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MLB-TV, the Dodgers and Orel Hershiser

August 6th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Dodgers

Kind of a Triple Crown, as far as I am concerned.

The not-expensive set-up with MLB-TV to choose among various live games during the European night and early morning; the Dodgers doing what they do (destroy the National League); and the pleasure of listening to the cerebral and chatty Orel Hershiser, who serves as color commentator to play-by-play man Joe Davis on the SportsNet LA telecast.

This is the first time in this decade that I have been able to see significant chunks of live baseball, most certainly including the Dodgers.

Let me tell you, it’s one thing to have a mental image of what a player or a team looks like, and quite another to see them in game action. Cody Bellinger is tall. Max Muncy doesn’t look like an athlete. Gotta give Justin Turner credit for making himself memorable — the enormous red beard and his trademark top shirt buttons unbuttoned, showing the Dodger Blue undershirt.

What I am most interested in, at this moment, is Hershiser, who dissects every game, often from the remarkably cerebral point of view of pitcher, catcher and batter.

The other day, the Dodgers were trailing 10-9 in the bottom of the ninth, and the San Diego Padres had sent their closer Kirby Yates out there to wrap up things, but as the inning progressed Yates seemed to get more and more anxious, and Hershiser (let’s just call him Orel from here on out, OK?) noted that Yates was having communication issues with his catcher, and he was getting frustrated.

With Orel’s observations we could see that happen, right up to the moment the doughy Muncy laced a game-ending two-run double into right field.

Orel doing a game is like a college professor recounting the secret history of a game or a war or a peace treaty.

I have been paying attention to baseball for a long time, but Orel comes up with things every night that I had not considered before. The sorts of things a very intelligent color guy might come up with during the course of a three-hour game. Leaving me to say, “Huh. Never noticed that!”

Orel would be having a great career with the Dodgers TV crew, but he had a truly great career (or three) before he came back to Los Angeles and entered the broadcast booth.

It sounds crazy to say it, but I get a little bit of a feeling that Kirk Gibson is still neck-deep in 1988 World Series walk-off-homer celebrity. (“In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”) And that Orel is not getting quite as much credit for that treasured championship of oh, so long ago.

Remember, he had a nuts 1988 — ending the regular season with a record 59-inning scoreless streak (a record maybe as unlikely to be broken as DiMaggio’s hitting streak), winning two games in the National League Championship Series, and getting a save in another, and winning Game 2 of the World Series versus the Oakland Athletics with a shutout, and then closing out the championship with a slick 5-2 win in Game 5.

The other night, Hershiser was musing on how wonderfully versatile the Dodgers are, and he took a deep dive into history (as he often does) by noting that the 1988 Dodgers had some of the same sort of interchangeable-pieces-vibe as did a group known as the Stunt Men. They were “led” Orel said, by Mickey Hatcher, and included solid but not special guys, like Rick Dempsey and Franklin Stubbs and Dave Anderson.

And at that point, I was talking back to the TV. “You won the 1988 World Series, Bulldog! It was you! It was not the Stunt Men.”

The guy has all sorts of boxes checked on his resume, from playing ball (18 years in the bigs; 13 with the Dodgers) to coaching it, leading it from a front office, and he has what seems like an endless trove of colorful stories from Just Being Orel, from Winter League in the Dominican to winning professional poker prizes and leading charities.

And remember, Orel (now 60 years old) not only doesn’t speak like your standard former player, he doesn’t look like one, either — and he barely did when he was at the peak of his pitching powers, 31 years ago

He was a pale, almost scrawny and often overlooked kid from Bowling Green (where he got a business degree) who stuck with the Dodgers in 1984 and looked so much like, oh, an accountant, that manager Tommy Lasorda demanded he get a “tough” nickname to confuse batters. Lasorda minted it and awarded it: “Bulldog”. Hershiser lived up to it.

This guy is a treasure. He should not be compared to Vin Scully, the poet laureate of baseball, but Orel sits high, high among the TV luminaries who explain the game to people like me who thought they already knew all there was to know.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 David // Aug 6, 2019 at 7:24 PM

    I may be in the minority on this one, but I would like Orel twice as much if he talked half as much. His torrent of verbiage exhausts me.

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