In honor of the sacred 50th anniversary of our Beloved Dodger Stadium, I will be releasing my top ten moments of Dodger Stadium history. Currently the Dodgers are casting a special vote on what the top ten moments of the last 50 years at the Ravine are. These are my top ten however. Please note these are mine, and mine alone. These are the top ten moments according to me, a lifelong fanatical Dodger fan, who has grown up in southern California. There are so many memories it is almost too hard to choose just ten. I will count down each one per day, leading up to the Dodger’s Opening day game April 5th in San Diego. Each one of these moments will make you smile, laugh, and will bring chills down your spine. Some of them may even take your breath away. Without further adieu, I give you the number five moment in Dodger Stadium history…Orel Hershiser, and the Dodgers beat the Mets in Game seven at Dodger Stadium to win the National League Pennant.
The 1988 National League Championship Series was a brutal hard fought series between the Dodgers and the New York Mets. The Dodgers surprised the world by winning the NL West on the strengths of their strong pitching staff led by Orel Hershiser and their star slugger Kirk Gibson. The Bulldog had pitched 59 straight scoreless innings in September, breaking Don Drysdale’s previous record of 58 consecutive scoreless innings. Kirk Gibson put up very good but not great slugging numbers, and he would win the NL MVP award for his leadership and never say die attitude.
They faced a Mets team that had won 100 games during the regular season, and they had beat the Dodgers 11 out of 12 games during their head to head match-ups. None of that mattered though, as the Dodgers would not give up. On paper they were a mismatch, there was no way the underdog Dodgers would beat the mighty Mets right? WRONG
Oh how wrong those pundits were. The series was a dog fight. With the series lead going back and forth until the last game. The Mets took game one at Dodger Stadium, while the Dodgers were able to fight back to win game two and tie the series. As the series shifted to New York for Games three, four and five, rain forced the postponement of game three, and created undesirable playing conditions at Shea Stadium. This series had it all. Rain, trash talking, and a pine tar related suspension of the Dodger’s closer Jay Howell.
Before game two, David Cone released a very stupid comment to the press. Cone, one of the Mets starting pitchers at the time, had this to say about the Dodgers and Orel Hershiser the morning of game two:
Justice. Yes, there has to be justice in this universe. Ever heard the saying: Better to be lucky than good? Trash it, because Hershiser was lucky, Doc was good. Look what happened to luck in the ninth inning last night.
It’s called justice—catching up to luck and pummeling it into the ground. We knew about Orel’s 59 zeroes, but none of us thought he was invincible. Shoot, Doc pitched a much better game. Trouble is, Orel was lucky for eight innings.
The Dodgers saw this quote, and were seriously ticked off. They decided to do what true baseball men would do, they took all of their anger out on the field. Game four would feature the Dodgers making an amazing last minute comeback, down by two runs in the 9th inning, facing Mets all-star starter Doc Gooden. Mike Scioscia would tie the game with a two-run home run, and Kirk Gibson would win the game with a home run in the 12th inning. The Dodgers would win game five, and after the series shifted back to Dodger Stadium for game six, saw the Mets win game 6 to tie the series at three games a piece.
Game seven would be one of the greatest games in Dodger Stadium history, and still to this day, the only game seven at Dodger Stadium ever.
In the game seven, Hershiser would face Ron Darling in the pitching match-up. Hershiser had pitched 8 plus innings in game one, six in game three, and then because of the rain-out was able to make an appearance in relief in game four and got the save. Hershiser’s complete game shutout in game seven would clinch the NL championship for the Dodgers and NLCS MVP for Hershiser ( Hershiser would also go on to win the world series MVP).
The Dodgers would score six runs in the first two innings and five in the second. Consecutive singles from Mike Scioscia, Jeff Hamilton, and Alfredo Griffin would load the bases for the Dodgers. There is an error on Hershiser’s ground ball by Wally Backman causing a run to score. Another run would come across on the second error of the inning for the Mets. A two-run single from Steve Sax would put the Dodgers ahead 6-0. With Hershiser on the mound during his Cy Young award season, it was all but over.
Hershiser won 23 games that season, finished with 8 shutouts and 59 consecutive scoreless innings, but perhaps his most amazing feat that year was the way he pitched the Dodgers into the playoffs.
Hershiser pitched a complete game five hit shutout capping his tremendous 1988 season and series. The last out was a called third strike to Howard Johnson, as the Dodgers won the NL pennant and a trip to the World Series. Orel Hershiser’s kneeling prayer on the mound is an iconic moment in Dodger history that will live on in our minds forever. Nothing can top that special moment….Well almost nothing I should say….(Puts pinky finger to mouth like Dr. Evil) I think we all know the one and only moment that can top it).
Now if you are going to talk about magic moments, what happened in the world series that year defines the word Magic. However I think some Dodger fans may forget that almost just as important as Gibson’s legendary blast, was the series of games in the NLCS that led up to the world series. Especially that memorable game seven, perhaps, one of the most memorable moments at Dodger Stadium ever.