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Monday, May 7, 2012

Bob's Books - Out of the Blue by Orel Hershiser and Jerry Jenkins

Out of the Blue was written after Orel Hershiser’s amazing 1988 season. Hershiser, who won a Gold Glove and the National League (NL) Cy Young Award for his regular season work, also picked up the NL Championship Series MVP, World Series MVP, and the Babe Ruth award (given to the player from either league with the best post season performance). En route, he finished the regular season with 59 consecutive scoreless innings, breaking Don Drysdale’s record. He even added 8 more in his first playoff appearance but that didn’t count towards the streak. The NL leader in wins, innings and complete games, he was absolutely overwhelming.

After relating how he was given the nickname 'Bulldog' (which he didn't like) by the always entertaining Tommy Lasorda, Hershiser starts the book by talking about his approach to pitching. He breaks it down into five parts: attitude, mechanics, strategy, regimen and game day.  I’ve never been a pitcher, and while I understood what he was conveying and why it was important, I didn’t find it very interesting. Since that’s about 25% of the book, well, not good.

Tebow wasn't the first athlete to thank
God for his accomplishments
He talks a bit about growing up and getting into baseball, including his first failed attempt at college. I don’t mean as a pitcher: I mean, life. He discusses how he found Jesus (Hershiser is an overt Christian) and met his future wife, Jaime.
The remainder of the book is about the streak and the fantastic 1988 post season Hershiser and the Dodgers enjoyed. This squad has been called the weakest World Series winning lineup in the modern era (be quiet, Bob Costas). But it beat the heavily favored Mets of Doc Gooden and Daryl Strawberry. And Kirk Gibson’s improbable home run in game one led them to a stunning upset of the Oakland A’s, starring Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire during their Bash Brothers glory days. 

THE home run
The main flaw I found in this book was that it didn’t really convey the drama of the post season. A Dodgers fan, I was surprised to find out that Gibson wasn’t even in uniform for most of game one of the World Series. So, Hershiser gives you some behind the scenes stuff. But you’re not spellbound with a “what happens next?” feeling, which so many good baseball books do.

Of course, 1988 wasn’t the end of his career. He went on to win another 121 games over 12  more seasons, helping the Cleveland Indians reach their first World Series in forty-one years. He is currently a pretty good analyst at ESPN.

I am a fan of Hershiser as both a pitcher and a Christian, and Hershiser’s scoreless inning streak and the Dodgers’ run to the World Series are great moments in the team’s storied history, but this is just an okay baseball book. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t expect to be drawn back to it again.

Hershiser threw a three hit shutout against the most powerful offense in baseball in game two of that 1988 World Series. The next year, Sports Illustrated walked through that game, batter by batter, with his catcher, Mike Scioscia (now manager of the Angels). It’s an inside look that few people ever get.

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