Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How Long It's Been: The Los Angeles Dodgers Won a World Series, Or Even a Pennant

October 20, 1988: World Series MVP Orel Hershiser ends his dream season with a 5-2 four-hitter over the Oakland Athletics in Game 5 of the World Series. Mickey Hatcher starts the Dodger scoring with a 2-run home run in the 1st off Storm Davis‚ his 2nd homer of the Series. He is named Most Valuable Player of the World Series. Kirk Gibson, whose home run won Game 1, will be named MVP of the National League.

The win gives the Dodgers a tremendous upset, and their 5th World Championship since moving to Los Angeles 30 years earlier, their 6th overall. But in 27 years, more than a quarter of a century, since, they have never won another Pennant.

It can't all be due to the Curse of Donnie Baseball: Mattingly's only been there since 2008, manager since 2011.

But this post isn't about the reason(s) for the drought. It's about the drought itself. It's now been 27 years since the Dodgers won a World Series; 27 years and 8 days since they won a Pennant, on October 12, 1988. How long has that been?


The Dodgers were perennial contenders. It was the 4th time in the decade that they were NL Western Division Champions, the 7th time in the last 15 seasons. In their 1st 31 seasons in Los Angeles, they reached at least a 163rd game (counting the 1962 and 1980 tie-forced playoffs) 13 times. In the 27 seasons since, they have made it 14 times, but have never gotten closer than 2 games from the Pennant. From October 12, 1988 to October 9, 2004, 16 years, they didn't win so much as a single postseason game.

In contrast, their arch-rivals, the San Francisco Giants, hadn't won a World Series, and had only won 1 Pennant, since 1954, when both teams were still in New York. But since 1988, the Giants have won 5 Pennants and 3 World Series.

There was an MLB team in Montreal, but not in Washington, D.C., nor in Florida, nor in the entire Mountain Time Zone. Among existing teams in 1988, the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers had never made the Playoffs. The Rangers, the team then known as the California Angels, the Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays had not yet won their 1st Pennant. The Angels and Jays had not yet won their 1st World Series. The Boston Red Sox had not won a World Series in 70 years, the Chicago White Sox in 71. The Cleveland Indians had not won a Pennant in 34 years, a fact emphasized by a movie then being filmed, Major League. The Braves had not won a Pennant since moving to Atlanta, indeed it had been 30 years since the Milwaukee Braves had won one.

The Milwaukee Brewers were in the American League, the Houston Astros were in the National League. There were no Central Divisions, Wild Cards, Asian-born players or Australian-born players. There was no regular-season Interleague play.

And the Mets, who had just won their 2nd NL Eastern Division title in the last 3 years, only 2 seasons removed from a World Championship, were, unquestionably, the best and most popular baseball team in the New York Tri-State Area.

All of those facts have now changed.

Only 6 stadiums in use by MLB teams in 1988 are still in use: The Dodgers' home of Dodger Stadium, Anaheim (now Angel) Stadium down Interstate 5, Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium in Kansas City, and the home stadium of the team the Dodgers beat in the '88 Series, the Oakland Coliseum.

There were 10 MLB teams playing home games on artificial turf: Cincinnati, Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Montreal, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Seattle and Toronto. Today, there are only 2: Toronto and Tampa Bay.

More than half of MLB, 16 out of the 26 existing teams, had to "groundshare" with pro footbal teams: Atlanta, California, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Montreal, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Toronto. Minnesota and San Diego had it worst of all, also having to share with college football teams. (Admittedly, the Brewers only had to hand Milwaukee County Stadium over to the Green Bay Packers 4 times a year, once in the preseason. That arrangement lasted from 1953 to 1994.)

Mark Koenig, the last survivor of the 1927 Yankees, was still alive. So were some of the legends of the 1930s, like Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, and Giants legends Carl Hubbell and Bill Terry, both of whom would die in the next few weeks.

Most of the defining players of my childhood were retired: Willie Stargell played his last game in 1982, Carl Yastrzemski and Johnny Bench in 1983, Rod Carew in 1985, Tom Seaver and Pete Rose in 1986, Reggie Jackson in 1987, and Steve Carlton earlier in 1988. Mike Schmidt would retire the next year, leaving only George Brett and Nolan Ryan to last until 1993.

The defining players of this generation? Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz were in junior high school. Jimmy Rollins was about to turn 10 years old. Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols and Jose Bautista were 8. David Wright, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera were 5. Zack Greinke turned 5 the next day. Alex Gordon and Max Scherzer were 4. Yoenis Cespeds, Felix Hernandez and Andrew McCutchen were 3. Buster Posey was a year and a half. Clayton Kershaw was 7 months old. Were Matt Harvey, Madison Bumgarner, Mike Trout, Kris Byrant and Bryce Harper even born yet? "That's a clown question, bro."

The opposing managers in this Series, Tommy Lasorda of the Dodgers and Tony La Russa of the A's, are both in the Hall of Fame now. Current Dodger manager Don Mattingly was an All-Star 1st baseman with the Yankees, and current A's manager Bob Melvin was a catcher for the Giants.

Of the current New York Tri-State Area teams' mangers and head coaches: Tom Coughlin of the Giants was coaching the Giants' receivers under Bill Parcells, Terry Collins of the Mets was managing in the Dodgers' minor-league system, Lionel Hollins of the Nets was an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns, Alain Vigneault of the Rangers was coaching in junior hockey, Todd Bowles of the Jets was a defensive back with the Washington Redskins, Joe Girardi of the Yankees was in the Chicago Cubs' minor-league system, Jack Capuano of the Islanders was in the minor leagues, and Derek Fisher of the Knicks and John Hynes of the Devils were freshmen in high school.

The Dodgers had dethroned the Minnesota Twins as World Champions. The titleholders in the other sports were the Redskins in the NFL, the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA and the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL. Mike Tyson was the undefeated, undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World.

The Olympics had just been held in Seoul, Korea. They have since been held in America twice, France, Spain, Norway, Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Canada, Britain and Russia. The World Cup has since been held in America, Italy, France, Japan, Korea, Germany, South Africa and Brazil.

The President of the United States was Ronald Reagan. Vice President George H.W. Bush was about to be elected to replace him. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, their wives, and the widows of Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy were still alive. Bill Clinton was in his 4th term as Governor of Arkansas. George W. Bush was working for his father's campaign, and was soon to buy the Texas Rangers. Barack Obama had just entered Harvard Law School.

The Mayor of Los Angeles was Tom Bradley, and the Governor of California was George Deukmejian. Current Mayor Eric Garcetti was in high school, and current Governor Jerry Brown, 6 years after leaving his 1st Governorship, and had just been elected Chairman of the State's Democratic Party.

The Governor of the State of New York was Mario Cuomo, and his son Andrew Cuomo, now Governor himself, was a lawyer running an organization named Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP). The Mayor of the City of New York was Ed Koch. Current Mayor Bill de Blasio was working for a charity in Nicaragua. Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy were the only Justices of the Supreme Court who are still there.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. The Pope was John Paul II. The Prime Minister of Canada was Brian Mulroney, and of Britain Margaret Thatcher. The British monarch was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed. Liverpool Football Club had won England's Football League, but were denied "The Double" when South London club Wimbledon, a.k.a. The Crazy Gang, shocked them in the FA Cup Final. Liverpool would win the Cup in the 1988-89 season that had just begun, but would again be denied The Double when North London's Arsenal beat them on the final day of the season.

Major novels of 1988 included Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, and The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. Major films released in October included Alien Nation, Punchline, The Accused and Mystic PizzaThe TV shows Yo! MTV Raps, Dear John, Empty Nest and Roseanne had recently premiered. The modernized Mission: Impossible, Murphy Brown and Mystery Science Theater 3000 soon would.

The Number 1 song in America was UB40's reggae cover of Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine," soon to be replaced by Phil Collins' improbably lame cover of the Mindbenders' "A Groovy Kind of Love." Even more improbably, the Beach Boys were about to hit Number 1 with the theme from the film Cocktail, "Kokomo," written by lead singer Mike Love, producer Terry Melcher, 1967 one-hit wonder Scott McKenzie, and Mamas & Papas leader John Phillips.

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. launched their Rat Pack Reunion Tour, selling out sports arenas from coast to coast despite being 72, 71 and 62 years old, respectively. Keith Richards released his solo album Talk Is Cheap, proving that he needed Mick Jagger a whole lot less than Mick needed him, and sparking the Rolling Stones to reunite the next year to record the album Steel Wheels and embark on their 25th Anniversary tour.

Steve Earle released his best-remembered album, Copperhead RoadKenny G released his breakthrough album Silhouette. Roxette released their breakthrough album, Look Sharp! The Bangles released Everything, including "Eternal Flame." Michael Jackson was raking in royalties from his big release the year before, Bad. People were beginning to notice his altered appearance, but he wasn't considered that weird yet.

U2 released the soundtrack to their film Rattle and Hum. Yoko Ono released her own documentary and soundtrack album: Imagine: John Lennon. Paul McCartney released a live album of his recent Soviet Union concert -- but only in the Soviet Union, leading to the juxtaposition of the West having to get it on bootlegs, instead of the other way around like they used to have to do back in the U.S.S.R. George Harrison was enjoying the praise for his comeback album Cloud Nine and his "supergroup" the Traveling Wilburys, but mourning the death of personal hero and Wilburys bandmate Roy Orbison. Bob Dylan was also a Wilbury, as were Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra. George, fellow Beatle Ringo Starr, and Lynne would soon help Petty record Full Moon Fever.

Kourtney Kardashian was 9. Kim would turn 8 the next day. Khloe was 4. Rob was a year and a half. Kendall and Kyle weren't born yet. Beyonce was 7. Lady Gaga was 2 1/2. Rihanna was 8 months old. Kevin was the only Jonas Brother who had yet been born. Neither Miley Cyrus, nor Nicki Minaj, nor Ariana Grande, nor Justin Bieber, nor any member of One Direction had yet been born.

The Atari 5200 SuperSystem was the leading home video game system. Personal computers were now in a majority of phones, but the Internet as we know it had not yet been developed. There was no World Wide Web, no Netscape, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no Pinterest, no Skype. But on November 2, 13 days after the Dodgers won the World Series, the Morris Worm, the world's 1st computer virus, was launched from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In the autumn of 1988, NASA launched the Space Shuttle Discovery, resuming flights after the Challenger disaster 2 1/2 years earlier. The Soviets launch their own ripoff of the American shuttle, the unmanned Buran -- making its one and only flight. A riot in Algeria led to the government killing 500 protestors and torturing many more. Tamil mercenaries fail to topple the government of the Maldives. The French government allowed the distrubition of RU-486, which became known as "the Morning-After Pill." And the United Nations Peace-Keeping Forces were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Actor John Houseman, and boxing champion Henry Armstrong, and soccer legend Jackie Milburn died. Masahiro Tanaka, and Derrick Rose, and Mesut Özil were born.

October 20, 1988. The Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series. They have never won another Pennant.

They failed again this year, Or, as one Philadelphia sportswriter put it, former Lakers legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson -- probably the best basketball player in the world at the time the Dodgers won their last Pennant, now the Dodgers' owner -- spent $314 million this season to play exactly 5 more games than the Phillies, who lost 99 games and had the worst record in baseball.

Will the Dodgers end this drought next year? That may depend upon the manager. "Curse of Donnie Baseball," and all that.

UPDATE: On October 19, 2017, the Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs to win the NL Championship Series in 5 games, and win their 1st Pennant in 29 years.

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