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A CASE OF OREL SURGERY
Peter Gammons
October 31, 1988
The night after he finished off the Oakland Athletics, Orel Hershiser was sitting on Johnny Carson's set and singing "Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow...." Even with all of Hershiser's new honor and fame, his Los Angeles Dodger costar, Kirk Gibson, asked an apt question: "Does everyone really appreciate what Orel has done? I don't know if we will ever again see the likes of what he's done through all of this. It may be that no pitcher in history stayed in that kind of groove so long or so well."
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October 31, 1988

A Case Of Orel Surgery

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Perranoski points out that Hershiser's rhythm seldom falls out of sync. "It takes a pure athlete as coordinated as he is to maintain that kind of groove for so long," says Perranoski. "It would be like a bowler rolling 300 games every day for six weeks."

Still, it's how Hershiser puts his ability to work that has raised him to his present plateau. He habitually studies videotapes of opposing hitters, and also uses videos to check on his own delivery; he did just that between innings when he struggled a bit early in his seventh-game playoff shutout of the Mets.

"He has the ability to figure out what he's doing wrong while he's on the mound," says Scioscia. "He'll slow down the game, make a few throws to first, talk to the catcher, until he finds what he needs." In World Series Game 5, Hershiser, by his own admission, was "very erratic." The A's were trying to slap his sinker through the middle like a team of Charley Lau disciples. So Hershiser went away from his sinker and threw a lot of curveballs at different speeds and some cross-seamed fastballs up in the strike zone.

Teammates and opponents marvel at Hershiser's pitching instincts. "With National League hitters, he knows their tendencies and knows how to pitch them," says Scioscia. "But with the A's, he made immediate adjustments. I think some of that comes from the fact that he understands hitting." When Canseco came up for a final chance at redemption with two on and one out in the eighth inning of the finale, Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda had his bullpen working. "Normally, I would never throw inside to him late in the game because he's so quick and so strong," Hershiser said later, "but sometimes a surprise is all you need. So I threw Canseco the only inside fastball I'd thrown him in eight at bats." Canseco popped it up. Hershiser then struck out the wallowing Dave Parker on what he called two "55-foot curveballs." The final threat was over. "And I thought he was done," said Lasorda. "He never stops amazing me."

"Don't ever underestimate how tough he is," says the Dodgers' Mike Marshall. "He's the most competitive person I've ever known." And Marshall knows Gibson and John Tudor.

What's most refreshing about Hershiser is that he has perspective on what he has done. Unlike most players, who think baseball was invented the day they signed their first pro contract, Hershiser clearly understands his place alongside the Koufaxes and Drysdales. Still, he's no prima donna; after both World Series wins, he told reporters, "I'll sit in front of my locker all night answering questions if you want me to."

But the bulldog in him came out when, after the Athletics were disposed of, he walked down the hallway to the interview room in the Oakland Coliseum and an A's fan yelled, "You were lucky, Hershiser." A couple of dozen steps later, Hershiser blurted out, "Oh yeah—grab a bat." He wasn't smiling.

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