Sep 15, 2016

1999 N.L. Wild Card Mets Pitcher: Orel Hershiser (1999)

Orel Leonard Hershiser was born September 16, 1958 in Buffalo, New York. Hershiser became a star pitcher in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in high school & then moved on to Bowling Green University in Ohio.

There he was part of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity & got signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, in 1979 in the 17th round. 

The tall thin six foot three right hander was not an over powering pitcher, but had great control with a great sinking action on his pitches. After four minor league seasons the Dodgers brought him up briefly in 1983 for eight games of relief work. In 1984 he started out in the bullpen but was pitching so well he made the starting staff by June. He finished the year at 11-8 with a 2.66 ERA, leading the league in shut outs (4) while pitching eight complete games.

In 1985 he became one of the NL’s top pitchers overshadowed by only the Mets Dwight Gooden. Hershiser led the league in winning percentage (.864) going an incredible 19-3 with nine complete games, five shut outs & posting a 2.03 ERA (all 3RD best in the league). The next two seasons he posted .500 records winning 14 games & then 16 games respectively. In 1987 he began a three year stretch where he led the league in innings pitched.

In 1988 he was the best pitcher in baseball, winning the Cy Young Award, the NLCS & World Series MVP Awards as well as a Gold Glove on the mound. Orel was the winningest pitcher in the league going 23-8 with a 2.26 ERA, leading the league in complete games (15) shut outs (8) & innings (267) put outs (32) & assists (60) while posting 190 strike outs.

At the plate he led the league with 18 sacrifice hits, batted .129 while driving in six run as well. He finished the season with a record 59 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings pitched, breaking the mark held by Dodger great Don Drysdale.

Post Season: If the season wasn’t incredible enough, his post season may have been even better. In Game #1 of the 1988 NLCS he & Dwight Gooden had a classic pitching duel, going into the 9th inning with a 1-1 tie. The Mets would score three runs beating Jay Howell for the win. He returned in Game #3 and left in 3-3 tie dueling this time with Ron Darling, the Mets won this game as well beating Alejandro Pena.

In Game #4 he came on in the 12th inning with the bases loaded & two out relieving former Met Jesse Orosco with the Dodgers clinging to a one run lead.

This was the classic game where Mike Scosia hit a 9th inning game tying HR off Dwight Gooden, then Kirk Gibson hit the go ahead HR off Roger McDowell in the 12th. Orel who earned the name Bull Dog got Kevin McReynolds to pop up ending the game & evened the Series at two games each.

He returned in Game #7 to throw a complete game five hit shutout shocking the Mets & advancing to the World Series.

In the 1988 World Series Orel was 2-0 allowing only two runs & seven hits over 18 innings against the mighty A’s of Mark McGwire & Jose Canseco. He would throw two complete games pitching a three hit shutout in Game #3 & winning the last Series game (Game #5) 5-2 winning the Championship. The devout Christian was seen singing hyms in the dugout between innings to stay relaxed. When he appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, he was coaxed by Carson into singing one.

The next year he pitched well again posting a 2.31 ERA but his record fell to 15-15 as the Dodgers struggled. In 1990 Hershiser needed rotator cuff surgery & it was feared his career was over. He missed 13 moths of action and was never the same dominant pitcher he was. But he did make a good comeback; in 1995 he signed with the Cleveland Indians and revived his career.

There he got to three straight post seasons, including a World Series in 1997. In 1995 he was 16-6 (5th most wins in the AL) with a .727 winning % (3rd best in the AL) posting a 3.87 ERA while tossing one shut out.

Post Season: In the 1995 ALCS he was 2-0 against Seattle, posting shiser a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings. He was the winning pitcher in Game #2 beating former Dodger team mate Tim Belcher while pitching eight innings.

In Game #5 he went into the 7th inning beating Chris Bosio at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, getting the Indians within one game of the team’s first World Series since 1954.

In the World Series against the Atlanta Braves He took the loss in Game #1 to Greg Maddox. But Orel came back to pitch eight innings & beat Maddox 5-4 in Game #5. He is still a folk hero in Cleveland, famous for his shouting “take that” at the Braves dugout during the Game #5 victory at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. He came back to go 15-9 the next season (1996).

In 1997 the Indians got to another World Series, on the regular season Hershiser was 14-6 posting a .700 winning % (5th in the AL). He was the teams number two starter & second to Charles Nagy (15 wins). In the post season he earned no decisions pitching in two ALDS games & one ALCS game.

In the 1997 World Series he took the opening game loss to the Livan Hernandez & the Marlins in Florida. In Game #5 he held a 3-2 lead going into the 6th inning when the Marlins broke it open, giving Hershiser his second Series loss. He went 0-2 against the Marlins in the World Series allowing 15 runs in 10.2 innings pitched.

In 1999 he signed with the New York Mets as a free agent. The Mets took a chance on him being the second oldest player in the league & it worked out well.

His first Mets start was in the fourth game of the season in Montreal. He was knocked out by the 4th inning after allowing four runs to the Expos in 1 5-1 loss. He got his first Mets victory in his next start which was at Shea Stadium against The Florida Marlins. He pitched into the 6th inning allowing two runs on three hits. He was 2-4 in mid May but then went on to win six of next seven decisions through the early summer.

From June 7th through July 11th he was 5-0; wining two inter league matchups with Toronto & Boston at Shea Stadium. He then went on the road earning victories in St. Louis & Florida. On June 29th he pitched into the 9th inning allowing just one run on five hits, as the Mets beat the Marlins 8-5. He then shut out the Expos over five innings in a 10-0 Mets win. He just missing earning a victory back on June 24th, as he left the game in a 1-1 tie in the 6th inning.

Hershiser would have three outings where he pitched into the 7th inning over July & August winning two of those decisions. The rest of the way he was at best .500 but put in quality starts often enough when he was given the ball.

On September 9th he beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing only one run & two hits over eight innings pitched. The win that night brought the Mets within three games of the first place Braves & put them atop the Wild Card heap. It was possible Orel's best performance of the season.

He finished the year at 13-12, tied with Al Leiter for most wins on the Mets staff. Hershiser pitched in 179 innings, striking out 89 batters, walking 77 while posting a 4.58 ERA.

Post Season: In the post season he was only used in relief, making one appearance with one inning of action against the Arizona Diamond Backs in the NLDS.

In the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, he came in relief of Masato Yoshi in the classic Game #5. Hershiser entered the game with two men on & no one out, after the Braves had just tied the game.

He was spectacular, first striking out Andru Jones & then Eddie Perez. He then got veteran Walt Weis to ground out, electrifying the Shea Stadium crowd. In the 5th inning, he allowed a double & an intentional walk before getting Brian Jordan to strike out to end the threat.

In the 6th the Braves loaded the bases on an error, an intentional walk & yet another walk. But then the man they called “Bull dog” got the good hitting pitcher Greg Maddox, to ground into a double play. Hershiser pitched into the 7th inning, giving way to Turk Wendell.

The Mets went on to win the game on Robin Ventura's grand slam single & forced a game #6 back in Atlanta. He made one more appearance pitching a scoreless 7th inning in that Game #6 loss to the Braves.

In his career he posted a 8-3 record with one save, and a 2.59 ERA in post season action. He allowed 103 hits in 132 innings of work, striking out 97 batters.

Orel went on to finish his career back in Los Angeles in 2000, going 1-5 in ten games pitched.

In his 14 season career he won a Cy Young Award, Gold Glove & made three All Star teams. He was 204-150 (102nd in career victories) (160th most losses all time) with a 3.48 ERA.

He pitched in 3130 innings (114th all time) striking out 2014 batters (66th all time) with 1007 walks (110th all time). He has thrown 25 shut outs (173rd all time) 68 complete games, 121 wild pitches (62nd all time) & earned five saves.

Retirement: Orel has worked as a pitching coach for the Texas Rangers as well as serving in their front office.

He then joined on the ESPN network, serving as an analyst on ESPN TV games & Baseball Tonight.

In 2010 he joined Jon Miller & Joe Morgan on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Hershiser remains in that role with new sidekicks Dan Shulman & John Kruk, since 2011.

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