With Kirk Gibson's leg still on ice, and now Mike Marshall suffering from pain in his lower back, Tommy Lasorda fielded a Country & Western outfit in Game 4 of the World Series Wednesday night.
That's right, banjo hitters. Take away the combined 45 home runs Gibson and Marshall gave the Dodgers in 1988, and what was left was a lineup that hit a combined total of 36 home runs all season.To fully appreciate the significance of this, it must be understood that those 36 home runs were six fewer than Jose Canseco hit for the Oakland Athletics in 1988. Lasorda's C&W outfit Wednesday night included two players (Mickey Hatcher, Alfredo Griffin) who hit only one home run all season, and one (Danny Heep) who didn't hit any.
Yet the Dodgers won Wednesday. And the Dodgers won Thursday, using the resiliency of Orel Hershiser to claim their first World Series championship since 1981.
La-La is understandably going ga-ga over all this. In the last five months, the city has landed the National Basketball Association championship (Lakers), the world's greatest hockey player (Wayne Gretzky) and now, somehow, a World Series championship with those banjo hitters over at Chavez Ravine.
How'd they do it? Pitching is the easy answer. Hershiser, the Series MVP, won both his starts, allowing two runs and seven hits in 18 innings. Jay Howell rebounded from the home run he served up to Mark McGwire that ended Game 3, shutting down the A's to end Game 4. When Tim Belcher failed in Game 1, the Dodgers' bullpen contributed seven shutout innings. And Belcher himself rebounded, winning Game 4.
But to simply dismiss the 1988 World Series as a case in which good pitching outclassed good hitting is too easy. The Boston Red Sox threw Roger Clemens and Bruce Hurst, two great pitchers, at the A's in the American League Championship Series, and they couldn't win.
The Dodgers apparently had something more than great pitching. It turns out they had great scouting.
"When you play a team in your league 12 or 18 times during the season, it's a lot easier to pick up tendencies," Belcher said. "But when you go into the World Series, and there's a new team there, you have to have some direction.
"In a best-of-seven series, your advance scouting becomes that much more important," Belcher said.
In a sense, both teams were loaded with amateur scouts who were familiar with the opposition. Belcher is a former member of the A's, as are Howell, Griffin and Mike Davis. And the Oakland roster included three players - Rick Honeycutt, Bob Welch and Dave Stewart - who once played for the Dodgers.
But the Dodgers' real scouts - Steve Boros, Phil Regan, Jerry Stephenson, Mel Didier - provided vital information, information that helped Dodgers pitching limit the Athletics to a .177 average and 11 runs in the five games. Boros, a former manager of the A's, and Regan, a former pitching coach with the Seattle Mariners, were particularly instrumental. So was Didier, who, with Boros, concentrated on the American League in 1988.
"Our basic philosophy was to key on Canseco and McGwire, obviously," Boros told the Oakland Tribune. "But you have to be extremely careful not to take anyone else in that lineup for granted. They're all pretty good hitters, and it's the other guys who set the table for the big guys."
Armed with good information, Dodgers pitching made few mistakes. "Jay (Howell) made one mistake in the ninth inning Wednesday (in Game 4). It was a hanging curve, and Canseco fouled it back before striking out. And McGwire's homer (off Howell) came on a mistake."
Canseco had only one hit in the Series, a home run. McGwire had only one hit, a home run. Combined, they were 2 for 36. And in the clinching fifth game of the Series, Hershiser held the beef of the A's lineup - Canseco, McGwire, Dave Parker, Dave Henderson - hitless in 14 at-bats.
"I think," Dodgers General Manager Fred Claire said, "that this team has established itself in baseball history. It will go down as one of the great storybook seasons all the way to the finish. We overcame injuries and beat two great teams."
Said second baseman Steve Sax, "Everyone will have to respect us now. We may not be a power team, but we sure are a winning team."