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Hershiser, as it turns out, is a disciple of Koufax. This is something of a scoop because the last thing Hershiser wants to do is offend Perranoski, who has taught him so much about pitching strategy, and because the shy Koufax is about the last person in the world to take credit for someone else's success. But when Hershiser feels he's out of sync, he will call either Koufax or Wallace, his old minor league pitching coach, who subscribes to Koufax's teachings. All three are firm believers that a pitcher's success is founded on having good mechanics; they're devoted to the principle that there's a motion for every pitcher that maximizes his potential. Last spring, for instance, Koufax suggested that Hershiser make an adjustment with his back foot to give him more leverage. Hershiser felt the results almost immediately. In early August, Wallace came in to Los Angeles to watch the major league debut of Dodger prospect Ramon Martinez and, while he was there, happened to see Hershiser get shelled by the Giants. He noticed that Hershiser was opening up too much with his front leg—planting his front foot six or eight inches too far toward first base—and he naturally told Hershiser about it. They worked at closing the angle a little, and Hershiser's sinker started diving more dramatically and his curveball became sharper. And that's just about when his streak began. "In a way, I am the extension of Koufax and Wallace on the mound," Hershiser says.
For those who might be concerned that success will spoil Hershiser, don't worry. "He won't change," says Sid Bream, the Pittsburgh Pirate first baseman who came up through the Dodger organization with Hershiser. "You can count on it. He's one of the most considerate people I know."
Resolute as Hershiser is on the old slab, he is just as playful off it. In the dugout during the games in Japan, he would sometimes point to the scoreboard, which had only Japanese characters on it, and say something like, "Gee. I didn't know Harold Reynolds had 35 stolen bases this year."
Hershiser's good humor has stood him in good stead during his exhausting off-season. Consider the week that began in the White House and ended at Walt Disney World. The Hershisers, who didn't know whom they would be sitting with at the state dinner, were among the last to be seated because President-elect Bush had insisted on taking Jamie over to meet his wife. Barbara. When they did sit down, Jamie found herself in the company of Henry Kissinger, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and publisher Malcolm Forbes. Orel drew Prime Minister Thatcher, Nancy Kissinger, publisher Walter Annenberg and President Reagan.
The next day, the Hershisers were off to New York to hook up with Orel's lawyer, Robert Fraley. Fraley had arranged some endorsement deals with Pepsico and Ebel USA, a watch company. (Hershiser, who also endorses Mitsubishi cars and B.V.D. underwear, figures to make as much money off the field in 1989 as he did on the field last year.)
And then Orel went to Orlando. On the day before the Payne Stewart tournament, Hershiser did a promo for Bob Hope's Jolly Christmas Show, lunching with old Ski Nose himself in his room, and then played an informal nine holes with Hope and Stewart. That night, at a formal dinner at the Grand Cypress Resort to benefit Florida Hospital, Hershiser chatted amiably with Mets pitcher Ron Darling, who happened to be the loser in the seventh game of the National League playoffs, and Frank Viola, his American League Cy Young counterpart. In the tournament the following day, Hershiser exhibited a little of his perfectionist streak by expressing annoyance with his driving and putting. When he's playing regularly, he's a four-handicapper, and he harbors a dream of one day going on the Senior PGA Tour. After the golf game, Hershiser went out to the airport to pick up Jamie and the kids and his brother Gordie.
At Walt Disney World the next day, Orel and Quinton clowned with Goofy and met Mickey. The quietest moment of Orel's whole week came in, of all places, Cinderella's Castle, where the family settled down to lunch. Orel sat there, doting on Quinton, eating his chicken and chatting with the Disney World guide. At one moment the irony of where they were dawned on Gordie, and he went into a passable imitation of the Bill Murray monologue from Caddyshack: "There he is, the Cinderella pitcher, coming from out of nowhere. Nobody can believe it. Fifty-nine scoreless innings. MVP of the World Series."
Orel laughed in recognition, and then who should suddenly appear but...Cinderella herself. She had been told that Orel Hershiser was at the VIP table, but for the life of her, she didn't know which one he was. Not even Cinderella could guess that the skinny guy with the glasses at the end of the table was the best pitcher in baseball.
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