Despite 213 starts over the two previous Los Angeles Dodgers campaigns and the pedigree that comes with having been a first-round draft pick, as the 1988 season dawned first baseman/outfielder Franklin Stubbs looked to be glued to the bench. Off-season free-agent acquisitions Kirk Gibson and Mike Davis were slated to man the corner outfield positions and Mike Marshall was moving back into the infield to don a mitt instead of a glove, a position he hadn't played in the last two seasons. A man who struck out in 22.5% of his Dodger plate appearances and didn't quite hit enough to offset that, didn't appear to be pressing for an everyday job.
And through June 7 that was indeed the case as Stubbs started only four of the first 53 games for the Dodgers, but came off the bench in 23 other contests. However, as Davis struggled through a horrific season at the plate, Los Angeles strategists began tinkering with other combinations of players and positions and Stubbs would end up starting nearly half the remaining games at first base, with Marshall becoming the every day right-fielder once again, and Pedro Guerrero, who moved to first base from the hot corner after returning from an injury, eventually traded.
How acquired: The Dodgers drafted Stubbs - a native North Carolinian - out of Virginia Tech in the first round on the 1982 draft with the 19th overall pick. He was the first baseball NCAA All-American ever for the Hokies and was a member of a gold-medal winning Team USA that upset the Cuban National team in the 1981 Intercontinental Cup.
Prior MLB experience: Stubbs debuted with the Dodgers in late April 1984 after raking the Pacific Coast League for 29 games at a .324/.387/.630 clip for the Albuquerque Dukes. In 1985 he had only a September call-up for Los Angeles, but that was his last stint for a Dodger minor league club. From 1984-1987, Stubbs batted .222/.286/.400, an 89 OPS+ with his 47 home runs in Dodger blue flashing the power potential that intrigued both fans and management.
1988 age: 27
1988 stats: Stubbs was a part-time player in 1988, starting in 56 of his 115 games played. He hit only .223/.288/.376, a 92 OPS+ overall, but in 29 appearances as a pinch-hitter, he accumulated a robust .308/.345/.615 batting line, including two of his eight total home runs.
Regular season game of the year: Stubbs had a few games with key late-game hits, including doubling and scoring the winning run on a balk, but likely none top coming to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning - an inning entered on the wrong end of a 3-0 shutout - against a top closer, All-Star Todd Worrell in this case, with the bases loaded and two outs, and delivering a full-count grand slam to break the game wide open. It was the first and only grand slam Stubbs hit with the Dodgers.
NLCS performance: Stubbs was 2-for-8 against the Mets, starting only in game one. The two hits were inconsequential singles that came after replacing the ailing Kirk Gibson in the final game of the series.
World Series performance: With the A's trotting out all right-handed starting pitchers and Gibson injured, Stubbs started all five games of the World Series at first base, batting in the number two slot. He hit .294/.333/.412 in 18 plate appearances.
In the third inning of game two, Stubbs drove in the first run of the game with a single, helping to set the stage for Mike Marshall's three-run home run that capped that five-run inning. Stubbs' double in game three plated the Dodgers only run in a game that was lost when Mark McGwire's home run culminated an epic battle with reliever Jay Howell.
Stubbs also singled and scored the first run of the clinching game five, chased home - probably literally - by Mickey Hatcher's second home run of the series.
Post-1988 playing career: Stubbs left the Dodgers as a player during the spring of 1990. After making a formal trade request and enduring an apparently acrimonious contract negotiation (they were $95,000 apart on arbitration figures - or more than 20% of the midpoint - for a contract that was settled at $450,000), the Dodgers - who were set at first base with Eddie Murray - traded Stubbs to the Houston Astros for Terry Wells, a 26-year old, minor-league, wild-ass, lefty reliever, who actually made five starts for the Dodgers in 1990 before being released that December.
After a career-year in Houston that included homering six times against his old club, Stubbs left the Astros for an approximately $4 million, two-year free agent deal with Milwaukee. He subsequently bounced through the Expos and Red Sox organizations without sniffing the big leagues, then spent a year toiling in the Mexican League before resurfacing as a left-handed bench bat for one final major-league season with the Detroit Tigers in 1995.
Where he is now: Stubbs is slated to be the batting coach for the Albuquerque Isotopes this upcoming season, which will be his fifth season coaching in the Dodgers minor league system. From 1997-2008, he worked in the Atlanta Braves organization, primarily as a minor-league hitting instructor or batting coach.