Orel Hershiser was so good in 1988 that he was exonerated for stealing this sweater from Bill Cosby. - Getty Images
It was 23 years ago today, Sergeant Lasorda taught the team to play. In a classic game of Bulldog style, Orel Hershiser did raise a smile. So may I introduce to you, the team we've looked back all these years...the story I wrote today for SB Nation Los Angeles, looking back to the Dodgers beating the Oakland A's 5-2 in Game 5 of the World Series to clinch their sixth world championship:
The Dodgers jumped on Oakland starter Storm Davis early. With one out in the first inning, Franklin Stubbs lined a single to right field, setting the stage for unlikely hero Mickey Hatcher. During the Game 5 broadcast on NBC, Vin Scully recalled, "[Hatcher] had his agent call to try and get a job with the Dodgers and he thought he was going to Albuquerque, but when his agent called back and said, 'You're a Dodger,' he wound up going with the big club."
The 33-year old Hatcher was subbing for Gibson in left field, and filled in quite nicely, lining a ball into the left field seats for a two-run home run and a quick Dodgers lead. Hatcher, who hit one home run in 202 plate appearances during the regular season, hit two homers during the World Series.
Given an early lead, Hershiser got all the support he needed:
From the fourth through the seventh inning, Hershiser retired 12 of the 13 batters he faced, allowing only a walk to catcher Ron Hassey. The A's were so flustered by Hershiser that they resorted to trying to step out of the batters box frequently to try to disrupt his timing. In the bottom of the fifth inning after Phillips stepped out of the box, Hershiser met catcher Rick Dempsey about halfway between the mound and home plate, yelling loud enough to let Phillips here him.
"I wanted to let them know I didn't like it and that anytime I get aggravated I become a better pitcher," Hershiser told Ross Newhan of the Times. "I wanted to let them know it was inspiring me and not affecting me adversely. People would have better luck if they tried to lull me to sleep. The A's made sure I stayed awake."
Hershiser had quite a two-month stretch from August to October:
Hershiser ended the regular season with 59 consecutive scoreless innings, a run that included five shutouts and a game in which Hershiser pitched 10 frames without allowing a run. In the postseason, he had two shutouts in five starts, and even picked up a save in the NLCS for good measure. He was 3-0 in the postseason with a 1.05 ERA. In his final 101 2/3 innings of 1988, Hershiser allowed five earned runs. He pitched nine innings or more in 12 of his final 14 starts.
I can still remember watching Game 5 at home, with my mom heroically giving her 12-year old son control of the lone television in the house. I recorded the game on a VHS tape that I watched countless times in the coming weeks and months (its main competition was a fellow VHS tape, of Game 7 of the 1988 NBA Finals). We had a VCR with a corded remote and a counter system that I used to identify key plays on the tape, like the home runs by Hatcher or Mike Davis or the final out, a strikeout of Tony Phillips.
A mere 23 years ago today, the Los Angeles Dodgers were champions of the world. Life was grand.