As much as Kirk Gibson’s resurrection from the disabled list and Orel Hershiser’s tour de force and Mickey Hatcher’s tour of de bases, what I’ll forever remember about this World Series is that ridiculous, ludicrous Dodger lineup that was on the field for the final out of Game 4.
Steve Sax, 2b.
Tracy Woodson, 1b.
Mickey Hatcher, lf.
Jose Gonzales, rf.
John Shelby, cf.
Rick Dempsey, c.
Danny Heep, dh.
Jeff Hamilton, 3b.
Alfredo Griffin, ss.
And a World Series legend is born.
This is a team for triple A, yet on one unfathomable October night, it was a team that beat the Oakland A’s, 4-3. Nine men out of their league, but in the World Series driver’s seat. Nine men with a total of 33 home runs--or 1 more than Mark McGwire. Nine men averaging 29 RBIs apiece--or 10 less than Walt Weiss, the No. 9 hitter in the Oakland batting order.
Bob Costas was right. During his now infamous pregame show, Costas described the Dodgers’ lineup as “one of the weakest in World Series history"--and that was long before the little-used Dempsey replaced Mike Scioscia, the lesser-used Woodson batted for Franklin Stubbs and the .083-hitting Gonzales pinch-hit for Mike Davis.
The Dodgers viewed this as blasphemy, but the next day, the San Francisco Chronicle took a whimsical look at the issue and stacked that Game 4 batting order against some classic World Series wimps of the post-World War II era. Alongside the 1988 Dodgers were the 1959 Chicago White Sox (the Hitless Wonders), the 1969 New York Mets (Al Weiss and the Amazin’s) and the 1987 St. Louis Cardinals (Jim Lindeman batting cleanup).
Trust us on this one. It wasn’t even close.
And yet, despite all the wailing and gnashing of Dodger teeth, what should it matter? If anything, it only enriches the Dodger fable, a colossal tale of triumph over injuries, odds and the Oakland A’s. Little League coaches across the country can finally retire the ’69 Mets and trot out some new material for the troops.
Move over, Ron Swoboda and J.C. Martin.
Costas’ Kids have arrived.
More jottings from a reporter’s World Series notebook. These memories can’t wait . . .
DR. FRANK JOBE, MEDIA CELEBRITY
With the Dodger injury list resembling a roll call, Dr. Jobe, the team physician, was summoned to the podium for a Wednesday news conference and promptly set a World Series record by fielding 20 minutes’ worth of questions about Gibson’s knee, Gibson’s hamstring, Mike Marshall’s back and John Tudor’s elbow.
Best question, delivered as a tongue-in-cheek jab at the oft-sidelined Marshall: “Dr. Jobe, have you found any correlation between mental stress and back spasms?”
Jobe never flinched or smiled and answered the query with total earnestness. And, surprisingly, he acknowledged that while “it’s hard to measure . . . I’m sure mental stress, in certain situations, can make a muscle spasm worse.”
It was, unintentionally, a very funny moment, certainly the best of the normally drab interview-room fare.
Footnote: Marshall was back in the starting lineup the next day.
ONE INSULT JAY HOWELL DIDN’T HEAR
You take your World Series moments where you can get them, and this one transpired Wednesday night, during the sixth inning of Game 4, in the men’s room in the upper deck of the Oakland Coliseum.
While A’s fans waited in long lines, a portable radio kept them informed of the on-field proceedings. A break in the action and then, Jack Buck’s voice intoned: “And there’s Jay Howell, getting up in the Dodger bullpen.”
Raucous, unbridled, uncontrollable cheering. Fists pumped and smiles flashed from wall to stall.
Yes, they remember Howell from his Oakland days.
And now, they’ll remember him all winter long, albeit somewhat differently. Howell did make an appearance in Game 4--and didn’t allow a hit. He pitched 2 innings, got the save and pushed his former teammates to the brink of elimination.
A lesson in last laughs had been learned.
THE 9 O’CLOCK RIDE OF MARK McGWIRE
McGwire had just hit the home run that gave Oakland its only victory and had just given his impressions in the postgame interview room. Now, McGwire had to take the long walk downstairs, through the dugout runway and back onto the field, where a mini-cam crew and talking head awaited.
As he maneuvered his way through a throng of A’s fans, McGwire heard the same words, over and over: Thank you, Mark. Thank you.
The A’s had pulled to within 2 games-to-1 in the Series, but the Dodgers had clearly made their point. This wasn’t going to be easy, Oakland fans finally sensed. The elephants may have just met their mice.
Such fears were realized 2 days later as the Los Angeles Miracle closed down the A’s in 5 games. For Oakland, McGwire’s game-winning hit was the only scrap to be taken from the table of this October feast.
JOSE AND THE HEAT
Jose Canseco, the hitter, may have withered under the World Series glare, but Jose Canseco, the person, stood tall by his locker stall amid nightly media scrutiny.
Each game, the post-slam hitless streak got worse. From 0 for 7 . . . to 0 for 11 . . . to 0 for 14 . . . to 0 for 18.
Each game, Canseco had explained why, time after time after time.
He could’ve followed the time-honored tradition of hiding out in the trainer’s room past deadline, as certain teammates did, or pulled a no-comment, as John Tudor and Steve Carlton have done in World Series past.
But every night, Canseco met the press, answering some hard questions honestly, thoughtfully and, at times, with a sense of humor.
“I no speak English,” was Canseco’s grinning greeting to the assemblage after his ninth-inning strikeout in Game 4.
Several rounds of interrogation later, Canseco poked his head above the lights and cameras and spotted outfielder Luis Polonia, already showered and dressed, trying to sneak out the clubhouse door.
“Hey, Lou-ee,” Canseco called over. “Come on over and do some interviews.”
Polonia glanced at Canseco, smiled nervously and kept walking.
Canseco laughed and kept talking.
His was a stellar performance under difficult circumstances, the greening of an Athletic, a young A’s amazing grace under pressure.
Tony La Russa, the Oakland manager, might well be right when he predicted, “You can put it in the book: The next World Series that Jose Canseco gets into, he’ll be dynamite.”
If poise is a factor, Canseco’s halfway there.