In 1981, a 20-year old kid from Mexico came to the Dodgers and would end up making a lasting impact on the organization. Fernando Valenzuela had one of the best seasons ever by a rookie that year. He started the 1981 season 8-0 with five shutouts and an ERA of 0.50. He ended the year as the league leader in strikeouts, complete games, shutouts, and innings pitched. He was the first and only pitcher in baseball to win both the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards in the same season.
In 1990, even though clearly not the pitcher he once was, Fernando threw a no-hitter against the Cardinals. It was a swan song of sorts for Fernando, as that would be his final year with the Dodgers. Not only was he a great pitcher, but Fernando also became a cultural icon. It may be hard to picture an entire season as a “moment” but it’s hard to ignore greatness of Fernandomania.
#9. Hershiser breaks Don Drysdale’s consecutive scoreless innings streak
Don Drysdale’s record of consecutive scoreless innings (58 2/3) was remarkable. Many probably thought it was a record that was out of reach for anyone to pass. But for the kind of year that Orel Hershiser had in 1988, nothing was out of reach.
During the final month of the season, Hershiser dominated. After giving up runs during his start on August 30th he went on to pitch six consecutive scoreless starts, throwing at least 9 innings in all of them. In his last start of the streak, Hershiser pitched 10 shutout innings against the Padres to get the record. Since that was his last start of the regular season, the streak technically ended there, but in his next start in Game 1 of the NLCS, he pitched another 8 scoreless innings. The Bulldog was as lights out as a pitcher has been during his ’88 stretch.
#8. Kershaw’s no-hitter
Saying Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter was one of the greatest games ever pitched is no exaggeration. He may not have got the perfect game, but Kershaw was perfect that June night in 2014 against the Colorado Rockies. A Hanley Ramirez error was the only blemish in Kershaw’s 15 strikeout performance. At the time, Kershaw received the highest game score ever for any pitcher with a perfect game or a no-hitter with no walks/hit batters (game score being a metric devised to determine a pitcher’s overall effectiveness in a game.)
Many expect greatness all the time from great players. When it happens though, we shouldn’t be any less amazed. Great pitchers like Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, and Steve Carlton never threw a no-hitter. A historic performance by one of the game’s great players like Kershaw will always be remembered by Dodgers fans.
#7. Dodgers win 1981 World Series
After losing to the Yankees in the ’77 & ’78 World Series, the championship in 1981 had to be relieving for the club, as they finally got past their rivals. In every game they won in the series, the Dodgers would have to come from behind for the victory.
The Dodgers lost the first two games in New York and had to be thinking “here we go again.” But they rebounded in Game 3 and won it behind Fernando Valenzuela. In Game 4, the Yankees took a 4-0 lead, and led 6-3 going into the bottom of the 6th before the Dodgers scored 5 runs in the next two innings to get the victory. Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager hit back-to-back home runs in Game 5, and Jerry Reuss won a tight pitching duel to put the Dodgers one win away. In Game 6, back in New York, the Yankees took an early 1-0 lead, but the Dodgers offense would blow up, scoring the next 8 runs.
They won the game 9-2, finally beating their rival, and giving that famous Dodgers infield of Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey, a championship together.
#6. Four home runs in a row in 9th inning, walk-off in extras
The four home run and walk off game or the “4+1 game”. It’s become one of the most memorable moments for Dodgers fans. Down four runs in the bottom of the 9th inning, the Dodgers got back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs from Jeff Kent, J.D Drew, Russell Martin, and Marlon Anderson to tie the game, with the last two coming off of all-star closer Trevor Hoffman.
Hitting four consecutive home runs is a feat itself, but to do it in the bottom of the 9th inning to tie the game, makes it even more special. Oh, and that wasn’t it. After that crazy comeback, the game was still only tied, and all that positive emotion seemed like it got sucked out of the stadium when the Padres took the lead yet again in the top of the 10th. But as fate would have it, the Dodgers had more to come. Down a run, with a man on first, Nomar Garciaparra hit a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th, giving the Dodgers the victory, and capping off an unbelievable night.
To add to all that, this wasn’t just any old game during the season. It happened in mid-September, in the middle of a tight pennant race between the Dodgers and Padres. With the win, the Dodgers jumped San Diego and overtook first place in the NL West. A truly remarkable moment in franchise history.
That concludes the third part of the Dodgers all-time moments list. Be sure to check out the fourth and final part, which will cover moments #5 – #1.