Few fans need a reminder that it’s been 30 years since the Dodgers have won a World Series. A new film, produced by MLB Network, tells that story from the winter of 1988 until the final out of that championship from the perspective of the Dodger legends who lived it.
An Underdog Season
1988, the improbable, impossible season that Dodger fans born before and since will have no trouble recalling. Though the story’s been told countless times, it never seems to get old.
The Dodgers were coming off of two consecutive seasons in which they posted a 73-89 record. Despite new general manager Fred Claire’s offseason acquisition of All-Star outfielder Kirk Gibson, expectations were low. It was these low expectations that manager Tommy Lasorda would use as fuel for the fire he lit under his ballclub.
The hard-nosed Gibson set the tone early in spring training, making it clear to his teammates that he wasn’t going to tolerate foolishness. The message was received, and from that point, the Dodgers hardly had to look back.
The 1988 Dodgers hit the ground running as soon as the season started. Despite their early success they never quite escaped others’ expectations of failure. On paper, they were a mediocre team that would surely stumble at the first bump in the road.
The bumps came in the form of injured players, starters who had played key roles in their hot start.
In came the Stunt-Men, a platoon of hard-scrabble bench players that picked up the slack of the missing regulars. They were so named and led by Mickey Hatcher, a hard-working utility player in the twilight of his career. The Stunt-Men made invaluable contributions on the offensive side of the game.
On the defensive end, Orel Hershiser led the Dodgers pitching staff with a record-breaking performance. From August 30 until September 28, Hershiser would pitch 59 consecutive innings without giving up a single earned run, breaking Don Drysdale’s all-time record.
It was during this streak that against all expectations, the Dodgers would clinch the NL West and a spot in the League Championship Series.
Still Counted Out
The Dodgers had already shocked the baseball world by winning their division. They were to face the mighty Mets, the clear favorite to advance to the World Series.
Again, Lasorda used that negativity to propel his players to greatness. The Dodgers clinched the National League pennant in a dramatic 7-game series, relying heavily on the arm of Orel Hershiser.
What comes next, of course, is easily pictured in the minds of every fan who has rooted for the Dodgers over the last 30 years.
The limp to the plate, the hurried timeout, Eckersley’s pitch, Gibson’s swing, Scully’s call, a legend sealed forever.
After being counted out time and time again, the 1988 Dodgers would only need 5 games to clinch that series. A remarkable story, with what you might call a Hollywood ending.
MLB Network Presents: Only in Hollywood
This new documentary from MLB Network weaves the miracle of the Dodgers 1988 season into a stunning narrative as told by those who were there. Tommy Lasorda, Kirk Gibson, Vin Scully and Orel Hershiser are just a few of the Dodger legends who lend their recollections to this captivating documentary.
Narrated by Breaking Bad star and longtime Dodger fan Bryan Cranston, this film is a must watch for any baseball fan. It begins with the 1988 offseason and hits every fascinating detail on the path to the Dodgers World Championship.
The film frames the story of the 1988 Dodgers as a drama fit only for its Hollywood setting. This framing is especially effective in the retelling of Gibson’s home run. Most of us have seen the Game 1 miracle enough times to recite it by heart, but the filmmakers do an excellent job of making feel fresh. Watching the 9th inning drama unfold in this film was just as dramatic and hair-raising as ever.
The personal interviews offer the most emotionally impactful moments of the documentary. Peppered throughout the narrative are tender and humorous reflections. I am confident that audiences will be left satisfied at the end of the films 49-minute runtime. Dodger fans, in particular, should see their hopes in the current team skyrocket as clear parallels reveal themselves.
MLB Network Presents: Only in Hollywood will premiere this Sunday, July 15 at 5:00 p.m. PT on MLB Network. It will re-air that same night at 7:00 p.m. PT.
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