The reports were prepared by Boros, Mel Didier and Jerry Stephenson, and they had the A's pegged perfectly. Didier, for instance, wrote that "sure as shootin', Eckersley will throw a backdoor slider to a lefthanded hitter with a 3-and-2 count." That's precisely what Dennis Eckersley threw Gibson on that fateful 3-and-2 pitch in Game 1.
As for the Athletics' hitters, the reports basically said that all of them, with the exception of catcher Terry Steinbach, were susceptible to fastballs that climbed the ladder. The A's were so overwhelmed that after Hershiser went 3 for 3 at the plate in Game 2, it took until the third inning of Game 5 for the trio of Canseco, McGwire and Carney Lansford to surpass him in hits.
The Dodgers' scouting reports also gave them a certain psychological advantage. Imagine you're Stan Javier about to face Hershiser. He steps off the mound, pulls a laminated crib sheet from his back pocket, studies it for a moment, then looks in for the sign. If you're Javier, you might wonder. What does he know about me that I don't know?
The A's produced voluminous scouting reports too, but they couldn't have recommended the waist-high fastballs that Oakland pitchers kept throwing to Hatcher. As for a report on Hershiser, well, the Athletics began following him during his streak of scoreless innings, which was a tough time to find a way to score runs off a guy.
FRED CLAIRE. Rome, which is where the original Colosseum is and where O'Malley is sending his front office next month for a vacation, wasn't built in a day, and neither were the Dodgers. But Claire worked awfully fast after taking over as general manager when Al Campanis was ousted in April 1987. First, Claire signed Hatcher, who had been released by the Twins. Then he traded reliever Tom Niedenfuer for Shelby. He traded pitcher Rick Honeycutt to the A's in August '87 for a player to be named later, and the player turned out to be Belcher, whom the A's didn't think was ready for the majors. In a three-way deal with the Athletics and Mets in December, Claire acquired Howell, Griffin and Orosco. In the off-season he signed free agents Gibson, Davis and Rick Dempsey.
The Dodgers' Game 4 victory was a testament to Claire. Belcher got the win, Howell got the save, Hatcher had a key single in the first, Shelby drove in a run later in that inning, and Griffin scored what proved to be the winning run.
Claire won't stand pat this off-season—he can't afford to. Even with Gibson healthy, Claire is still short a big bat. He traded Pedro Guerrero to get Tudor, and now Tudor has a career-threatening injury. That means the Dodgers will have to sign Fernando Valenzuela, himself coming off a shoulder injury. And L.A. isn't very strong defensively, though the A's didn't put the ball in play enough to test the Dodgers' fielding.
"We'll see you guys here again," Davis told La Russa in the manager's office after the fifth game. Chances are the Dodgers won't be back soon. But then, the chances were they wouldn't win their division, beat the Mets in the playoffs or destroy the Athletics.
"I feel great about this club," said La Russa. "We played so well for so long. So while I feel bad that we lost, I feel great about the future." Just as La Russa said that, a familiar but unassuming figure walked into the office. "Young man, you were outstanding," La Russa told him. "It was almost a pleasure to watch you."
"I admire your ball club," said Hershiser. And La Russa took his cap off and tipped it to the pitcher.