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The agony of defeat in the barren, lonely Arizona desert

I know where I was the evening of Oct. 15, 1988. I was camped in my first RV, my now-legendary 1977, 18-foot Casita motorhome, the RV that never knew a raindrop it wouldn’t invite into my poor little stick and tin recreational vehicle, the motorhome version of the Yugo. Yes, I loved it — love-hate, perfect example.

I was camped in the Painted Rock Petroglyph Campground in the barren, out-of-the-way Arizona desert far off I-8 via a dirt road. The nearest town was a distant Gila Bend, whose welcome to town sign proclaimed “Welcome to Gila Bend, home of 1,700 Friendly People and 5 Old Crabs.” It was a free BLM campground. I was there alone, my only companions coyotes howling in the distance.

What I remember from then was an evening baseball game — Game One of the 1988 World Series between the underdog Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A’s. My home was in Northern California at the time, so I was rooting for the A’s.

I had recently acquired a battery-powered black and white television — the Watchman. Do you remember it? Its screen was about 1.5 inches wide, the size of a few postage stamps. I had first seen one in the club car of Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, when one passenger shared the screen with a dozen of us to watch an NFL playoff game. I’m glad Covid wasn’t around then because we were practically on top of each other: We would all have died!

A watchman. Powered by AA batteries

On that night in the barren Arizona desert, the TV signal (analog then) came and went, disappearing entirely at times. And so I watched as I walked slowly around in the near dark desert searching for a stronger signal, hoping there were no rattlesnakes that would leap out and bite me.

It came to be that there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers at bat. The A’s were ahead 4-3. Then Dodger Mike Davis singled and and then stole second while Dodger outfielder and superstar Kirt Gibson pinch-hit (the Mighty Casey all over again), even though he was almost lame with two bad legs. You could see his pain with each swing. He keep fouling balls away. Vince Scully, one of the best announcers of all time, was calling the game. I grew up in Southern California listening to him call the Dodger games. I loved him. I would have given my entire marble collection just to meet him.

But I had left L.A. long ago and was now an A’s fan. Sorry, Vince.

The barren desert around the campground (Google)

I must have been a hundred yards or more away from my RV and was continuing to move about to keep a TV signal. Surely I was biting my fingernails. I was beyond nervous. I was hoping and praying that Gibson would strike out. He just had to! But he didn’t. He hit one foul ball after another — 3 balls, 2 strikes, seemingly forever…

And then, he swung. And as the earth stood still, the ball sailed over the right field fence. Game over, 5-4 Dodgers.

I was stunned. I hated Gibson.

I was alone out there in the desert—I didn’t even have a dog to complain to. There were no cell phones back then to call a buddy, or social media to commiserate with fellow A’s fans. I might as well have been on Mars!

Today, just like that, more than three decades have passed! Should I ever return to that campground, I shall observe a moment of silence in memory of that horrible night and my agony of defeat.

Here, if you wish to watch, is Vince Scully’s play-by-play of the bottom of the ninth. It’s the same broadcast I watched on my tiny Watchman.

##RVT1056

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Brett Hyde
25 days ago

And Gibson out-battled HOF closer Eckersley in doing so.

Lew
25 days ago

Great story, great adventure, Chuck. I remember Gibson’s blast and Lasorda’s reaction quite clearly. How can it have been so long ago? I love hearing Vin Scully call a game. None better at it.
Safe travels.

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