MILWAUKEE -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson's decision to challenge Prince Fielder in the seventh inning of Saturday's Game 1 of the National League Division Series was interesting in itself. Arizona's deficit was only 2-0, with two outs and first base open. Fielder drew a Major League-leading 32 intentional walks in 2011, often in situations just like this. But Gibson's decision to let his best pitcher -- Ian Kennedy -- pitch to Fielder in what became Milwaukee's 4-1 victory was even more interesting when you consider the history. "Back as a kid, [Gibson] would tell stories to my dad and I would sit there and listen," Fielder said, referring to his father, former big leaguer Cecil Fielder. "Yeah, I heard about it."
Gibson's three-run home run off the Padres' Goose Gossage in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the 1984 World Series clinched the Tigers' first world championship in 16 years. The backstory is what made the moment so powerful, told by MLB.com's Jason Beck in 2007 when it was selected as the most memorable long ball in Detroit's long franchise history: Gossage had dominated Gibson during his career and pleaded with manager Dick Williams to pitch to Gibson, even with first base unoccupied and one out, with the Tigers leading, 5-4. Gibson had been 1-for-10 in his career against Gossage, including a popout in the previous game. Williams simply held up four fingers from the dugout, but Gossage convinced Williams to come out to the mound for a visit. The conversation between Williams and Gossage was audible on replay, and Williams asked Gossage, "You mean you're talking about striking him out?" "Yeah," was the only reply from Gossage, a five-time All-Star who had 25 saves and 10 wins during the '84 regular season. Williams allowed the righty Gossage to pitch to the left-handed Gibson, even though right-hander Lance Parrish was on deck. "We all knew that Gibson had a hole, up and in, and that's where Gossage wanted to give it to him," said Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline, who also was a television broadcaster for the Tigers in '84. Tigers manager Sparky Anderson challenged Gibson from the dugout and said, "He don't want to walk you!" Anderson motioned with his hands to swing away. Gibson hammered a fastball deep into the upper deck in right field of Tiger Stadium that got 51,901 fans out of their seats, because they knew the game was all but over with the three insurance runs. "Gibson just blasted it to right field," Kaline said. "I'm sure if Dick Williams had it to do over, he'd tell Goose Gossage to walk him." Flash-forward to Saturday, when Fielder stepped to the plate. Kennedy made clear he intended to challenge the slugger by throwing a first-pitch fastball. The next pitch was off-speed, and Fielder hammered it to right field for a two-run homer and a 4-0 lead. It was teammate Jerry Hairston Jr. who first mentioned to Fielder the comparison to 1984. But the Brewers insisted they weren't surprised that Kennedy challenged the Brewers in that situation. "He's their best pitcher," Hairston said. "He's the guy there. He pitched a great game today. He challenged Prince, and that's what it's about." Said Fielder: "That's what he's supposed to do." After the Brewers' 4-1 win, Gibson was asked whether the situation conjured memories of '84. "I didn't think about that at all," he insisted. "I just felt bad. I made a poor decision, and sometimes that's how the game goes." "But there's another game tomorrow. We'll be optimistic, we'll be upbeat. We'll come out prepared like we do every game. And I'll try to do a better job myself. That's all you can do."