Drysdale Takes Hershiser’s Best Pitch and Keeps Smiling
The gray-haired man in the golf shirt stood in the dugout, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, dust climbing on his white shoes.
Little did he know that amid the pandemonium on the mound, the pitcher was asking for him.
“Where is Drysdale? I’ve got to find Drysdale,” Orel Hershiser said as he walked off the mound at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium after he pitched his 59th consecutive scoreless inning Wednesday night.
The gray-haired man in the golf shirt met him at the end of the dugout. They embraced.
Don Drysdale told him, “It couldn’t happen to a better kid.”
Drysdale once was that kid. This record was once his, 58 scoreless innings pitched in 1968. But on Wednesday night, as all the attention went to a guy who now must be considered baseball’s best pitcher this season, a Dodger legend moved into the background.
The evening ended with Hershiser being hustled to an interview room while Drysdale, standing on the field, motioned to his wife in the box seats to take their baby and meet him in the parking lot.
“I know I said I never thought the record could be approached,” Drysdale said. “But really, I thought it could be approached. And it has. My record--I mean his record--well, I guess it can be topped.
“At least it stays in the family.”
Drysdale said this plainly, as if he were saying his address. If he was sad, he didn’t show it. If he was upset, he didn’t show it.
For the Dodger radio announcer, a guy who spent his evening announcing two innings and the rest of the time working on statistics, popcorn and a toothpick, it was a night of everything but bitterness. It was Hershiser’s night of greatness, but also Drysdale’s night of grace:
-- First inning. Sitting in the radio booth, Drysdale is reading a newspaper, his tiny reading glasses perched on his nose. If there is a game going on out there, you wouldn’t know it by watching him.
-- Third inning. He broadcasts his first inning. An ABC camera is in his face, looking for expression, for reaction. It gets none.
In the bottom of the inning, the Padres go down 1-2-3, the camera backs off and Drysdale lets out a relieved or irritated, “Ohhhhhh.” Broadcast partner Vin Scully laughs and pokes him in the arm.
After the inning, Drysdale is walking through the press box when Steve Garvey, a former Padre and Dodger star, wearing his customary suit and tie, innocently asks whether Drysdale threw out the game’s first ball. Drysdale stares at him.
“I can’t throw it that far anymore,” he says.
-- Fourth inning. While the Padres are batting, Drysdale casually leaves the booth and visits the press box cafeteria to fill up on popcorn and soda. Hershiser’s streak could have ended while his back was turned.
“Hey,” Drysdale says, “I never was much of a record guy.”
-- Seventh inning. Drysdale’s second and final inning. After the Padres go down, he simply says, “That’s 56 innings in the book.”
The score is still tied, 0-0. He shakes his head and looks at his watch.
“We might be here all night,” he says.
-- Eighth inning. With two out and Padre Roberto Alomar batting, a tiny hand sticks through the door of the broadcast booth and a child shouts, “Daddy, Daddy.”
A woman brings the boy inside. He is still pointing and shouting, “Daddy, daddy.”
He is pointing at Drysdale. The woman is Drysdale’s wife, Ann Meyers. The boy is their 14-month-old son, Donnie.
Drysdale turns in his seat and walks up to greet them, and if Orel Hershiser could smile any bigger than Drysdale smiled, we’d like to see it.
“That’s my boy,” Drysdale said. “Something, isn’t he?”
--Ninth inning. Drysdale is in the elevator, heading for the field and his KABC postgame show. His record is all but gone now. His calm smile is not.
“You know, I got in the Hall of Fame, and after that, nothing is as important,” he says. “That’s it, that’s the greatest.
“I don’t feel bad, I feel good. I feel good just watching Hershiser pitch. He’s in such a groove. I’ve been rooting for him, working hard, really rooting. I have been thinking, “Hit the ball at someone, hit the ball down.”
Drysdale said he has been rooting so hard that not once during the streak had he said anything to Hershiser about it.
“I told myself I would not say anything to him about it, and I haven’t,” he said. “On the postgame show, I’ve asked him how he feels, and things like that, but I’ve never talked to him about now it’s 40, now it’s 49, that kind of thing. I didn’t want that monkey on my back when I pitched, and I wouldn’t put it on his back.”
Later in the interview room, a couple of reporters attempted to speak to Drysdale while the new record-holder was talking. Drysdale pointed to Hershiser.
“You listen to him now,” he said.
HERSHISER’S 59-INNING SCORELESS STREAK
DATE OPPONENT/SITE INN. H R ER BB SO SCORE Sept. 5 Atlanta (Road) 9 4 0 0 1 8 3-0 Sept. 10 Cincinnati (Home) 9 7 0 0 3 8 5-0 Sept. 14 Atlanta (Home) 9 6 0 0 2 8 1-0 Sept. 19 Houston (Road) 9 4 0 0 0 5 1-0 Sept. 23 San Francisco (Road) 9 5 0 0 2 2 3-0 Sept. 28 San Diego (Road) 10 4 0 0 1 3 1-2*
-Streak began with 4 scoreless innings in a 4-2 victory over Montreal on Aug. 30
* Dodgers lost game in 16 innings.
DRYSDALE’S 58-INNING SCORELESS STREAK
DATE OPPONENT/SITE INN. H R ER BB SO SCORE May 14 Chicago (Home) 9 2 0 0 3 7 1-0 May 18 Houston (Home) 9 5 0 0 2 6 1-0 May 22 St. Louis (Road) 9 5 0 0 0 8 2-0 May 26 Houston (Road) 9 6 0 0 2 6 5-0 May 31 San Francisco (Home) 9 6 0 0 2 7 3-0 June 4 Pittsburgh (Home) 9 3 0 0 0 8 5-0
-Streak ended with 4 scoreless innings in a 5-3 victory over Philadelphia on June 8, 1968.