In the 1988 baseball season, Dodger Orel Hershiser was a standout. Known as "Bulldog," he lead the National League in shutouts in 1984 (with four), in winning percentage in 1985 (.864 for a 19-3 record), and in innings pitched in 1987 (265) and 1988 (267).
Hershiser's most remarkable feat was "The Streak." At the end of August, he became virtually unhittable, pitching 59 scoreless innings to beat Don Drysdale's record of 58 set in 1968. To no one's surprise, Hershiser won the 1988 Cy Young Award, racking up a 23-8 season, 2.26 ERA, 15 complete games, and eight shutouts.
It was a surprise, though, that Los Angeles won the West, 7 games ahead of the Reds. Although Cincinnati was good -- Danny Jackson led the league with 23 wins, Tom Browning had a perfect game against Los Angeles on September 16, and the team had a division-topping 122 homers -- they weren't good enough.
Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda coaxed clutch performances from Mike Marshall (20 homer, 82 RBI), Steve Sax (.277 average, 42 stolen bases), and ex-Tiger Kirk Gibson. A wide receiver in college at Michigan State, Gibson was named 1988 National League Most Valuable Player -- only the third player to win the award who didn't bat .300 (he averaged .290), hit 30 homers (he belted 25), or drive in 100 runs (he totaled 76).
New York's Darryl Strawberry, many opined, was more deserving of the title. Strawberry led the league with 39 homers and had 101 RBI, as New York won 100 ball games, 15 better than the second-place Pirates. The quietest left fielder in baseball, Kevin McReynolds let his bat do the talking, hitting .288 with 27 round-trippers and 99 RBI. Minor league sensation Gregg Jefferies joined the club in September to hit a sizzling .321.
The man in the American League that everyone was talking about was circuit MVP Jose Canseco, the first man in baseball history to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in a single season. Leading Oakland to its first pennant since 1974, the 6'3", 220-pound slugger terrorized the opposition with his major league-best 42 homers, 124 RBI, and .307 batting average.
In the American League East, Boston was going nowhere fast until coach Joe Morgan replaced John McNamara in the middle of July. The Red Sox won 19 of their first 20 contests under Morgan, finishing just 1 game ahead of Sparky Anderson's Tigers. Wade Boggs ignored his off-the-field exploits (a $6 million palimony suit) to lead the league in hitting -- with a .366 average -- for the fourth consecutive season, topping the majors in three of those years. And a 24-year-old outfielder named Mike Greenwell hit like a young Ted Williams, racking up a .325 average, 22 homers, and 119 RBI.
The NLCS was a hard-fought battle. The Dodgers and the Mets alternated victories for the first six contests, with Los Angeles clinching the title in a seventh-game shutout courtesy of Hershiser. The A's swept the Red Sox in the ALCS. Canseco homered in the first, second, and fourth matches and had four RBI.
The 1988 World Series matched the surprising Dodgers against the mighty A's. Game one had one of the most improbable at-bats in World Series history: Trailing 4-3 with one on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, an injured Gibson limped to the plate as a pinch hitter. Gibson nailed a two-run homer over the right-field fence to give Los Angeles a 5-4 win.
The rest of the race belonged to Hershiser, the 1988 World Series MVP. The Bulldog won games two and five as Los Angeles stunned Oakland four games to one.
Find headlines and summaries of major stories from the 1988 baseball season on the next page.