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Dodgers have '88 squad doing double take

Current team resembles WS champs with a few upgrades
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Kirk Gibson's epic hobble-off homer was the defining moment of the Dodgers' 1988 World Series upset, but it wasn't the only moment.

Gibson wasn't even the MVP of the Series. That trophy went to Orel Hershiser for firing a Game 2 shutout and winning Game 5 on short rest. No pitcher has two complete-game victories in a World Series since.

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LOS ANGELES -- Kirk Gibson's epic hobble-off homer was the defining moment of the Dodgers' 1988 World Series upset, but it wasn't the only moment.

Gibson wasn't even the MVP of the Series. That trophy went to Orel Hershiser for firing a Game 2 shutout and winning Game 5 on short rest. No pitcher has two complete-game victories in a World Series since.

View Full Game Coverage

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Mike Marshall helped win Game 2 of the 1988 World Series with a three-run homer off starter Storm Davis. Mickey Hatcher, who hit one home run in the regular season that year, slugged two in the World Series replacing Gibson in the outfield, and he led the team in average, RBIs and runs scored.

"We took a lot of ridicule in the papers," said Marshall, "and we came back to show what we were made of."

Closer Jay Howell -- suspended during the National League Championship Series against the Mets for having pine tar on his glove -- recorded a 2 1/3-inning save in Game 4, one out shorter than Steve Howe's 1981 Game 6 clinching save. Nowadays, manager Dave Roberts brings Kenley Jansen in for four outs and the Southland holds its breath, monitoring his pitch count.

Dress for the World Series: Get Dodgers postseason gear

Broadcaster Bob Costas provided manager Tom Lasorda with motivational fodder by declaring on NBC's Game 4 pregame show that the Dodgers' lineup was possibly the weakest ever for a World Series team. Not one to waste a good provocation -- Mets pitcher David Cone and A's designated hitter Don Baylor had popped off earlier in the postseason with bulletin-board quotes -- Lasorda repeated Costas' critique over and over in the clubhouse for the next two days, then sarcastically suggested the announcer be considered the Series MVP.

"Even though everyone wrote us off," said catcher Mike Scioscia, "I don't think this was a miracle. We we're a much better team than people gave us credit for."

During Game 4, Scioscia was lost with a knee injury. That's why after the final pitch of the 1988 season, backup catcher Rick Dempsey is hoisting Hershiser on the iconic cover of Sports Illustrated that declared Hershiser "The New Mr. October."

Video: WS1988 Gm2: Hershiser gets K to complete shutout

Dempsey, Hatcher, Dave Anderson, Tracy Woodson and Mike Davis formed the core of The Stuntmen, a ragtag bench of misfits that embraced understudy roles and stepped up when a Gibson or Scioscia or Alfredo Griffin went down. Sounds a lot like Enrique Hernandez, Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson and Charlie Culberson this year.

"Mickey exemplified what this team is all about," Gibson said. "This team always believed in itself. I got hurt and the team accepted that I would be out. And Mickey steps in and fills my role, and I filled his. We had a team approach that kept us together. We always gave it an honest effort."

In 1988, the Dodgers were heavy underdogs to the Oakland A's Bash Brothers of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. That year, Oakland won 104 games. This year's Dodgers team also won 104 games, and with the best record in baseball, have played with confidence from the start. By contrast, the 1988 team relished the fact that it wasn't taken seriously by the experts, or even the opposition.

"If you want somebody to be an inspiration to people who don't believe in themselves, then take a look at this ballclub," Lasorda said then.

Hershiser said the part of the 2017 club that reminds him of the 1988 club is the "misfit quality."

"You look at how Rich Hill and Justin Turner and Chris Taylor have turned their whole careers and lives around, where we had Hatch and The Stuntmen," Hershiser said.

"This year's team is way more talented than we were. The ace, Clayton Kershaw, he's on his own level compared to what we were doing. We didn't have a Cody Bellinger. Jay Howell, you can't compare to Kenley. Maybe you can compare Turner to Gibby in the leadership and consistency of effort."

This year's Dodgers have an overflow front office of multiple current and former general managers, dozens of research and development analysts and a cast of hundreds of staff in baseball operations and player development.

In 1988, former sportswriter Fred Claire had taken over, signed Gibson as a collusion free agent and traded away Bob Welch to fill holes at shortstop (Griffin), right-handed relief (Howell) and left-handed relief (Jesse Orosco). Panned later for dealing away a young Pedro Martinez, Claire has never received enough credit for the trade that led directly to the last Dodgers title.

Claire also assembled advance scouts Mel Didier, Steve Boros and Jerry Stephenson. It was Didier's tip that A's closer Dennis Eckersley would throw a backdoor slider in a 3-2 count that Gibson remembered when his legendary at-bat reached that moment.

Didier (who died Sept. 10 at 90), Boros and Stephenson are gone now. And Gibson is ready to pass the torch after a 29-year Dodgers drought. When Turner won Game 2 of the NLCS presented by Camping World with the biggest Dodgers walk-off homer since 1988, Gibson texted him.

"Congrats young man. Keep embracing the big moment. You earned it. -- Kirk Gibson"

Turner texted back:

"I can't imagine doing it in the World Series."

Replied Gibson:

"You may get a chance. You've worked so hard. Now, go get it."

And from Turner:

"Thank you so much for reaching out."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers