You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 2000, Orel Hershiser announced his retirement.
He had a marvelous career, which included one of the greatest seasons — 1988 — a pitcher has ever had. Hershiser broke Don Drysdale’s record with 59 consecutive scoreless innings.
Drysdale was a Dodgers broadcaster on the night of Sept. 28, 1988.
“When I went to the mound in the 10th inning [the inning in which he broke the record], I looked up to the press box to salute Don, but he wasn’t there,” Hershiser said. “They had sent him down after the inning to interview me. We did it live, during the game, after they took me out.”
The Dodgers lost in 16 innings, but Hershiser got the historic ball from the last out of the 10th.
“We were worried that [center fielder] Jose Gonzalez was going to throw the ball in the stands after the inning,” Hershiser said, laughing. “When Fernando [Valenzuela] won his 20th game, Jose threw the ball in the stands as Fernando watched the ball just fly away.”
Hershiser’s 59-inning streak nearly stopped after 43 innings — as Drysdale’s had after 45 innings in 1968, when Drysdale hit the Giants’ Dick Dietz with a pitch with the bases loaded, but umpire Harry Wendelstedt ruled Dietz didn’t attempt to get out of the way, and called it a strike.
“I had runners at first and third with one out against the Giants [Sept. 23], and Brett Butler slid out of the baseline, and the umpires ruled it an automatic double play. Without that call, the run would have scored,” Hershiser said. “That is the only time that call has ever happened to me as a pitcher. I ran off the field yelling, ‘I had my Dick Dietz moment!”’
Hershiser had a brilliant postseason in 1988, going 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA, two shutouts and a save. He pitched the clinching Game 5 against the A’s, going the distance.
“I am a crier,” Hershiser said. “With one out to go in the ninth, I walked down the back of the mound to rub up the ball. I was seconds away from crying. I had to put my game face back on and execute. When I struck out Tony Phillips to end it, I had the oddest reaction. I didn’t fall to my knees and throw my glove in the air like Jesse Orosco. I didn’t hoist the catcher off the ground. I just stuck my hand in the air. It was awkward. It’s because I let my guard down. I was thinking, ‘There has to be another out. There has to be another inning.”’
Hershiser won the Cy Young that season. After the season, he was invited to the White House.
“I got three separate meetings with President and Mrs. Reagan; you usually only get one,” Hershiser said. “Colin Powell asked me for my table card, it was like 32. I was moved to Table 1. I was sitting in between the president and Margaret Thatcher. I was having a pretty good night. When it was time to leave, a Marine in dress whites walked us to our limo. We were about the same age, late 20s, we wore a uniform, we were the same guy. He opened the limo door for me, I took out my wallet and said, ‘I don’t have any singles.”’
Hershiser laughed in retelling that story.
The Marine said, “That will be all, Cy Young.”
Other baseball notes for June 27
In 1990, Dave Parker recorded his 2,500th hit. Great player, huge man. He once played basketball with Cal Ripken, another huge man. Halfway through the final game, Parker exclaimed, “I’ve never been pushed around by a shortstop before.”
In 1996, Jeff Conine was born. He was Mr. Marlin. Great racquetball player. On Opening Day 2003 in Baltimore, it snowed violently for a brief time, then it stopped. Conine, who was playing first base that day for the Orioles, said “it was like being inside a snow globe.”
In 2003, Johnny Damon got three hits in a 14-run first inning of a 25-8 win over the Marlins. He hit a double, a triple and a single.
In 1986, the Giants’ Robby Thompson was caught stealing four times in a game — in the fourth, sixth, ninth and 11th innings. He struck out in the 11th but reached base on a wild pitch. Then was caught stealing. In 2013, Jacoby Ellsbury stole 52 bases, and was caught stealing four times.