Thirty years. That's how long it's been since the Los Angeles Dodgers won their last championship.
Coming off a heartbreaking World Series loss to the Houston Astros in Game 7 at home last season, the Boys in Blue will look toward the future while simultaneously honoring their past on opening day at Dodger Stadium Thursday.
As the team celebrates its 60th year in Los Angeles, the Dodgers will pay tribute to one of the greatest moments in the team's history: Kirk Gibson's dramatic pinch-hit, walk-off home run that cemented a win in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
(According to Dodgers fans, Vin Scully's equally memorable home run call – "High fly ball into right field. She is gone! … In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!" – was the top call of the legendary broadcaster's career).
Gibson's iconic home run, which happened as he battled an injury, and against Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley no less, catapulted the team to a 4-1 World Series victory over the Oakland Athletics.
Recalling the moment in an interview hours before the game Thursday, the now 60-year-old Gibson referred to it as "lucky."
“There’s a lot of failure when you go through a major league season … and you keep holding on to the realization that you got to believe that a moment like that can happen,” he told KTLA. “You call it famous, I call it lucky. But who cares, it happened.”
And to celebrate it happening, along with the team's sixth and last championship, the Dodgers have enlisted Gibson to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the first game of the 2018 season.
“You feel like it’s the seventh game of the World Series on opening day," he said. "I mean, just trying to give you the emotions that you feel and the energy.”
Game time is shortly after 4 p.m., but fans are encouraged to arrive early to the sold out-game for a special pregame ceremony. In addition to a special salute of the '88 team, the Dodgers will also celebrate their 60th anniversary in L.A.
The following night, the World Series hero will also again be featured prominently as the Dodgers hand out Gibson bobbleheads.
In fact, the former Dodgers star will be there for every home game this season, at least in spirit, as the Dodgers have created the "Kirk Gibson seat" in the Right Field Pavilion, approximating the exact location where the famous home run ball landed.
The designated seat – Section 302, Row D, Seat 1 – has been painted blue and is adorned with Gibson's signature. Tickets for the seat and its neighboring companion (the tickets have to be purchased as a pair) cost $100 more than the standard Right Field Pavilion – at $150 apiece, you'll spend a total of $300 to sit there – but the proceeds go to the Kirk Gibson Foundation, which raises funds for Parkinson's research.
Gibson revealed in 2015 that he had been diagnosed with the disease.
"I'm proud to say the Dodgers have stepped up in a huge fashion to join forces with me and my foundation while celebrating the 30th anniversary of the home run," Gibson said in a statement released on his foundation's website this week.
The Dodgers open the season against the rival San Francisco Giants, a fitting start to the team's 60th season in L.A. given that the two teams opened against each other – albeit at a different venue – when they each moved to the West Coast from New York in 1958.
KTLA will broadcast five Dodgers games this season. You can watch the first one this Friday night against the San Francisco Giants.