It was only a walk but for one moment it was exactly what the Dodgers needed.
The 1988 postseason seems littered with infamous walks. We all know about the Mike Davis walk before Gibby. Craig recently reminded us of thewalk before Mike Scoscia's Gooden killer shot. Those walks will stand the test of time in Dodger lore as they helped account for two of the biggest wins of the 1988 postseason.
My friends, I'm here to remind you of the walk before all those walks, a walk that should have resulted in Mike Sharperson being known as a postseason hero, and not simply as the future utility all-star.
It was Game 3 of the NLCS with the series tied at one game a piece. The score was tied 3-3 going into the eighth inning but the Dodgers had managed to load the bases on a seeing eye single by Scoscia, an infield single by Jeff Hamilton, and a walk to Mike Davis on a 3-0 count. . Flame-throwing Randy Myers replaced the bewildered Roger McDowell so Tommy Lasorda went to his young right handed pinch hitter. Sharperson took the count to 3-2 and with all of the baseball world watching, watched ball four go by allowing Jose Gonzales to score the go-ahead run. It would probably be the greatest at bat of Sharperson's career, and as he was standing on first with Jay Howell warming up in the bullpen the Dodger Angels were fitting him for his wings.
Alas, Jay Howell took pine tar to the mound and would not save this game. As Mike watched the Mets score five runs in the eight to win the game 8-4, his Dodger wings melted away and disappeared into the wasteland of other heroic moments that were overshadowed by the failure of others.
How acquired: In one of the worst trades of the 80's, Sharperson was acquired for 21-year-old Juan Guzman in September 1987. Guzman would make the majors by 1991 and be one of the best pitchers in the AL from 1991-93, going 40-11 over that time with some Cy Young votes in 1993 to boot. .
Prior MLB experience: Mike started the 1987 season as the starting second baseman for the Blue Jays, who drafted him in the first round in 1981 (11th pick overall). That ended on May 23, with Mike hitting .208/.269/.271, and he spent the rest of the summer in Triple-A. Once the Dodgers acquired him in late September, he immediately became the starting second baseman for the final ten games, with some third base thrown in. He did as little with the Dodgers as he had done with the Blue Jays, hitting a robust .225/.291/.287.
1988 age: 26
1988 stats:With only 59 at bats he wasn't able to do much. One measly extra base hit, fifteen singles gave him a line of .271 / . 290 / .288
Regular season game of the year: Looking for a needle in a haystack he did have one game, on Sept. 24 against the Giants, where he pinch hit for John Tudor, delivered a pinch hit, stayed in the game and got another hit, with each hit driving in a run. The play-by-play says he got a bloop single and a seeing eye single.
NLCS performance: Aside from his RBI walk in Game 3, Sharperson had one other plate appearance against the Mets, a failed sacrifice attempt against Myers in the 11th inning of Game 4 at Shea Stadium.
World Series performance: Sharperson was left off the World Series roster in favor of Dave Anderson, whose back injury healed.
Post-1988 playing career: While major league baseball had been a struggle in 1987-88, his bat would come alive and by 1992 would become the strangest All-Star the Dodgers ever had. In 1991 Sharperson and Lenny Harris were a dynamite platoon duo at third base. In 1992, Sharperson would split his time between second and third, platooning with both Harris and.The 1992 team needs its own story and it is coming soon but we will preface this with the fact that Shaperson was the only All-Star on a team that had the likes of Eric Davis, Daryl Strawberry, Brett Butler, and Kal Daniels on it.
While Sharperson was an unlikely all-star given he was not a full-time player, his bat is what got him there. By the time the All-Star Game was played he had the hottest streak of his career and could boast of a line of .328/.424/.433. He would strike out in his only All-Star at-bat and his career spiraled down quite fast. Sharperson finished the 1992 season with a .300 average but only managed a .645 OPS in the second half of the season. In 1993 the one-time all -star only had 97 plate appearances and was released following the season.
Where he is now: While trying to resurrect his major league career Sharperson had caught on with the Triple-A Las Vegas Stars in 1996 and had made enough of an impression that the Padres recalled him to the major leagues on May 26. But instead of restarting his major league career at the age of 34, fate intervened and the unlikely Dodger All-Star died in a one-car crash at the 215/15 interchange. Mike was driving to San Diego to join the team against the Montreal Expos. According to the police report he died due to being ejected through his sunroof so I'm surmising he was not wearing a seat belt. Sharperson was 34
Just a personal note, even though Sharperson was never a full time player he was certainly a key player of the 1990-92 teams, and was a fan favorite, or least one of this fan's favorites. He had a big smile with rolly poly cheeks, and writing this reminded me how much I enjoyed his time with the team. If Sharperson was still alive I'm sure he'd be a Dodger special assistant to someone. His tag team with Harris and Hansen is also one of the reasons you will see myself much too often tout platoon systems.