The latest Los Angeles Dodgers Zoom party represented a reunion for several members of the 1988 World Series roster, including Orel Hershiser, Kirk Gibson, Mickey Hatcher, Mike Marshall, Steve Sax and Mike Scioscia, among others.
Hershiser largely served as the host of the hour-long event, directing a conversation that also featured former Dodgers general manager Fred Claire. Some of the players razed Gibson about putting eye black on the inside of his cap, which prompted the fiery outfielder to storm off the field in his first Spring Training with the team.
“I think you got a little amped up for Spring Training games, but you also got amped for the regular season. I’m glad you saved some of that energy,” Hershiser said.
“Why?” Gibson responded, “Because I didn’t like eye black inside my cap? You think that’s so funny don’t ya? Fred, how about you? What a horse you-know-what team you put me on. These guys are just clowning around all the time, and I’m the weirdo?”
The 1987 team finished 16 games under .500 and in fourth place in the National League West. What was a tense moment at the time wound up being the beginning of a strong bond throughout the entire clubhouse.
Claire worked on the roster and what most viewed as a team pieced together went on an improbable run. “It was the character of all of you, it’s all about the people coming together,” Claire said. “I was so blessed to know the Dodgers of the ’50s, ‘The Boys of Summer,’ and having that opportunity to know Pee Wee, Jackie and Campie, it’s all about the people. And that’s what we had in ’88 without any question. We had the right group of people.”
The notion of the 1988 Dodgers roster being one that was about putting the team over individual success was shared by every former player in the Zoom party.
“Coming to the Dodgers was a dream come true. It was fun, it was exciting. Every day in that locker room was an exciting day,” John Shelby said. “All the years I had in baseball, playing in L.A. was the best time in my life.
“We had a lot of fun together. When people say, ‘You guys didn’t have the best talent,’ I say, ‘We didn’t have talent but we had a lot of fun.’ That’s why those are lifetime memories. They’ll never go away.”
Gibson chimed in, “We loved it when people told us we sucked.”
Franklin Stubbs added: “I always tell people to this day, there’s a difference being a great individual and a great team. I remember as great as Oakland was as individuals, they weren’t as great as we were as a team. I always remember going back to Spring Training, when Kirk had the eye black in his hat, he said, ‘You guys play around too much. That’s why you don’t win.’
“I always go back to the first game during the season. Gibby said, ‘The TV goes off 30 minutes before the game, because we only focus on one thing, and that’s going out whooping whoever is in front of us.’ It was a great time for me. I enjoyed every minute of it. One thing I loved about this team is it didn’t matter who was on the field. Whoever was out there that day, that was the best team to put on the field.”
Steve Sax had a bit of a unique perspective by virtue of being part of the 1981 Dodgers team that won a World Series. “We were almost like a meteor across the sky,” Sax said of the ’88 roster. “It was like a magical team. We didn’t have the talent the A’s had, we didn’t have the talent that the New York Mets had. But I’ll tell you what we had. We had the best team.
“Collectively, we were something special. We were almost like Seabiscuit. We didn’t really look real good, but damn it was good and it was fast. That’s what our team was about. Fundamentally, we were really sound team with unbelievable pitching. We did it to the New York Mets and we did it to the A’s. People still to this day say, ‘Well the best team didn’t win.’ Of course it did. We were the best team.”
Scioscia, who was a captain in 1988, also touted the team-first mentality. “What got me about this group was we never paid attention to anything but what we needed to do to play baseball. We were never intimidated by anybody, ” he said. “We went out there and played. It didn’t always work out but it was the type of mentality you needed to get on that grind. Gibby, you changed us in Spring Training. There’s no doubt about it.
“We thought we were a good team. In ’81 we won a World Series, in ’83 won the division and in ’85 won the division. All of a sudden we hit this little black hole where nothing was going right for a couple years. Fred made some unbelievable moves in ’88 and bringing [Gibson] on board after signing Mike Davis, that was the thing that got us going. Things happen for a reason.
“That event that happened in Spring Training, I know happened for a reason. We were focused, we went and played great baseball during the season, and we played great baseball in the playoffs. That’s what I cherish in my memories, is what we did as players. I have a lot great memories as a manager, but this game is about playing it. I think what we did in ’88 is something I’ll take with me forever.”
And for cases when the Dodgers’ 1988 World Series title is questioned, Shelby explained his simple retort. “People are still mad. Still mad,” he began.
“A lot of times, just like all the other guys, I run into people all the time — Oakland fans, they’re everywhere — they talk about how lucky we were. They’re like, ‘Man, guys didn’t deserve to win. I don’t know how you guys did it.’
“I always shut them up with when I say, ‘Hey, would you like to see my ring?'”
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