The MLB Network, which needs to fill its programming with baseball 24/7, doesn’t always run its endless roster of half-hour shows back-to-back-to-back.
“MLB Network Presents” is a well-done series of documentary features, among them have been shows on the “Big Red Machine,” Billy Martin, Tony Gwynn, the 1990s Atlanta Braves, and one that brought tears to my eyes last Sunday evening, “Only in Hollywood.”
It chronicled the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, which I had and still have familiarity with.
At the time, the Dodgers had a bunch of players who’d progressed to the majors after stops in Albuquerque, to play with the Dukes, and I was the official scorer for the Pacific Coast League for games played in Albuquerque — and from the mid-point of the 1985 season through the end of the 1999 season, I was in the Albuquerque Sports Stadium press box, scoring every game (and getting paid and fed to do it).
There were guys I’d done stories on in the past: Orel Hershiser, Mickey Hatcher, Jeff Hamilton … guys I’d chatted with on the field, like the late Tim Crews, who I’d told I’d given him a new nickname, “Top Gun,” Mickey Hatcher and Brian Holton, who’d started more Dukes openers than anyone else.
Later, I got to meet/know John “T-Bone” Shelby and Franklin Stubbs, as they were Isotopes coaches, and infielder Dave Anderson, at the time a PCL manager in the Angels’ system. And, like many people in the Duke City, I’d chatted with manager Tom Lasorda on some of his visits to Albuquerque. Catcher Mike Scioscia managed the Dukes for a season, but I don’t recall any interaction with him, but I did have some great chats with Rick Dempsey, another catcher on that ’88 Dodgers team, when he was the Dukes skipper.
In 2004, Tracy Woodson managed the Isotopes, and I had some interaction with him. And I certainly can’t forget, nor fail to mention, Pedro Guerrero, once married to Rio Ranchoan Denise Chavez — and, yes, for those who don’t know, that big baseball in Northern at Guerrero Plaza was once owned by Pedro, or Pete, as he was called. (Remember when Rio Rancho had a golf course and hosted the Pedro Guerrero-Robin Cole Celebrity Golf Tournament?)
To me, that 1988 Dodgers team and some others, including their 1981 world championship team, almost seemed like family.
For most people, the thing they remember best from that season was Kirk Gibson’s two-run homer in Game 1, played at Dodger Stadium.
Gibson wasn’t expected to be available for the game, having injured his left leg on a play at second base during the team’s NLCS victory over the favored New York Mets.
Like the Mets, the Oakland A’s — with “Bach Brothers” Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire — were favored. And although the series went seven games, the lasting memory is of Gibson.
There are comments from former Dodgers pitcher Tim Belcher, Hershiser, longtime Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully and Gibson along the way. Gibson tells how he’d earlier informed his wife she should go home and watch the game on TV, he wouldn’t be playing in it anyway.
Late in the game, with the Dodgers trailing, Scully tells viewers as the camera pans the dugout that Gibson is missing. With two outs, the Dodgers down by a run and pinch-hitter Mike Davis at first base after drawing a walk from Dennis Eckersley — arguably the best reliever in the game at the time — Gibson grabs a bat and hobbles to the plate.
The fans and Dodgers are energized, but not for long: Gibson fouls off the first two pitches and is behind in the count. He patiently works Eck to a full count, and remembers the scouting report that Eck almost always throws a “back-door slider” in that situation.
Guess what? Eck tosses that pitch, Gibson swings off-balance, and the ball sails into the grandstand, with Gibby pumping his arm as he rounds the bases.
It’s a tearful moment in history, but more tears are on-deck when there’s a “flash-forward” to the opening of the 2018 baseball season at Dodger Stadium, where the 1988 season is being fondly remembered. Gibson has been asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Hershiser.
Why tearful? Gibson has Parkinson’s disease, and he’s no longer the hardass he once was.
Hershiser has a hard time getting it together, too, and Lasorda — now 90 years old – is only a shadow of his former self.
If you’re a Dodgers fan – or just a passionate baseball fan – check it out.