Swanson: Orel Hershiser and one brilliant summer

From SABR member Ryan Swanson at The National Pastime Museum on March 24, 2014:

In the summer of 1988, as a 12-year-old boy, I had a magical baseball summer. Over the course of a few short weeks, my grandfather introduced me to Vin Scully, Dodger Dogs, the LA Times’ Jim Murray, and Orel Hershiser. The timing was perfect. In 1988, the Dodgers raced to the NL Pennant and a World Series victory over the seemingly invincible Oakland A’s. The Dodgers’ ace, Hershiser, ripped off a string of dominant performances and scoreless innings that defied all explanations. I have never loved baseball as much as I did that summer.

Orel Hershiser became my favorite player because even I, a newcomer to the baseball world, could tell that he was in the midst of something transcendent. My baseball education was long overdue. Growing up near Denver, I had no hometown Major League team. But each summer, I spent several weeks with my grandparents in Sierra Madre (just east of Pasadena), California. My grandfather loved the Dodgers. The club’s games were always on in the background. Long days spent at the pool with my cousins and grandmother were followed by watching the Dodgers. I can still remember the feeling of smog in my chest from an afternoon of swimming, mixed with the resonate tones of Scully at the microphone. During that summer, I quickly learned about John Shelby’s problems with the curveball. I admired Steve Sax’s play at second base (long before he became that Steve Sax). And I came to agree with the much-told story that one certainly shouldn’t put eye black in Kirk Gibson’s cap in spring training—not when there was a winning culture to establish.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/my-favorite-player-orel-hershiser-and-one-brilliant-summer

Originally published: March 25, 2014. Last Updated: March 25, 2014.