Orel Hershiser: 1999 Mets NL Wild Card Pitcher (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 overpowering 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.

MLB Dodgers Career: 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.

1988 Post Season: NLCS: 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 infamous game where Mike Scioscia hit a 9th inning game tying HR off Dwight Gooden. 

Then in the 12th inning, Kirk Gibson hit the go-ahead HR off Roger McDowell. 

Hershiser who earned the name "Bull Dog "got Kevin McReynolds to pop up ending the game, evening up the Series at two games each.

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

1988 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. 

Trivia: The devout Christian was seen singing hymns 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.

1995 Post Season: There he got to three straight post seasons, including a World Series berth 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.

1995 Post Season: In the 1995 ALCS he was 2-0 against Seattle, posting a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings. He was the winning pitcher in Game #2 beating former Dodger teammate 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.

1995 World Series: 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.

Hershiser returned to win 15 games (15-9) in 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.

1997 World Series: 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.

New York Mets Career: 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 a 5-1 loss. 

On April 14th, he got his first Mets victory coming at   Shea Stadium against The Florida Marlins, where he allowed one run on three hits in 5.1 innings of work. 

On May 1st he beat the San Francisco Giants at Shea, allowing two runs in six innings of work, striking out four. He lost his next two decisions, including a terrible outing in Arizona where he gave up nine runs in 4.1 innings. 

He was 2-4 in mid-May with a 6.62 ERA, but then he went on to win six of next seven decisions through the early summer.

He closed out May with wins over the Phillies & then the Pirates in Pittsburgh. 

From June 7th through July 11th, Hershiser was 5-0, he began by winning two inter league matchups. The first was beating Roy Halladay & Toronto, then Mark Portugal & Boston, both at Shea Stadium. He then went on the road earning a victory in St. Louis where he pitched five shutout innings. 

He just missed earning another victory on June 24th, as he left the game in a 1-1 tie in the 6th inning, the Mets went on to a 3-2 win over the Marlins. On June 29th he pitched into the 9th inning giving up just one run on five hits to the Marlins in Florida, earning his 8th win (8-5).

Hershiser continued to pitch well in the Mets rotation, as they chased the Braves & stayed among the wild card leaders. On July 6th, Hershiser shut out the Expos over five innings in a 10-0 Mets win. 

He stumbled in July losing two of three decisions. On July 11th he gave up six runs & ten hits to the AL New York team in the subway series. 

He then lost a game in Tampa as the Rays & future Met, Mike DiFelice took him deep for the 3-2 loss. 

But in his next start, he won his tenth game of the year to get to double figures in wins for the fifth straight season & thirteen times in his career. In July & August, Hershiser would have three outings where he pitched into the seventh inning or beyond, winning two of those decisions.  

On August 3rd he went into the 8th inning at Milwaukee, earning his eleventh win, with plenty of run support in a 10-3 win. On August 14th he matched his season high five strikeouts with his 12th win, beating the Giants in San Franciso. In that game he allowed just one run, it was the only game in five starts in August he did not allow three runs.

On September 9th he beat the Dodgers & Kevin Brown in Los Angeles, allowing only one run & two hits over eight innings pitched. (Kevin Brown would be an 18-game winner for the second season in a row that year.)  

The win on that night brought the Mets within three games of the first place Atlanta Braves & put them atop the Wild Card heap. It was possibly Orel's best performance of the regular season.

The rest of the regular season didn't go as well, as he was 0-2 with two no decisions the rest of the September stretch. The Mets did win the wild card after a tie breaking victory in Cininnati over the Reds.

Hershiser finished the 1999 season 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.

1999 Post Season- NLDS: In the post season, Bobby Valentine used Hershiser only in relief situations. In the NLDS he finished off the Game #3 in the Mets 9-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Shea Stadium.

1999 NLCS: In the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, he came in relief of Masato Yoshi in the classic 15 inning epic 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.

Post Season Career: In his career Hershiser pitched in six different post seasons, making three World Series winning one Championship. He posted an 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.

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

Career Stats: In his 14-season career he won a Cy Young Award, a Gold Glove & made three All Star teams. He was 204-150 (108th most wins all time) with a 3.48 ERA. He pitched in 3130 innings (118th all time) striking out 2014 batters (83rd all time) .

He has thrown 25 shut outs 68 complete games in 466 starts (75th all time). He has thrown 121 wild pitches (64th all time) walked 1007 batters (113th all time) & has & earned five saves in relief.

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

Broadcaster: 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 remained in that role with new Dan Shulman & John Kruk from 2011-2014.

He then chose to return to the Dodgers working in their broadcasting booth. At first, he worked on road games with Nomar Garciaparra & Charlie Steiner. 

After the legendary Vin Scully retired, Hershiser joined with Joe Davis becoming the primary Dodger TV broadcast team.

Orel has written two books & is also a competitive poker player as well.

Family: He has been married twice & has two grown children.

Hershiser has always been an active Christian & strong in his Faith. 

When he shut down the Oakland Athletics in the 1988 World Series, SI reported "Who Killed the A's- The Choirboy Did". 


Popular posts from this blog

Fictional Mets Infielder Chico Escuela ( of SNL) Visits Mets Spring Training (1979)

Remembering Bobby Ojeda's Tragic Boating Accident (1993)

Remembering Vixen Founder / Guitarist; Jan Kuehnemund (1961-2013)

Remembering Mets History: (1977) The Felix Millan / Ed Ott Brawl In Pittsburgh

Remembering Mets History (1979) SNL's Chico Escuela Visits Mets Spring Training & Attempts a Career Comeback