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Hershiser was on a roll the likes of which no pitcher—not Koufax, not Drysdale, not Mathewson—had ever known. Including his Game 2 whitewashing of the A's, he'd allowed just three earned runs in his last 92⅔ innings (a 0.29 ERA). He'd thrown seven shutouts in 10 starts spanning the stretch run of a divisional race, a league playoff series and now the beginnings of a World Series (and that's not counting 10 scoreless innings he pitched in a no-decision on Sept. 28). But as masterful as Hershiser was, it was Gibson's blast that made this World Series seem the stuff of Hollywood drama.
For the supposedly invincible Athletics, the loss in the Series opener was a stunning blow. The game had been typical of the A's 108-win season, with a strong performance from starting pitcher Dave Stewart, a big homer—in this case a second-inning grand slam by Jose Canseco—and a ninth-inning lead for the Eck to protect.
"Hopefully it woke us up," said Eckersley. "We know now it's going to be a long, tough Series."
Besides giving the A's a new perspective, the dramatic events of Game 1 put all the pre-Series hype back in the can. In the two days before the opener, the media had fueled a war of words between beleaguered Dodger reliever Jay Howell and Oakland's sometime DH Don Baylor, who accused Howell of having no guts. (Never mind that Baylor may have been trying to deflect media scrutiny and pressure from the A's young sluggers Canseco and Mark McGwire.) And while reporters were busy creating fresh beefs, hardly anyone recalled an old one: Jim Lefebvre, the A's third base coach and a former Dodger of long standing, once had a fistfight with Lasorda in a television studio.
The Lasorda-Lefebvre relationship was typical of the most important subplot of this Series: A lot of the Dodgers are former A's, and a lot of the A's are former Dodgers. In Game 1, ex-Dodger Stewart would start against ex-Athletic Tim Belcher, and each of them had once been traded for Rick Honeycutt, now a member of the A's bullpen. The Athletics sent the hard-throwing Belcher to L.A. for Honeycutt in August 1987, because they figured it would take Belcher two years to improve his control enough to make the majors. But throwing strikes was never a problem for him with the Dodgers—until Saturday.
He delivered 71 pitches—33 of them balls—during his two-inning stint and set off a beanball battle when he tried to get a heater in on Canseco in the top of the first and plunked him on the arm. (Stewart sent his old teammates a clear message to stay away from Canseco by drilling Steve Sax with the first pitch when the Dodgers came up in the home half of the first. Home plate umpire Doug Harvey promptly defused the situation by warning both teams that the next brushback pitch would result in an automatic ejection of that club's pitcher and manager.) "That was the worst control I've had since I was in Tacoma," said Belcher, referring to the fact that he walked nine in one of his last starts for Oakland's top farm club before being shipped to the Dodgers. (His opponent in that game? Why, the Dodgers' Albuquerque farm club, of course.)
Though Belcher would lose this battle with Stewart, the exchange of hit batsmen handed the Dodgers a short-term advantage. "When Sax gets on base, the next two hitters get nothing but fastballs because Steve is such an aggressive base runner," said Dodger hitting coach Ben Hines. Indeed. Sax danced off first, prompting Stewart to balk, and with one out Hatcher got hold of one of those preordained fastballs.
Wait just a minute! Hatcher hitting No. 3 in the World Series? This guy wasn't in last year's World Series because the Minnesota Twins, figuring he was washed up, had released him. He'd hit all of one home run in 191 at bats for Los Angeles during the 1988 regular season. But he ripped Stewart's pitch over the fence in left center and proceeded to charge around the bases as if he were returning a kickoff—which wasn't all that surprising, since Hatcher used to play on special teams for Oklahoma (see box, page 43).
The Dodgers' 2-0 lead didn't last long, because after Glenn Hubbard singled to left in the top of the second, Belcher was so wild that he walked Stewart, who was hitting for the first time in five years. Carney Lansford then reached base on a walk to set the stage for Canseco's grand slam, a bullet of a line drive to centerfield.
"By the time I turned around, it had already ricocheted off the TV camera," said Belcher. That camera was beyond the fence, 415 feet from home plate.