this post covers the 1988 world champion los angeles dodgers and cards numbered 275 to 281 in the set. here are the fronts:
what team is this?: the 1988 world champion los angeles dodgers
why this team?: did i mention that they were the world champs? they went from 73-89 and 17 games out of first in the nl west in 1987 to 94-68 and 7 games ahead of second place cincinnati in 1988. this dodger team was an underdog to the 100-win mets in the nlcs and the 104-win oakland a's in the fall classic but won both series. the team featured the league's mvp, cy young award winner, and manager of the year, although only one of those guys are included in the set.
which players are featured?: there are no new players to the set checklist here. representing the 1988 dodgers, upper deck gives us alejandro pena, jesse orosco, john shelby, kirk gibson, mickey hatcher, mike scioscia, and steve sax.
why these players?: aside from the ease of obtaining autographed cards to meet the demands of a fully signed parallel set(s) that comes with not adding new players to the checklist, each of these folks contributed to the dodgers' success in 1988. let's break it down.
alejandro pena returned to the dodger bullpen full time in 1988. he pitched in 60 games and was 6-7 with 12 saves and a 1.91 era. he saved game 2 of the nlcs, lost game 3 of the series, but earned the win in the extra inning affair that was game 4. he next pitched in game 1 of the world series and wound up as the winning pitcher thanks to kirk gibson's home run, just as he had in game 4 of the nlcs.
jesse orosco joined the dodgers as part of the three-team trade between the a's, mets, and dodgers prior to the 1988 season. he teamed with pena and howell (also acquired in that trade) to form a closer tandem and earned 9 saves in his 55 appearances. in the playoffs, orosco did not retire a batter (he faced 4) in his first two nlcs appearances. in his next two against his former team, he didn't allow any runs in 2.1 innings pitched. still, orosco did not pitch in the world series, and he left to join the indians as a free agent.
john shelby had a big season for the dodgers in 1987 after being acquired in a trade with the orioles. his 1988 season was very similar, but with less power. still, he played in 140 regular season games, and did not miss even an inning of the dodgers' postseason in '88. he hit just .167 in the nlcs and .222 in the world series, but did provide the club with a very meaningful postseason walk. in the 9th inning of the aforementioned game 4, the dodgers were down 4-2 with shelby leading off the inning. he walked against dwight gooden and mike scioscia followed with his game-tying home run. everybody remembers mike davis and his big walk, but shelby's was also hugely important to the dodgers' postseason success.
speaking of davis' walk, let's discuss kirk gibson next. gibby was the national league mvp in 1988, hitting .290 with 25 homers and 76 rbi, but instilling a focus in his teammates that was lacking in previous teams. i have no problem with gibson winning the award over the statistically superior darryl strawberry, even though gibson won partly on 'intangibles'. the dodgers would have been nowhere without him. in the postseason, he had only 5 hits, but 3 were home runs. he hit 2 of them in the nlcs, including the game 4 winner, a 12th-inning shot off of roger mcdowell, and a 3-run shot off of sid fernandez in game 5 that gave the dodgers a 6-0 lead that the mets could not overcome. gibson had aggravated his already injured legs making a nice catch in game 3, but he still started every game of the nlcs. unfortunately, he was unable to start game 1 of the world series, but famously came off of the bench in the 9th inning to hit the game winning home run off of dennis eckersley following a two-out walk issued to mike davis. we all recall the hobbling and the fist pumping and the jumping up and down that ensued i am sure. it was gibson's only appearance of the series, but the dodgers found a way to win 3 more games without him.
mickey hatcher returned to the dodgers as a free agent early in the 1987 season. in doing so, he missed out on the twins' world series triumph that year, so i certainly was happy for him in 1988. during the regular season, hatcher was used as a pinch-hitter and a sometimes first baseman/outfielder. during the postseason, however, he was anointed by tommy lasorda to be the team's first baseman in place of franklin stubbs with mike marshall playing in the outfield instead of mike davis who had struggled all season. then, when kirk gibson went down, hatcher moved to left field with stubbs taking over at first. hatcher hit safely in every postseason game but one (in the nlcs), and his 2 home runs and 5 rbi in the world series led both teams (jose canseco also drove in 5). speaking of hatcher's home runs - a 2-run shot in the bottom of the first inning in game 1 and a 2-run shot in the top of the first in game 5 - hatcher sprinted around the bases, almost catching up to steve sax following his game 1 blast. if not for orel hershiser's pitching heroics in the series, hatcher may well have been the series mvp.
mike scioscia appeared in 130 regular season games (123 as a catcher) in 1988 and hit only 3 home runs. that's why his home run in game 4 of the nlcs was so unexpected. he did have a home run off of gooden earlier in his career, but still. those two runs that scored on the homer were the only two rbi scioscia had in the nlcs, although he hit .364 in the series. he only drove in one run in the world series, but it was a big one, too. his 6th inning single in game 1 of the fall classic cut the a's lead to one run, putting the score at 4-3 and setting up gibson's two-run homer as the game winner.
steve sax began the 1988 season with a bang - he led off the bottom of the first in the season opener with a home run off of the giants' dave dravecky. unfortunately, the dodgers didn't score any more runs that day. 1988 turned out to be sax's last season with the dodgers, and he hit .277 with 42 steals in 160 games in his regular season swan song. in the '88 postseason, saxy hit .267 with 7 runs scored and 5 steals in the nlcs, then hit .300 in the world series.
the stadium on the back is...?: dodger stadium, home of the dodgers since 1962 and site of gibby's game winning home run.
did upper deck get it right?: upper deck included both the mets and dodgers in the set, but surely the a's should also have been included. as for the players upper deck chose, i think that they did ok. the obvious misses are orel hershiser (the cy young award winner and nlcs and world series mvp) and tommy lasorda (the nl manager of the year), but one could make a case for tim belcher or jay howell, too. on the flip side, upper deck could have included don sutton, who was already on the checklist, because he pitched for the club until his release in august. kudos to upper deck for not including sutton - that would have been a pretty egregious checklist grab.
as for the photos, pena's is a head shot and certainly could be from 1988. orosco's on the other hand looks more like the 2002 version of the dodger reliever (yes, he was a double dipper). it's hard to tell about shelby, hatcher, and scioscia - they certainly look right based on the away grays that they are each wearing- and the dodgers didn't wear any sleeve patches during the 1988 regular season to help me know for sure (they did wear a vero beach 40th anniversary patch during spring training, and then the postseason patches on the right sleeve during the postseason). we know that the gibby photo comes from game 1 of the world series, but i think that saxy's photo is from earlier in his career since it looks like there is a patch on his left sleeve.
is this team timeless?: no doubt about it.