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Kirk Gibson selling his bat from 1988 World Series? Say it ain't so

The author of perhaps the greatest moment in L.A. Dodgers history — the walk-off home run off of Dennis Eckersley to win Game 1 of the '88 Series against Oakland — is putting the bat he used to hit it up for auction, along with two trophies. And he won't say why, exactly, he's doing it.

October 19, 2010|Bill Plaschke

The chipped, scratched, tar-streaked piece of old wood is a thing of beauty.

I actually felt a chill Tuesday when I picked up the black Worth Tennessee Thumper that Kirk Gibson used to drive a ball into the most memorable moment in Los Angeles Dodgers history.

It was the first time in 22 years I have seen the bat that a gimpy Gibson used to hit a two-run homer against the Oakland Athletics' Dennis Eckersley in the bottom of the ninth to win the 1988 World Series opener.

It is probably also the last time I will see it.

In an act as odd and unexpected as the famous swing itself, Gibson is auctioning the bat, jersey and helmet from a play that was once voted the top sports moment in our city's history.

A moment frozen to a moment sold.

A potential centerpiece for a Dodgers museum or Baseball Hall of Fame headed for somebody's basement or bank vault.

Going, going, gone.

"It's King Arthur's sword," said Mark Langill, Dodgers historian.

"That's just the way I chose to do it," said Gibson, forever defiant.

In an Internet auction beginning Oct. 27, Gibson is also selling his Hall of Fame trophy and World Series replica trophy, with some of the proceeds going to a foundation that supports Michigan State athletics and high school scholarships in his parents' names.

Where the rest of the money is going, well, he wouldn't exactly say.

"I have other things I have to do," he said.

That was just one of several questions Gibson didn't quite answer during Tuesday's publicity push by SCP Auctions, which will sell the items at scpauctions.com. Appearing in a video that aired above the actual memorabilia at the private Los Angeles Sports Museum, then later speaking on a conference call, he was more infomercial than information.

While a man certainly doesn't need to apologize for selling stuff that could bring him as much as $500,000, it sort of feels like Dodgers fans are owed at least an inexpensive explanation.

It's one thing to know that cherished memories are being stored in a warehouse by the guy who made those memories. It's another thing to realize that he has pulled them out of that warehouse and is peddling them to strangers.

And the stuff is way cool. The bat is dotted with chips from where an aching Gibson continually banged it against his cleats between Eckersley pitches. The jersey has never been washed, still containing a splotch of tar from when Gibson propped the bat on his shoulder.

Why not give them back to the Dodgers for display at the stadium, or donate them to the folks at Cooperstown?

"I never considered it that way," Gibson said.

Is he broke? Earlier this month he was given a two-year contract to manage the Arizona Diamondbacks after serving as the interim field boss for part of last season, so he surely doesn't have financial troubles.

"That's really not an appropriate question. I don't know what that has to do with anything," he said. "No, I don't."

Why he is selling his Dodgers memorabilia and nothing from his world championship days with the Detroit Tigers?

"I just have my reasons, we'll just leave it at that," he said.

Adding to the weirdness is the notion that Gibson is selling two items that actually belong to the Dodgers. The batting helmet and jersey are purchased by the team. While it's common for clubs to give equipment to departing personnel — Joe Torre was given two jerseys — it is unseemly when that player attempts to sell the stuff for himself.

"I mean, they were mine," Gibson said of the memorabilia. "Our owner Peter O'Malley was really gracious."

Unsurprisingly, the Dodgers apparently do not plan to enter the bidding, especially for their own items, and especially since Frank McCourt probably couldn't afford it anyway.

"We would always welcome the opportunity to talk directly with Kirk about keeping these historic items in the Dodger family," team spokesman Josh Rawitch said.

That's not happening these days. When it comes to souvenirs, there is no talking anymore, there is no family anymore, not even with the Dodgers' ultimate teammate.

It was sobering to hear him talk Tuesday about having a "phobia" about keeping the bat safe. It made you feel old to hear him talk about wanting to sell the stuff before it became the object of dispute among his heirs.

"I don't know how I can word this properly . . . there will be no argument from this point on, just leave it that way," he said. "Nobody is going to be fighting or arguing over it. The proceeds are going to a very, very worthy cause. Nice and clean."

Nice and clean and disappearing.

Gibson said he hopes the items could be purchased by someone who will display them. But, c'mon, how often does that happen?

One thing Kirk Gibson will not be selling is the home-run baseball. Despite 22 years of searching, it has never turned up.

For the longest time, I thought that was a bad thing. Now, maybe not so much.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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