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Diamond Jubilee

On the eve of the home opener that marks the start of Dodger Stadium's 50th-anniversary season, The Times selects the 10 most memorable moments in the history of one of America's great ballparks

April 09, 2012
  • Kirk Gibson made his one at-bat of the 1988 World Series a memorable one.
Kirk Gibson made his one at-bat of the 1988 World Series a memorable one. (Joe Kennedy / Los Angeles…)

1 Gibson's home run

Oct. 15, 1988


The most dramatic moment in the history of the ballpark might also be the most memorable moment in Los Angeles sports history.

The Dodgers were down to their final out, trailing the heavily favored Oakland Athletics by a run in Game 1 of the World Series, when manager Tom Lasorda summoned a sick and injured Kirk Gibson to face American League saves leader Dennis Eckersley.

Gibson had injuries to both legs and was bothered by a stomach virus, but he hobbled to the plate after Mike Davis had worked a two-out walk.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, April 12, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Rick Monday photo: In the April 9 Sports section, a 1976 photo of Chicago Cub Rick Monday saving the American flag from being burned by protesters at Dodger Stadium was credited to the Associated Press. The photo was taken by James Roark of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.

After falling behind 0-2, Gibson worked the count full. Then, remembering scout Mel Didier's observation that Eckersley liked to throw backdoor sliders to left-handed hitters in such situations, Gibson muscled a 3-2 pitch into the right-field pavilion.

As Gibson limped around the bases, pumping his fist, Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully famously said, "In the year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened."

The Dodgers won the game, 5-4, and the series, 4-1. It was Gibson's only at-bat in the Series.

The Dodgers haven't won a World Series since.

2 Koufax's perfect game

Sept. 9, 1965


Sandy Koufax hadn't won a game in three weeks when he went out and threw the only perfect game in Dodgers history.

Through seven innings, neither the Dodgers nor Chicago Cubs had a hit as Koufax was locked in a duel with Bob Hendley, who had only recently been promoted from the minor leagues.

The only run of the game was unearned, scored by the Dodgers in the fifth inning after Lou Johnson drew a walk and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Ron Fairly. Johnson stole third, which resulted in an errant throw by Cubs catcher Chris Krug that allowed Johnson to score.

Koufax struck out 14 and finished the game with a flourish, striking out the last six batters he faced. Harvey Kuenn, who made the final out in Koufax's 1963 no-hitter, made the final out.

There were only two baserunners in the game -- still a record.

Koufax's performance was voted the greatest pitched game of all time in a 1995 poll of members of the Society for American Baseball Research. It was his fourth no-hitter, breaking Bob Feller's previous record of three.

3 Fernandomania begins

April 9, 1981


The phenomenon started on opening day when Fernando Valenzuela, a pudgy 20-year-old rookie left-hander from Mexico, drew the starting assignment because veterans Jerry Reuss and Burt Hooton were injured.

Valenzuela responded by shutting out the Houston Astros, 2-0, the beginning of a season in which he would become the only player in major league history to win the rookie-of-the-year and Cy Young awards in the same year. The Dodgers also won the World Series.

Valenzuela started the season 8-0 with an 0.50 earned-run average, and demand for his time was such that he had to conduct news conferences in every city the Dodgers visited.

His best pitch: a screwball that ran away from right-handed hitters.

His signature move: looking skyward at the height of his windup.

His legacy: Dodger Stadium became a melting pot. About 40% of the team's fan base is now Latino, according research conducted by the Dodgers.

4 Game 4, 1963 World Series

Oct. 6, 1963


Of the four World Series championships the Dodgers have won since coming to Los Angeles, this was the only time they clinched at Dodger Stadium.

The winning pitcher was Koufax, who coaxed New York Yankees outfielder Hector Lopez to ground out for the final out of the sweep-sealing 2-1 victory. It was Koufax's second complete game of the series, and he was chosen the World Series MVP.

The Dodgers went ahead, 1-0, on a fifth-inning home run by Frank Howard, but the Yankees tied the score in the seventh on a Mickey Mantle blast. In the bottom of the seventh, Jim Gilliam hit what appeared to be a harmless grounder to third base, but Yankees first baseman Joe Pepitone lost Clete Boyer's throw because he couldn't distinguish the ball from the white shirts in the stands. Gilliam advanced to third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Willie Davis.

5 Debut of Dodger Stadium

April 10, 1962


Times columnist John Hall wrote, from opening day of the 1962 season: "Los Angeles has itself a major league ballpark, a truly remarkable stadium that is obviously destined to become recognized as the finest in the world. And those who were there will never forget how it all started. . . ."

Owner Walter O'Malley's wife, Kay, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The first real pitch was made by Johnny Podres, the Dodgers' 1955 World Series hero. Eddie Kasko of the Cincinnati Reds doubled to lead off the game. The Dodgers' first hit was a single by Hall of Fame outfielder Duke Snider leading off the second inning. The Dodgers lost, 6-3.

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