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DEEP ROOTS
Steve Wulf
December 19, 1988
In shattering one of baseball's most imposing records and then pitching the Dodgers to victory in the World Series, Orel Hershiser IV drew on a boyhood spent excelling in sports and a devotion to the fundamental values
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December 19, 1988

Deep Roots

In shattering one of baseball's most imposing records and then pitching the Dodgers to victory in the World Series, Orel Hershiser IV drew on a boyhood spent excelling in sports and a devotion to the fundamental values

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"No."

"A nerd?"

"No."

"Ronnie Howard? You know, Richie Cunningham from Happy Days?"

"No."

The litany continued until the two settled on "lawyer."

Hershiser has heard all those comparisons countless times, and he even helps foster them. "Let's face it," he says, "I'm just a pale guy with glasses, long arms and a sunken chest. I look like I never lifted a weight. I look like I work in a flour factory. People compare me to Clark Kent and Superman, but Clark Kent at least had a good body. I'm Jimmy Olsen."

So how did Jimmy Olsen become Superman? Hershiser keeps scrapbooks, which is a nice, quaint sort of thing to do, entirely befitting his meticulous nature, and in the early scrap-books there are some clues. One of the first entries is a picture of the eight-year-old, freckle-faced Orel posing in a Yankee cap with the third-place trophy he won in the national finals of the 1967 Personna Baseball Grand Slam throwing, running and hitting contest in Yankee Stadium. So, however bookish he may have looked, he always had the talent. There's also a clipping from page 20 of the July 4, 1974, edition of The Cherry Hill (N.J.) News with the headline NERHEISER HURLS NO-HITTER. So even in Babe Ruth League, people had trouble with his name. And there's a certain incentive in trying to get them to spell it right.

Says Millie Hershiser, "When we were at O's house before Game 7 against the Mets, he excused himself and went into the family room to look at some tapes and listen to some music, and all of a sudden he was 10 or 11 years old again, putting on his uniform hours before a big game and going up to his room to he on his bed and listen to his 45-rpm records. He's still doing the same things he did as a kid."

"O was always small for his age, but he always had great hand-eye coordination," says Orel III. "He could play anything, but it was baseball that he loved." It helped to grow up in an athletic family. Orel III was a hockey and baseball player in his youth, and he and Mildred are still avid golfers. Their other children are all athletically inclined: Katie, now 27, played volleyball on a scholarship at Kentucky; Gordie, 25, who actually looks like a major league pitcher—he's a righty, too—went a combined 7-0 for the Dodgers' Class A teams in Salem, Ore., and Vero Beach last season after recovering from elbow surgery; and Judd. 20, has a golf scholarship to Alabama-Birmingham.

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