Orel Hershiser looked up to the sky until he was bear-hugged off his feet by catcher Rick Dempsey as Tommy Lasorda and two dozen others began a hard sprint in his direction.
Their improbable season had ended, their predictable celebration had begun. They are Hatcher and Davis, Dempsey and Hamilton. They are assorted rejects and free agents, and by their own admission, a team lacking talent, if not courage.In 1988, they were also partners in one of baseball's most dazzling crimes, and Thursday night the Los Angeles Dodgers finished stealing the 85th World Series by beating the Oakland Athletics, 5-2, before 49,317 at the Coliseum.
They did it with a streak of pitching brilliance that may never be matched. Has anyone ever been better than Hershiser, this slender, sunken-chested right-hander who missed his third straight postseason shutout but won his second straight World Series game?
Otherwise, he was perfect, and finished by allowing two runs in 18 World Series innings, the most valuable player in a most unexpected World Series.
Hershiser pitched an eight-strikeout, four-hit masterpiece. Mickey Hatcher tagged Oakland starter Storm Davis for a two-run, first-inning homer, and that was the tail wind Hershiser needed.
He won his ninth straight decision, his second in the World Series and third in postseason play. He ended the 1988 season with a record 59 scoreless innings, and in five postseason starts, allowed five earned runs. Those are the only five runs in 1012/3 innings - a 0.44 ERA.
He was the point man on a pitching staff that smothered the game's best and most feared offense. After 104 regular season victories and a four-game sweep of the playoffs, the A's were held to 11 runs and two homers in five Series games.
It wasn't just that the Dodgers beat them, they beat them soundly, needing only five games to finish the biggest upset since the 1969 Amazin' Mets.
The Dodgers won with what was essentially a 21-man roster. Kirk Gibson, the certain National League MVP, was limited to one at-bat because of a knee injury.
That one swing was a ninth-inning, two-run homer that won Game 1, and the Dodgers rolled from there.
Right fielder Mike Marshall missed a game with a bad back and was in obvious pain Thursday night. Catcher Mike Scioscia missed most of the last two games with a knee injury.
Hatcher, who had been ticketed for cheerleader duty, homered twice and batted .368, this after homering once in 191 regular season at-bats.
He was released by the Minnesota Twins 18 months ago. There were lots of other little pieces, and they won with hit-and-runs and one timely hit after another.
One of the biggest Thursday night was Mike Davis' two-run homer - he had two in the regular season.
The Dodgers finished with eight hits Thursday night, but bunched them well. Oakland starter Storm Davis lost a second straight Series start, going 42/3 innings and allowing four hits.
They didn't produce a lot of offense, but they were nothing if not pesky. In 45 innings, the Dodgers failed to get men on base 10 times. In 108 postseason innings, they went down in order 28 times. They ran and poked and punched and stayed out of the big inning.
It was enough for a platinum pitching staff. The A's put back-to-back hits together three of 45 innings. They had more than one hit in an inning six times.
Remember the Bash Brothers? After Jose Canseco's grand slam, he went zero for 18. Mark McGwire went one for 17, Carney Lansford three for 18 and Walt Weiss one for 16.
If the A's were intimidated or awed by Hershiser, they didn't show it. Parker had all three of his team's hits in Game 2, and he again gave his teammates a scouting report, telling them to lay off the sinker and force Hershiser to come up in the strike zone.
"He loves to throw you the breaking ball down and in," he said. "That's his pitch. He'll spot his fastball, move his pitches up and down, and in and out.
"The main thing is to be patient enough to get him to bring the ball up. If he's on, he's tough to hit, anyway, but you can't let him keep throwing you that low breaking ball. Don't let him dictate the pace. The best advice is just not to offer unless he gets the ball up."
Parker and his teammates appeared a lot cooler than their manager, who was beginning to show his frayed edges.
That became clear after Game 4 when Tony La Russa hinted that there was some dark plot to hurt his team. He believed that someone had passed them Bob Costas' remarks about how bad the Dodgers were without Gibson and Marshall.
"I just don't believe they were in the clubhouse watching that," La Russa said.
The Dodgers said they were doing exactly that, but La Russa cornered Costas outside in a hallway Thursday afternoon, and the two went jaw-to-jaw for about five minutes.
Several of his players were considerably more gracious, saying they actually admired the way the Dodgers were going about their business.
"Even though their best players are out, I think they have their fundamentals down pat," Canseco said. "I've seen them _ every time they try a hit-and-run, it happens. A ground ball is hit, the runner is running and you can't turn the double play. Then the run scores. Those are the things they are doing, and thethings that are hurting us."
For the 10th time in 12 postseason games, the Dodgers scored first. Franklin Stubbs singled with one out in the first, and Hatcher launched a 1-1 fastball over the left field wall.
Is timing everything? After hitting one homer in 191 regular season at-bats, Hatcher hit two in his first 16 World Series at-bats.
That got the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. Hershiser retired the A's in order in the first and second, but in the third, Lansford and Tony Phillips led off with singles _ the third time in 39 innings the A's had back-to-back hits.
Weiss bunted the runners up, and rookie Stan Javier, getting a start in left, scored Lansford with a sacrifice fly to left. That made it 2-1 and was the fourth run Hershiser had allowed since Aug. 30 (95 innings).
He walked Henderson, but with two runners on base, got Canseco on a fielder's choice grounder.
The Dodgers got the run (and one more) right back. Hatcher opened the fourth by beating out an infield single and, after Davis struck out Marshall and Shelby, went went to 3-0 on Mike Davis.
Lasorda gave his hitter the green light, and Storm Davis played right into his hands. He threw his batting-practice fastball down the middle, and Davis deposited it over the right field wall for a 4-1 Dodgers lead.
Like Hatcher, his timing was nothing if not perfect. After signing a two-year, $1.8 million contract with the Dodgers last winter, the former Oakland star was a flop, hitting two homers in 281 at-bats and losing his starting job before the all-star break.
Storm Davis was around for only one more inning, and he walked off the mound Thursday night shouldering more than a little responsibility for Oakland's loss.
He twice started against Hershiser, and he not only couldn't match the Dodger megastar, he couldn't hold the Dodgers down long enough to keep them in the game.
In two starts, he lasted eight innings and allowed 14 hits and 10 earned runs-an 11.25 ERA.
He was gone Thursday night with two outs in the fifth when Sax singled. LaRussa went to Greg Cadaret, and Stubbs singled off his left leg.
Gene Nelson came in and got Hatcher on an infield single to end the fifth.
The A's made it 5-1 off Nelson in the sixth. Mike Davis walked with one out, and Dempsey lofted an RBI double over Canseco's head in right.