This Day in Baseball History: February 16th, 1989

Did he eat it?

On February 16, 1989:

Orel Hershiser becomes Major League Baseball’s first $3 million man.

1988 was one of those signature seasons in baseball history. One, I was born. Two, Orel Hershiser had one of those seasons that makes everyone take notice. Three, he set a record that is going to be difficult to be broken, but I don’t think it’s unbreakable.

Hershiser broke into the majors as a 24-year old in 1983, but he only pitched 8 games, none as a starter. He quickly made a name for himself the next season. During the following season, Hershiser actually had his best season of his career. He won 19 games and had a 2.06 ERA, but he only finished third in the Cy Young voting. He regressed a bit over the next two seasons, but he became a dominant pitcher again in 1988 (1987 wasn’t really a bad season, but comparatively not as good).

In 1988, he would win 23 games while posting a 2.26 ERA with 178 K’s in 267 IP. The most impressive feat of the season was rattling off 58.2 consecutive scoreless innings. Actually, he made it 67 when he went 8 scoreless against the Mets in the NLCS. He was the unanimous Cy Young Award winner that season.

The following off-season, Hershiser would sign a three-year, $7.5 million contract, and in 1991, he would earn $3.1 million. In 1989, Hershiser would continue his dominance, but the Dodgers didn’t give him any run support. His ERA rose to 2.31, but he went 15-15 on the season. He would finish fourth in the Cy voting. The disaster would come in 1990 when he tore his rotator cuff. He only pitched 4 games that season. He returned the next season, but he wasn’t the same pitcher after the injury.

I’m looking to start a new series about famous seasons by players. If anyone has some ideas on what to do, just send me an email. I want to take a closer and more detailed look at some of those seasons. Thanks.

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3 Responses to “This Day in Baseball History: February 16th, 1989”

  1. Ron Rollins Says:

    Maybe something on guys who only had one great season. The unknows.

    Like 7/8 year veterans that had a season with a 120 OPS+, but never were over 100 in any other season.

    Obviously with substantial PA’s.

    Or great rookie seasons where they faded away later.

  2. lar Says:

    The Dodgers definitely rode Hershiser to the title that year. It was quite the exciting September and October for Dodgers fans, that’s for sure.

    An interesting note about Hershiser’s streak, which you mentioned, was that it was technically still going at the end of the season. And, since MLB counts postseason stats separately from regular season stats, it actually continued into the 1989 season. Donruss made a great card commemorating the fact. However, Hershiser gave up an RBI single to Todd Benzinger in the first inning of the first game of the season to end it. A little anti-climactic, don’t you think?

    As for “seasons of note”… I’m not sure what to suggest. Any of the ridiculous seasons that Pedro or Maddux put up in the 90s would be interesting (ERA+’s in the 290s or whatever); Rickey’s 130 SB season maybe; Jim Rice’s 1978 was pretty remarkable; Brady Anderson 1996; Mac’s 1987; Gooden’s 1985 or Fernando’s 1981… there’s a lot to choose from, I think. it just depends on what type of thing you’re looking for. (I’d go with Fernando or Doc myself)

    Ron’s suggestion about finding the “fluke” seasons is a good one, too. I looked at “Outlier Seasons” for the guys over at Bill James Online once… that might be a good place to start.

  3. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    Ron,

    Excellent suggestion, and I shall look into it.

    Lar,

    Those are great suggestions as well. Those seasons were just ridiculous.

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