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Memories of '88 return with LA in World Series

Current Dodgers reminding fans how special championship was 29 years ago
MLB.com @RichardJustice

"In a year that has been so improbable the impossible has happened." -- Vin Scully, Oct. 15, 1988.

World Series Gm 1: Tues., 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX

View Full Game Coverage

"In a year that has been so improbable the impossible has happened." -- Vin Scully, Oct. 15, 1988.

World Series Gm 1: Tues., 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX

View Full Game Coverage

Clayton Kershaw was seven months old the last time the Los Angeles Dodgers played in a World Series game. Here's the thing about that, really the coolest part of this whole deal with the Dodgers being back in the Fall Classic and all.

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There is a circle that is unbroken. If anyone thinks 29 years passing makes the 1988 Fall Classic any less real or any less meaningful to Kershaw or any of these current Dodgers, they do not understand the culture of this franchise.

The Dodgers proudly embrace their history, from Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese to Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. In that way, every generation of Dodgers is connected to every other. That's especially true of that 1988 team.

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So it does not matter that Justin Turner was 3 years old -- or that Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig and a long list of others hadn't been born -- when Kirk Gibson hit arguably the most famous home run in World Series history.

They all know Gibson won Game 1 of the 1988 Series with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, his only at-bat of the series. Every single person who has played for, rooted for or worked for the Dodgers has Gibson hobbling, circling the bases, fists pumping, etched into their brain.

If that 1988 team has taken on a larger-than-life presence in the hearts and minds of Dodger fans, one reason could be that it has been a long wait for another. Or maybe it's because the 1988 Dodgers were THAT special.

Anyway, the 2017 Dodgers wrote a chapter of their own Thursday night by clinching the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World with an 11-1 victory over the Cubs. Game 1 of the 2017 World Series presented by YouTube TV will be Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers will now await a winner of the Yankees-Astros American League Championship Series presented by Camping World that resumes with Game 6 on Friday in Houston. The Yankees lead the ALCS, 3-2, and if they close it out, baseball will have its 12th Yankees-Dodgers World Series, its first since 1981.

This is right where we expected the 2017 Dodgers to be since they won 104 regular-season games and sprinted through the playoffs by winning seven of eight.

Few teams embrace their history as passionately as the Dodgers. To visit Dodger Stadium is to be reminded of Robinson and Reese, of Koufax and Drysdale. Those legends live forever in the hearts and minds of Dodgers fans, players, coaches, etc.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Roberts on meeting Lasorda

So does that 1988 championship team. Reminders are everywhere, from video-screen highlights to ceremonies honoring various members of the team through the years.

Even better, some of the 1988 Dodgers are still Dodgers. First on that list is manager Tommy Lasorda, who turned 90 last month, still occupies a box seat at Dodger Stadium for most home games, and was at Wrigley Field Thursday for the NLCS clincher in Chicago. World Series MVP Orel Hershiser is a member of the team's television crew, and catcher Mike Scioscia, who hit a key home run against the Mets in the NLCS, lives down the road a bit and manages the Angels.

Those 1988 Dodgers were a team of big personalities, beginning with Lasorda, who created an atmosphere of noise and laughter and aggressive baseball. He loved that team with its equally large personalities, from Gibby (Gibson) and Bulldog (Hershiser) to Sosh (Scioscia) and Saxie (Steve Sax).

Team meetings often weren't team meetings at all. Rather, they were excuses for Lasorda to hold court or to have Sax or Mickey Hatcher or someone else tell a story or two. The thing is, when it was time to play, they played hard. They took their cue from Gibson, the 1988 NL MVP, in that way.

And then in September, Hershiser had one of the great runs in history, stringing together 59 consecutive shutout innings, breaking Drysdale's record.

Still, they were underdogs against the Mets in the NLCS and needed a shutout in Game 7 to advance. They were also underdogs against the Oakland Athletics in the World Series right up until the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 1 when Gibson got his lone at-bat of the World Series.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Jansen retires Contreras to win NLCS

The A's led the game, 4-3, and had called upon future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley to close it down.

Gibson had injuries to both knees and received injections that morning in an attempt to play. Motivated by hearing Vin Scully say on the broadcast that he wasn't available, Gibson began swinging a bat and told Lasorda he was ready to pinch-hit in the ninth.

With the tying run on base, Gibson launched a ball to right field to end Game 1 and turn the World Series in a different direction. Gibson has been around Dodger Stadium dozens of times in the years since he retired as a player, including five seasons as manager of the D-backs. Regardless of how many times he actually returns there, his spirit lives there still, strong and defiant.

Video: Side by side: Gibson and Turner both walk off

To watch these 2017 Dodgers romp through the regular season playing the game at just about the highest level possible, it was impossible not to think back to 1988 and a team that went 94-67 and got hot at the right time.

First, the Dodgers upset a Mets team that had won 100 games, and then Gibson and Hershiser led the victory over an Oakland team that had won 104 times. They were not a classically built team, one that struggled to score runs but rode great pitching night after night.

After each victory, Lasorda would turn the clubhouse into an impromptu pep rally, screaming, "Oh yeah, how sweet it is!"

And here we are again.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

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