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'88 Dodgers could be dirtier dozen than Giants

'88 Dodgers could be dirtier dozen than Giants

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ARLINGTON -- The current Giants are not the only team to wade deep into the World Series with a team of "outcasts and misfits" that manager Bruce Bochy calls "The Dirty Dozen," named after the famous 1967 war film of the same name.

According to then-manager Tommy Lasorda, his 1988 Dodgers were a dirtier dozen than the virtually starless Giants, who lead the Rangers heading into Saturday's Game 3 of the World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, 2-0.

The Dodgers defeated the A's in five games, with their lone star, Kirk Gibson, taking one unforgettable swing in the entire series -- his walk-off, pinch-hit two-run homer at Dodger Stadium against Dennis Eckersley that decided Game 1, 5-4. The Giants?

"I don't compare them at all," Lasorda told MLB.com when reached at home in Los Angeles via the phone on Saturday. "This Giants team has a lot more experience than my '88 club. Just go around position-by-position."

No kidding. With Gibson hobbling on bad knees, Mickey Hatcher was the left fielder. He was flanked by John Shelby in center and Mike Marshall in right.

Around the horn, it was Franklin Stubbs at first, Steve Sax at second, Alfredo Griffin at short and Jeff Hamilton at third. Household names? Nearly none of them. Mike Scioscia was behind the plate. The World Series had a three-man starting rotation: Tim Belcher, Orel Hershiser and John Tudor. Jay Howell was the closer.

Hershiser was the team's standout player, winning Most Valuable Player honors in both the National League Championship Series and World Series. He finished the season by breaking Don Drysdale's record with a 59 2/3-innings scoreless streak and won the NL Cy Young Award with a 23-8 record and 2.26 ERA. In the World Series, he continued his dominance by shutting out the A's, 6-0, in Game 2 and winning Game 5, 5-2. Both were complete games, giving him 19 on the year between the regular season and postseason.

Vin Scully, the team's great play-by-play man then and now, called the performance by Hershiser and the team as a whole "magical."

"The Dodgers in 1988 -- if you can say such a thing -- were bewitched," Scully said. "They bothered and bewildered everybody else. But it will forever be the year of Kirk Gibson's home run."

The seed of one of Gibson's greatest moments in his 17-year playing career wasn't planted in that World Series. It all began during Spring Training after he left the Tigers to sign a three-year, $3.5 million free-agent contract.

By then Gibson was already a World Series champion, having led the 1984 Tigers of Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish, Jack Morris and manager Sparky Anderson to a five-game victory over the Padres. In that one, Gibson's three-run eighth-inning homer in Game 5 at Tiger Stadium off Goose Gossage put an end to the series.

Gibson was a very serious player when he joined the Dodgers. And he didn't take to the jovial atmosphere he encountered at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., under Lasorda's stewardship.

"When I played for Sparky during Spring Training, it was all business," said Gibson, who is now going into his first full season as the D-backs' manager. "It was no nonsense, do it right. Well, with the Dodgers, we had a meeting every morning and it was a big comedy store. I was very intense. I guess they were trying to have fun, but I wasn't very comfortable with that."

Gibson recalled clowns popping out of trunks and a lot of laughs when then-third baseman Pedro Guerrero tossed a ball into right field during fielding practice. He expected it to settle down for the first Spring Training game -- against a Japanese All-Star team.

"Little did they know, but that game to me was like the seventh game of the World Series," Gibson recalled. "I was the first one on the field and worked up a good lather."

When he took off his cap to wipe his brow, he found eye black spread all over his arm. One of Gibson's teammates had playfully rubbed the substance on the inside of his cap. With that, Gibson snapped and ran back to the clubhouse. On the way, he trotted past Lasorda and told him that if the culprit didn't talk to him within five minutes, he was leaving. Upon no one showing up, Gibson was good to his word. He showered and left for the day, even though his name was in the lineup.

"Everybody in the stands was laughing, all my teammates were laughing -- it was the final straw for me," he said.

When he met with Lasorda the next day to discuss the matter, the manager wanted to cover the incident up, but Gibson would have no part of it. Plus, he said, he wanted to have a little talk with his teammates.

"When you have the clown pop out of the trunk, I'm the clown today," Gibson told Lasorda.

To his teammates, Gibson exploded with an expletive-filled tirade, saying all the craziness wasn't conducive to playing winning baseball.

"I told them, 'I'm the best teammate you'll ever have, you just don't realize it yet. But I will be,'" he said. "From that point on, we went out there and got after it. We were world champions, and nobody picked us to do so."

Gibson, of course, proved his value as a teammate when he practically crawled out of the dugout to hit for the pitcher with a runner on second and two outs in the ninth and the A's leading Game 1, 4-3. A's manager Tony La Russa chose to pitch to him with first base open. A fateful decision.

"It was a team that won more games leaving the field shaking their heads and wondering how they'd done it," Scully recalled. "That's exactly what happened."

In the end, Jesse Orosco, who won the World Series with those Dodgers and the 1986 Mets, admitted that he pulled the Spring Training practical joke on Gibson.

"You knew it was a pitcher," Gibson said. "It had to be."

Guerrero wound up being the odd man out that year. He was traded to the Cardinals on Aug. 16 for Tudor.

These Giants rebuilt on the fly by signing the released Pat Burrell (via the Rays) on May 29 and picking up Cody Ross off waivers (from the Marlins) on Aug. 22. Both have been major contributors to their postseason run. Rookie Buster Posey replaced Bengie Molina behind the plate near midseason when the Giants traded Molina to Texas. Posey's presence also has been huge.

"I really give [Giants general manager] Brian Sabean the credit for putting this team together," Lasorda said. "I said during Spring Training that if this club got a power hitter in the middle of their lineup, they could do well. Burrell was that power hitter, and when they brought the kid Posey up, it really made the difference. But Brian knew what he needed to win. He went out and got the right guys, and look where they are now."

Two wins shy of the 1988 dirtier dozen Dodgers.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. MLB.com reporter Ben Platt contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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