Good morning, I'm the Rev'd Steven Page from St Patrick's Anglican Church. This month, our images for the daily radio devotionals are taken from the world of Sports. With the pennant races heating up this time of year, let's talk Baseball today.
Kirk Gibson is currently the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and is doing alright. He managed them to a surprising playoff berth last year. This year, though, they face tough competition from one of the teams he used to play for, the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is remembered for a clutch home run he hit in the 1988 World Series.
Imagine the scene. It's the World Series. LA Dodgers at home against the powerful Oakland A's. Oakland had the best record in baseball that year, with 104 wins, but LA had Orel Hershiser, winner of that year's Cy Young award as top pitcher, and of course Kirk Gibson, the league MVP.
But it looked like the Dodgers would have to do without Gibson for the duration of the World Series. Gibson was battling the stomach flu, and had injured both legs in the Dodgers' tough 7-game series win over the New York Mets. He had a pulled hamstring in his left leg, and his right knee was swollen and sore. When game 1 started, Gibson dressed in his uniform, but did not go into the dugout, staying instead in the trainer's room getting some medical therapy.
LA took the early lead. But Jose Canseco blasted a grand slam in the second inning, putting Oakland up 4-2. By the bottom of the 9th, Oakland held a 4-3 lead, and sent future Hall-of-Famer Dennis Eckersley to the mound to nail down the win for a 1 game to none series lead.
Eckersley got leadoff hitter Mike Scioscia to pop out. The next batter struck out. 2 down. Mike Davis came on to pinch-hit for the Dodgers, and drew a walk. So the game-tying run was on base.
Then, to everyone's surprise, Kirk Gibson came out of the dugout to pinch-hit. He clearly was in pain, hobbling and flexing his legs repeatedly. Long-time Dodgers broadcaster Vin Sculley said on the NBC TV broadcast that Gibson was “shaking his left leg, making it quiver, like a horse trying to get rid of a troublesome fly.”
Eckersley quickly got in front in the count, no balls and two strikes. Gibson laid off the next two pitches, just outside. That evened the count at 2 balls and 2 strikes. A foul and another ball, and now the count was full. 3 balls. 2 strikes. 2 out. Bottom of the 9th. Dodgers down a run at home in Game 1 of the World Series. An injured slugger at the plate. Everyone held their breath.
Eckersley came with a backdoor slider. And Gibson, using only his upper-body strength since he could not rely on his legs for extra power, swung and hit the ball up, up and over the right-field fence. Home run! It didn't matter how long it took Gibson to hobble around the bases, the game was over, Dodgers win! After calling “she iiiiis.. gone!” Vin Scully then said nothing for more than a minute, letting the pictures tell the story to the TV audience. It was Gibson's only at-bat in the Series, but it inspired the Dodgers to defeat the mighty Oakland team 4 games to 1.
Gibson could have stayed in the trainer's room, seeking treatment. No one would have thought poorly of him for not playing in the game. But he knew his team needed him, and he got off the bench and into the game. And it made all the difference.
Sometimes in our Christian life, we are tempted to remain in the peaceful safety of our bench or our trainer's room. To stay huddled in our churches or in our own lives and concerns and affairs. But God wants us to strap on the cleats, to venture into the world, to participate in the lives of others. To share the good news of God's love and of Jesus Christ with those around us. One of the ways we bring glory to God is when we perform acts of kindness in Christ's name, when we share words of encouragement with a friend in need. When we visit the sick or the lonely. When we invite someone to come with us to church and meet Jesus, our friend, our Lord.
Our Anglican churches have what we call the 5 Marks of Mission. They are 5 general ways that we can join God in the divine mission. From telling others about Jesus, to lovingly responding to human needs, from working against injustice to creation care and more. Come see us to learn more about these Marks of Mission. But every church in town is engaged in God's mission in the world. We just need our teammates to come off the bench and into the game. Will you join us? For St Patrick's Church, I'm Steven Page.