celebration that followed the Dodgers' victory in Game 7 of the National League championship series Wednesday night, Kirk Gibson first sought the quiet of the trainer's room, then the solitude of the dugout.

He was disturbed by the fact that the media were allowed immediate entry, intruding on the opportunity to share some private moments with teammates. The crush of reporters, minicams and sound gear was comparable, he said Friday, to "the running of the bulls in Spain."

Gibson fled the clubhouse for another reason as well. To stay, he said, would have been to further risk his strained left hamstring and his injured right knee.

"I was walking into the clubhouse, and a guy with a minicam and some cable ran right by me and clipped me in the back of the knees," Gibson said. "I was so upset I almost killed the . . . , but instead I just got the hell out of there."

Gibson's physical status remains a concern, and it goes beyond the left hamstring strain.

A problem with the right knee has left Gibson an uncertain starter for tonight's opening World Series game against the Oakland Athletics at Dodger Stadium.

He received treatment Friday but did not participate in the Dodger workout.

"I can play with the hamstring, but as of today I can't play with this (right knee)," he said. "I don't know what my status is. I couldn't hit today and I couldn't have played today. All I can do is test it in batting practice tomorrow.

"If I can swing, I think I can play the outfield. I wish the Series was opening in Oakland so we could use a designated hitter."

Gibson refers to this new problem as a sprain of the medial collateral ligament. Dodger trainer Bill Buhler categorized it as a bruise.

In fact, when Gibson left Wednesday night's game in the third inning, a club spokesman provided the misleading information that he had aggravated the hamstring strain.

Be it a bruise or strain, it is definitely the right knee, and Gibson had X-rays Thursday that dismissed the possibility of a tear.

Said Dr. Frank Jobe: "I used the term \o7 sprain \f7 when talking to Kirk, but I'm not sure I'm correct in that. To call it a bruise might also be correct. I know he was sore today and will be sore tomorrow, but I'm sure he plans to play."

Gibson had aggravated his hamstring, which he originally strained in September, in Game 5 of the playoffs, stealing second base in the ninth inning, with the Dodgers already ahead by two runs. He felt another could prove important.

The Dodger catalyst then injured his right knee attempting to break up a double play during the five-run second inning of Game 7.

The Dodgers led, 4-0, and had the bases loaded when Gibson went hard into second base on a grounder hit by Mike Marshall.

The throw from second baseman Wally Backman pulled shortstop Kevin Elster off the base, but Gibson hit the ground hard and rolled across the bag.

"I felt the hamstring in my last step before sliding," he said. "Instead of a normal slide I threw myself in there and hit the knee hard on the ground, then hit the bag equally hard. I wanted the run.

"I mean, as soon as Marshall hit it, I was thinking that I had to break up the double play. We were only up (4-0). How many times have the Mets come back from that?"

The Mets' failure to turn the double play allowed the inning's Dodgers' fifth run to score, and they eventually got another.

"This limits me so much it's frustrating," Gibson said of the knee injury while sitting at his locker Friday. "If I can swing tomorrow, I'll just have to do the best with what I've got.

"The main problem is with my speed. It's right up there as one of the strong points of my game. I have much more impact when I have it."

Gibson, of course, is frustrated in another way as well. He alluded to the home runs that won Games 4 and 5 and said: "I had reached a point where I was feeling right again (after a 1-for-16 start in the playoffs). I don't want to go back in and mess it up. I'll just have to try and visualize the way it was."

Said Oakland Manager Tony La Russa: "Our scouts tell us that Gibson is the same winning-type player he was in the American League, healthy or not. I've always had the utmost respect for the man. Hopefully we can shut him down."

Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said he would decide today who to play if Gibson can't. It is likely that Mickey Hatcher would move to left, with Franklin Stubbs, who had two hits after Gibson came out of Game 7, replacing Hatcher at first.

Gibson said he wasn't depressed, that he has learned to live with the highs and lows, and that he knows only one way to play.

Met first baseman Keith Hernandez had talked about that after Gibson aggravated his hamstring strain on the steal in Game 5.

Hernandez said Gibson hadn't been using his head, that he is too important to the Dodgers to risk an additional injury by stealing with a two-run lead if his leg was already hurting, which Gibson had indicated to Hernandez before stealing.

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