Normally I do a post about this time each year dealing with what happened 25 years ago. I’ve held off this year because the post would involve the Dodgers and they happen to be still playing (although for how much longer is a question). But it’s time to remind you what happened a quarter century back.
It was supposed to be a matchup between the “Bash Brothers” of Oakland and the Mets. Everyone agreed that the World Series would be between the two best teams in baseball and those were the Athletics and the Mets. The A’s were dominant in the American League. Led by MVP Jose Conseco who became the first player with both 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases, “Bash Brother” Mark McGwire only one year removed from his Rookie of the Year performance, a fine pitching staff, and Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley Oakland rolled over Boston to keep up its end of the bargain.
In the National League the Mets, two years removed from their World Series win, rolled to the NL East title and had only to dispatch the Dodgers, a team they held an 11-1 record against, to meet the A’s in what was a hugely anticipated World Series. On the way to that Series showdown, the Dodgers pulled off one of the greatest upsets since David took out Goliath in the first round.
It was a fairly nondescript Dodgers team. Most were players no one had heard of prior to 1988. The infield was, first around to third, Franklin Stubbs, Steve Sax, Alfredo Griffin, and Jeff Hamilton. Sax was a former Rookie of the Year (1982), Griffin was a Toronto cast-off who’d failed to cross the Mendoza line with his bat, and Stubbs and Hamilton were, at least to most fans, unknown. The outfield had Mike Marshall (not to be confused with the 1970s relief man) who had some power, John Shelby (another cast-off, this time from Baltimore), and Kirk Gibson. Gibson was new to the team, a free agent from Detroit. He’d become the heart and soul of the team and was destined to pick up the NL MVP award at the end of the season. Mike Scioscia was the catcher. The staff consisted of Orel Hershiser, having his career year and destined to win the NL Cy Young Award, and a pair of Tims, Leary and Belcher. Fernando Valenzuela was hurt, Don Sutton had just retired. John Tudor was over from St. Louis, but had pitched only nine games for LA> Although Jay Howell had emerged as the primary closer, Alejandro Pena (not yet a closer for the Braves), and Jesse Orosco (a Mets cast-off) had, together, as many saves as Howell. Other than Hershiser, it was a less-than-stellar staff.
But then they beat the Mets. It took seven games, but they did it. Scioscia and Gibson had big hits, Hershiser picked up a win, and of all things, a save (only his second relief appearance of the year) and the Dodgers won the playoff. Along the way, Gibson’s injuries mounted and it was considered unlikely that he’d play in the Series.
Of course you know the result. Conseco smashed a grand slam in game one putting Oakland ahead 4-0 and confirming people’s belief that the Series would be short and one-sided. Then Gibson’s sub, Mickey Hatcher hit the first of his two home runs (he’d had one all season) and the Dodgers clawed back to 4-3 before Gibson pinch hit one of the two most famous home runs in Dodgers history (Bobby Thomson hit the other) and win game one. Hershiser was magic in game two throwing a three-hit shutout . The A;s managed a win in game three on McGwire’s walk off home run.
The key game was game four. Using what Bob Costas described as the weakest lineup in World Series history, the Dodgers pulled off a surprise. With backups Hatcher, Mike Davis, and Rick Dempsey (Scioscia got hurt during the game) playing and Danny Heep as the designated hitter, they beat Cy Young candidate Dave Stewart 4-3. Then Hershiser came back to win game five, the Series, and the Series MVP the next evening.
For the Dodgers it was a great one year run. they dropped to fourth in 1989 and didn’t get back to playoff baseball until 1995. They have not been to the World Series since. Oakland, on the other hand, won two more AL titles, and the 1989 World Series. They won one more division title in 1992, then slid back.
It was a fascinating Series, dominated today by Gibson’s magical home run. But each game was individually interesting with three games being decided by one run. It’s kind of a shame that has become known for one play.
Tags: 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, 1988 Oakland A's, Alfredo Griffin, Dennis Eckersley, Franklin Stubbs, Jay Howell, Jeff Hamilton, John Shelby, John Tudor, Jose Canseco, Kirk Gibson, Mark McGwire, Mike Marshall, Mike Scioscia, Orel Hershiser, Steve Sax, Tim Belcher, Tim Leary