Dennis Eckersley learned two important lessons 25 years ago:
1. "If somebody gets hot, the best team doesn't always win."
2. Just throw Kirk Gibson fastballs.
"The strategy changed," Eckersley said on Wednesday, recalling the famous "Miracle Homer" he surrendered to Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. "He couldn't walk, couldn't catch up with a fastball. So we were supposed to just throw him all fastballs. I got tired of throwing him all fastballs. I finally changed my mind and threw him a backdoor slider.
"There are regrets there -- my biggest regret. Because the last thing on my mind was a home run. Truly. It's pretty easy, I shouldn't have thrown him that pitch. But the more amazing part was how far he hit it. Flat-footed. Strong guy, you know? And ultimately that was supposed to happen. It was in the stars."
Now it is time to see how the stars align on an important anniversary. That was the last time the Dodgers won the World Series, and they are among 10 teams that begin such a quest starting next week. Oakland was the team they beat that year, Eckersley their elite and future Hall of Fame closer, and now the A's are in the postseason as well. A Dodgers-A's reunion series could happen, only this time the A's would have home-field advantage and the Dodgers would not be underdogs.
Whatever happens, prepare to see plenty of The Eck along the way. He is about to move from the familiar Atlanta studio to the broadcast booth this postseason as an TBS analyst, working alongside play-by-play announcer Don Orsillo and fellow analyst Buck Martinez.
TBS will offer extensive coverage of the postseason beginning with the network's exclusive presentation of the Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, including the National League Wild Card Game on Tuesday and the American League version a day later. The network, in its seventh consecutive year televising the MLB postseason, will be the exclusive home of up to 18 Division Series games as well as the NL Championship Series.
"I'm enjoying it," said Eckersley, who has called TBS regular season games and recently Red Sox games for NESN. "I've been doing Red Sox for a while, filling in, that's helped. Doing the game is just so much more exciting than saying something after the fact, you know. There's more adrenaline than there is sitting in the studio.
"More than anything, I bring energy to the game. That's probably my strong suit. I'm not necessarily an X's and O's guy, I just like to sort of bring that energy to it. Because I get excited watching games, and that's what you have to bring. The playoffs speak for themselves. Everybody's fired up anyway -- every pitch."
Eckersley is going on the assumption he will be working an American League Division Series and probably the one featuring Oakland starting Oct. 4 at a site and against an opponent to be determined. That will be ironed out once the matchups settle. Who knows? Maybe someone will find a way this fall for him and Gibson, the D-backs manager, to meet at a collector's-paradise event in October for old time's sake -- especially should such an anniversary series arise.
"I don't have any trouble with it at all," Eckersley said. "This has been going on so long. To tell you the truth, it's one memory, whether good or bad, that I'll never forget. There are so many good and bad times I've had that I don't remember exactly, but that one is scorched in there. When you go back and think about it, it's just very clear. It's one of the great moments of the game. Whether or not it's just because I'm on the bad side, it's still a great moment. I'm cool with it."
Thanks to the A's subsequent World Series sweep of the Giants a year later, Eckersley has no problems mixing in discussion of the Miracle Homer with his overall thoughts on this postseason. And he has plenty of overall thoughts. Here are some of them heading into this postseason:
World Series pick
"LA and Atlanta have sort of walked away with thing for a long time, and St. Louis has been grinding it out. I like St. Louis because they've been there. You talk about the young pitching, that's a question mark, but look at what Michael Wacha just did so you have to like their pitching now. I guess I'd pick St. Louis, but they could lose three games in a row right now and then it's whatever.
"On the other side of it, you've got to like Boston. I do. ... I think the sleeper is Oakland, but if I had to pick somebody, I'd probably pick Boston. I like their depth -- they can go back and forth with you. I like their rotation. Their top four are almost as good as Detroit's, and they've got Koji Uehara, who I think is the best (closer) in the AL."
Jason Giambi, his 1995 A's teammate who just hit a walk-off homer for Cleveland
"He was really excitable-good when I met him -- a lot like he is now. He hasn't changed a bit. He's got a great personality, people are drawn to him. For me, he's just been such a clutch player his whole career. I'm surprised that he has played this long to be honest with you, surprised he went to Colorado. It goes to show you how much he loves to play. And it goes to show you with (Indians manager Terry) Francona, he didn't have to keep him, could have gone the other way, but Francona knows how important it is to have someone like him, been there done that, people drawn to him."
Mariano Rivera's final days
"He must be exhausted, you know? . . . I'd have a hard time pitching after that many ceremonies. I don't think there's been that many people who have gotten the accolades for a career that he has. I went through that with Ozzie Smith one year in St. Louis, with Reggie Jackson one year, I was even there with Yaz (Carl Yastrzemski) 30 years ago. And I don't think anything even touches what they did for Mariano. To me it says everything. He's special. It's more for him than what he even did. It's about the person -- that's what they're celebrating."
Rivera's chances for unanimous election to Cooperstown
"Nobody can be. Look at the number of guys who didn't get it. The highest (vote percentage) is (Tom) Seaver isn't it? I don't know. All it takes is one or two guys out of 600. If there is one, he'd be it."
Michael Wacha's near-no-hitter
"It looks like he may have pitched himself into the postseason rotation. They need four, and his last game sort of puts his name in the ring. Before, I don't think he would have been in."
The Wild Card Game
"I understand David Price is lined up for Tampa Bay in a Wild Card game, and If you're lucky enough to have your ace going that game, you're one up on them. I think it's exciting, the game. Ultimately I don't really like it. As a player, you want two out of three, you really do. But the way it is, it's exciting. The team that wins the Wild Card, I don't know if they necessarily get punished as much, because of the day off they have after they play it.