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‘Only in Hollywood’ captures the spirit of the 1988 Dodgers

Documentary will air Sunday night on MLB Network

Photo: MLB Network

MLB Network will air a documentary this Sunday on the 1988 Dodgers, entitled ‘Only in Hollywood,’ that does a great job in chronicling the last World Series winner for the franchise.

“The overwhelming theme was the emotion of this team. The emotion of Orel, and Kirk, and Tommy, because that’s what this team had. An incredible heart and togetherness,” former Dodgers general manager Fred Claire said at a viewing of the documentary on Tuesday. “I think they did a great job with this team because it portrayed what this team was all about.”

The film is narrated by lifelong Dodgers fan Bryan Cranston, and weaves from 2018’s opening day celebration of the 30th anniversary of that team to archival footage from 1988. The footage actually starts in 1987, when Fred Claire took over as general manager after longtime Dodgers executive Al Campanis stepped down after making racist comments on ABC’s Nightline.

“The saddest part in the film was the story on Al, because he was a great man, and a great baseball man,” Claire said. “I know it was a part of history so it was portrayed. That was really the only part I didn’t enjoy.”

That 1988 team will forever be the defining sports team of my lifetime, a team from my favorite sport and capturing my 12-year-old heart that was just waiting for a taker. If his documentary was 10 hours I would have enjoyed every minute of it. As it is, roughly 45 minutes or so, it has a crisp pace throughout.

The main points are certainly covered in the film, including the acquisition of Kirk Gibson as a free agent and his immediate impact on the team, Orel Hershiser’s record 59-inning scoreless streak and incredible postseason run, Mickey Hatcher and the “Stunt men,” both postseason battles and of course Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

“The one part of this film where enough credit is not given but is a part of the game, is the scouts,” Claire said. “Mel Didier, a dear friend that we lost, was not mentioned. It was his scouting report — Eckersley, 3-2, a backdoor slider is coming.”

Interviews with Hershiser and Gibson are featured throughout the film as well as several other players plus Tommy Lasorda, Claire and Bob Costas to name a few, but the standout to me in this area is Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times, who covered that team. He has some of the best lines of the show, even if only to set up a highlight or two.

The film gets emotional at times, especially for Hershiser, who was also at Tuesday’s screening.

“You really start to believe it was the emotion of the team, the heart of the team, and what he was seeking when he went and got Mickey Hatcher, and knew Kirk Gibson would be the guy,” Hershiser said. “It was inside of a lot of us who were already Dodgers but Gibby and Mickey made it cool to care, and outwardly. As outwardly as Tommy Lasorda.

“Before everyone was like, ‘That’s Tommy, and we’re the professional baseball players.’ Then it became that there’s a few players on our team who care outwardly like Tommy does, and we said okay we can run with that. It gave us permission to show what was inside of us.”

‘Only in Hollywood’ will air on MLB Network on Sunday at both 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. PT.