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1988 Dodgers player profile: John Tudor, the hired slinger

John Tudor played on two St. Louis Cardinals teams that just missed winning it all, but finally got his ring with the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, despite being a non-factor in the LA post-season success.

Maybe John Tudor's somewhere in this parade photo, maybe he's not.
Maybe John Tudor's somewhere in this parade photo, maybe he's not.
Getty Images

Tudor had twice come close to tasting the ultimate victory in baseball in the three seasons prior to becoming a Dodger in 1988. The Cards fell to defeat in a seven-game World Series in both 1985 and 1987, with Tudor - a nearly sidearm slinger with a bit of an awkward and seemingly shortened delivery - taking the loss in potential series-clinching games in both affairs, though he also won two games in that first Series and one other in the second. One wonders if the championship won in 1988 was sweet at all for Tudor, given that he was unable to make much impact in the post-season and that he himself said upon being traded, "my heart is in St. Louis, but my arm will be in Los Angeles."

How acquired: The Dodgers traded slugger Pedro Guerrero on August 16, 1988 to obtain Tudor, whose 2.29 ERA was leading the NL at that time. An ineffective Fernando Valenzuela was injured and the Dodgers actively sought another left-handed starter to add to their all right-handed rotation. There were reports that the Detroit Tigers had said no to a Guerrero for Frank Tanana swap, and that discussions were held with Toronto regarding Mike Flanagan as well, but it was Tudor who headed west.

This trade fascinates because a contender like the Dodgers normally sends prospects in a mid-season trade for a rental player - though signed through 1989, Tudor's contract allowed him to demand a trade at the end of the year, and become a free agent if that request was not met - not an established middle of the order bat. But Guerrero was a pending free agent himself, although he and the Cardinals agreed to a $6.2 million, three-year extension as the exchange was consummated.

Prior MLB experience: Tudor debuted for the Boston Red Sox in 1979 and was in the majors to stay by 1981. He had 229 major-league starts under his belt for the Bosox, Pirates and Cardinals before joining the Dodgers, and posted a 95-60 record with a 3.30 ERA (120 ERA+) before the 1988 season. Tudor would have won the 1985 NL Cy Young Award were it not for a phenom named Gooden, and his 10 shutouts that year led all of baseball, as did his miniscule 0.938 WHIP. He is the last man to record 10 or more shutouts in a season and, since 1961, one of only six pitchers to do so, the others being named Gibson, Koufax, Chance, Marichal, and Palmer.

His 1985 campaign featured one of the all-time great closing runs for a pitcher: from June to the end of the year, Tudor had a 20-1 record in 26 starts that included all of the aforementioned shutouts, a ten-inning scoreless no-decision outing, and nine game scores of 80 or better. Over that span he had a 1.37 ERA and held the opposition to a .199/.234/.254/.488 batting line.

1988 age: 34

1988 stats: Overall Tudor posted a 10-8 won-loss record with a 2.32 ERA that was third-best in the NL that year, trailing Joe Magrane and David Cone. For the Dodgers, in nine starts he was 4-3 with a 2.41 ERA, while recording an excellent 3.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but a 1.3 WHIP. Tudor was actually fairly effective at first for LA as he had five quality starts plus a 5-inning, 2-hit, no-run start before having two abbreviated outings to end the season.

Regular season game of the year: Tudor tossed a complete-game victory at home against Philadelphia in his Dodger debut - an eleven-hitter! - but X-rays of his elbow were taken the next day due to a "twinge of pain in his elbow". However, his most effective outing was two starts later when he blanked those same Phillies for seven innings on four hits, striking out five on route to a Dodger shutout victory.

NLCS performance: Tudor started game four and scuffled through five-plus innings, allowing four runs and eight hits in what ultimately became one of the greatest playoff games in Dodger history.

World Series performance: Tudor retired the first four Oakland batters in game three, but his balky elbow gave way and he left the game and did not appear again in the series.

Post-1988 playing career: Tudor was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his throwing elbow shortly after game three of the World Series and had "Tommy John" surgery in the offseason, as well as having some cartilage removed from his shoulder, and two screws from his knee, remnants from an earlier injury. The injury effectively rendered his option to demand a trade moot and he rehabilitated his arm as a Dodger, somehow managing to return in late June of 1989 to make three starts. But he only lasted 8 1/3 combined innings before returning to the disabled list, then making three September relief appearances to close out his career in blue. He returned to the Cardinals as a free agent for one more season, winning the NL Comeback Player of the Year award before retiring at the end of the year.

Where he is now: Other than some minor-league coaching from 1992-1996, Tudor has kept a fairly low profile while being a family man, though he did help someone with her media class project.