BOSTON -- In a poignant sit-down between the pitcher and hitter who formed one of the most legendary moments in baseball history, Red Sox broadcaster Dennis Eckersley interviewed Tigers analyst Kirk Gibson in a segment that aired on NESN prior to Thursday's series finale between the two teams.While Eckersley was
BOSTON -- In a poignant sit-down between the pitcher and hitter who formed one of the most legendary moments in baseball history, Red Sox broadcaster Dennis Eckersley interviewed Tigers analyst Kirk Gibson in a segment that aired on NESN prior to Thursday's series finale between the two teams.
While Eckersley was a popular starting pitcher for the Red Sox from 1978-84, and Gibson won a World Series ring for the Tigers with his heroics in 1984, both men are forever linked for Game 1 of the '88 World Series between the Athletics and Dodgers.
The Athletics were heavily favored to win that series, partly because Gibson -- the National League's Most Valuable Player that year -- was severely hobbled by injuries to both of his legs. In the ninth inning, with the A's up by a run, manager Tony La Russa went to baseball's best closer at the time, Eckersley. Another manager who would go on to the Hall of Fame, Dodgers skipper Tommy Lasorda, called on the hobbled Gibson to pinch-hit with two outs. Gibson belted Eckersley's 3-2 slider into the seats for the epic home run that won the game, and sparked Los Angeles to the Series victory in five games.
Thirty years later, they reminisced in an interview that took place in the stands at Fenway Park.
"We're connected," Eckersley said to Gibson. "I mean, we're connected forever. We're like family, and the reason why I say that is because they've been calling me Gibson for 30 years. 'Gibson! Gibson!' I've been living with this thing for 30 years. And it's gotten less painful as the years have gone by, it really has."
"Well, I mean, let's face it, you had the most saves of anybody from '88 to '92, I believe," Gibson said to Eckersley. "You won the World Series the next year. You went into the Hall of Fame. So I'd trade you."
Eckersley and Gibson were in adjoining broadcast booths for the three-game series between the Red Sox and Tigers this week, doing color commentary for their respective former clubs.
Players try unfamiliar positions the lineup
As Jalen Beeks makes his first career start at Fenway, another player will make his season debut as catcher -- Blake Swihart.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora had floated plans to put Swihart behind the plate for a game this week, and originally, he thought that day would come on Saturday, when David Price is scheduled to take the mound.
"But if [Swihart] catches Saturday, then Christian [Vazquez] doesn't catch for three days, because we're going with Sandy [Leon] on Friday, Sandy on Sunday," Cora said. "And that makes no sense."
Cora wanted to keep Vazquez in the lineup because of his strong hitting Wednesday -- when he fell a triple short of the cycle. So Cora made Vazquez the designated hitter. Another familiar face in an unfamiliar position.
But perhaps the most notable shuffling comes in the outfield. Cora wanted to rest Jackie Bradley Jr., and with Mookie Betts still out, that meant Cora needed to get creative with the lineup. He put Sam Travis at left field, who has Minor League experience in the position, and gave right field to J.D. Martinez, despite his wishes to avoid putting Martinez in that position at Fenway.
"It was either him in right field or Sam in right field, and J.D. has played right field before here, so that's why," Cora said. "It looks different, but ... it feels like we can score some runs in that lineup, which is the most important thing."
Blake Richardson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.