When the Los Angeles Dodgers whipped the defending champion Chicago Cubs 11-1 Thursday night, the “Bums” won the National League Championship Series, 4 games to 1, and are set to play in their first World Series since 1988.
That 1988 World Series is one of bittersweet memories. It offered one of the most dramatic walk-off homerun shots in history, but it also reminds us of the loss of two iconic heroes, Don Drysdale and Jack Buck. The memorial services for those two heroes bring to mind (especially for those of us in deathcare) how fitting such ceremonies can be when they are conducted in a tasteful fashion. The landmark homerun came in game 1, October 15, 1988, at Dodger stadium. Pinch hitting for the Dodgers in the bottom of the 9th, a gimpy Kirk Gibson, suffering injuries in both of his legs, slugged a two-run shot (essentially with one arm), off Oakland Athletics pitcher Dennis Eckersley that propelled the Dodgers to a 5-4 victory. It was a legendary feat in every sense of the word – many polls that have been conducted since have named it one of the most exciting sports moments ever.
Ironically, the commentary of Don Drysdale, Jack Buck, and Vin Scully are all tied intimately to that moment. Scully was calling the game on national television, Buck on national radio, and Drysdale on Dodger radio. All three offered very insightful words: all three stepped up to their jobs as the complete professionals they were. Drysdale noted that “this time the mighty Casey did not strikeout;” Scully said that “the impossible has just happened;” Buck simply stated, “I cannot believe what I just saw.” A very cool blend of these calls has been put together and is on YouTube (above).
Drysdale, of course, was a famed Dodger hurler long before he took his spot in the announcer’s booth. Among his accomplishments were a 209-166 won/loss record, a 2.95 career earned run average, and 2,486 strikeouts. He took the 1962 Cy Young Award and pitched 58 and 2-3rd consecutive scoreless innings in 1968 (the latter being a major league record that was broken 20 years later by Dodger Orel Hershiser).
Forced to retire because of a shoulder injury, Drysdale stepped into the announcing booth in 1970. His passing was tragic: on July 3, 1993 he missed the team bus in Montreal where he was set to announce the Dodger game with Scully. The hotel staff found him in his room, felled by a heart attack. He was cremated at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Buck’s call is only one of the many famous signature phrases he used in his career. Another one took place in October of 1985, when Ozzie Smith’s National League Championship Series game 5 homer off Tom Niedenfuer led the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Buck’s comments was, “Go crazy folks, go crazy.”
When Jack Buck passed away on June 18, 2002, the Cardinals held a very touching memorial services at Busch Stadium. Mourners lined up to pass his coffin at home plate. The former Purple Heart recipient was then laid to rest following a service at Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church in suburban St. Louis. During her elegy Buck’s daughter, Christine Buck, said “Go crazy Heaven, go crazy.” In all, Buck called 11 World Series, 18 Super Bowls, and 4 All-Star games.
Drysdale entered the MLB Hall of Fame in 1984; Buck followed him to Cooperstown in 1987.
We congratulate the Dodgers on their 2017 season, wish them well in the World Series. We also remember the tremendous 1988 World Series and the two larger than life figures of Don Drysdale and Jack Buck. Both are missed.