Human element still vital in high-tech age

Kirk Gibson's 360-foot limp around the bases in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series has seen more airtime than Tim Robbins' 500-yard crawl through a river of slime to escape Shawshank Prison. Gibson's painful gait and fist pumps, accompanied by Vin Scully's eloquent voice-over and Tommy Lasorda's euphoric waddle from the dugout, make for baseball theater in its classic form.

The only element that's missing is the prelude -- Gibson's stepping out of the box before his big home run off Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley and smiling to himself as he remembered a secret that seemed destined for him and him alone.

Before the '88 World Series opener, Gibson and the Dodgers received some helpful advice from advance scout Mel Didier, who had seen the A's enough to know that Eckersley tended to stray from his fastball in certain crunch-time situations. "Pardner, as sure as I'm standing here breathing today, if you get to 3-and-2, he'll throw a back-door slider to you,'" Didier told the Los Angeles hitters in his Southern drawl.