You know, the world is a busy place. There’s always something to do, somewhere to be, so much to take in. Kendall Graveman turned an unassisted double play last night! The Mariners and Braves both won baseball games! The Mets will never win again! We understand your desire to consume this important, relevant content.
But hold on there, says Baseball’s Orel Hershiser. Sometimes you have to slow down. Sometimes you have to wait on that home-cooked egg-and-bacon breakfast as you stare into the pale sunrise at your remote woodland cottage. Sometimes you have to reflect. That’s why we’re stopping what both we and you are doing to take a moment to celebrate someone you have no reason to celebrate. A man who holds one of the greatest records in baseball history. A man who served as the ace of a World Series Champion. A man who, by his own account, showers four to five times a day.
We bring you: Orel Hershiser Day.
Please, as you read the following articles, open this video in another tab, set it on repeat, and let the gentleness of Orel Hershiser’s hair take you on a journey.
A Picture Says 125 Words
By: Mary Craig
Though photography was not brought to the forefront of modern society until the 2005 hit song, “Photograph” by pop-rock legend Nickleback, it has in fact existed since the early 1800s. In its most primitive form, photography took upwards of 20 minutes to produce one photograph, enabling the dread of consumption to overtake its subjects, producing universally somber expressions. As the technology progressed and vaccines became the norm, photographs began to show more of the human soul; they captured various expressions of hope and anguish, laughter and tears. People used photography to piece together their story, documenting birthdays and special occasions as well as the mundane.
This role is partially occupied in baseball by annual baseball cards depicting each player as well as various special occasions, like the All-Star Game. Rather than pore through pages of statistics or history books in dilapidated public libraries, an examination of these cards serves to provide a robust account of the career of one Orel Leonard Hershiser IV.
In 1986, Hershiser, but a young pup, was in his third major-league season. He assumes a confident stance, staring head-on at the camera, saying, “whatever you’ve got for me, baseball, I can take it.” His slight, playful grin echoes this attitude, but is just earnest and toothy enough to avoid being cocky. The twilight backdrop and presence of the glove confirm this. He is still at the bottom of the daylight seniority list, and he cannot be identified independently of his position. He knows he’s relatively new to the game and has to earn respect and notoriety.
By 1989, Hershiser had established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball, capturing the Cy Young Award in 1988 and making three consecutive All-Star rosters. In the prime of his career, he is unconcerned with the camera; he exists independently of it, and instead spends this time envisioning his next conquest. He’s made it. There’s no glove. Everyone knows his name and his position, now they need to memorize his face.
With the weight of the impending strike weighing down on him, in 1994 Hershiser decided to try his hand at other careers. Like with pitching, he gives it his full concentration. The previous 8 years of squinting toward the camera and his own, bright future, have taken their toll. The bespectacled Hershiser has decided to ignore the camera, instead focusing on the task at hand. No longer exists the luxury of ruminating on the days behind or ahead. Now, there is only sod.
In 2000, at the end of his career, Hershiser pays homage to its beginning. Like in 1986, he stares at the camera head-on. But rather than a smirk, his slight smile is more wistful in nature, conjuring up memories of his debut while thinking about the opportunities available in his future. He assumes the stance of a pitcher one final time, bringing his career full-circle. Though it’s hard to say it, it’s time to say it: goodbye.
By: Matt Sussman
Orel Hershiser comes from a proud tradition of Orel Hershisers, and why wouldn’t they. His full name is Orel Leonard Hershiser IV, because even in the 50s you didn’t see a lot of Orels, and even today you don’t. Even Google isn’t familiar with the name:
Passing that on, his eldest son is Orel Leonard Hershiser V, or “Quinton,” because sometimes you just need to wordplay your way into the family tree. It doesn’t explain why the Dodgers pitcher was not known as “Fourel Hershiser,” but it does explain why his dad stylized his name as Or3l.
Here is the projected depth chart of Orels Hershiser:
Orel VI: Orel Hexshiser
Orel VII: OrVIIle Hershiser
Orel VIII: Eightden Hershiser
Orel IX: Orelix (last name withheld)
Orel X: Xavier Nady Hershiser
Orel XI: Coral Hershiser (Daughter, only child)
Orel XII: Hotel Hershiser-California
A Record in Waiting
By: Zack Moser
Baseball fans are conditioned to appreciate and to lust for roundness, for symmetry. Sometimes the urge grips us so that we even ignore context and more impressive feats, all for the praise of the .300 hitter or the 40/40 player or 500 home runs. We fetishize the cycle, despite its evident inferiority to the three-homer game or eight shutout innings pitched. Base-ten usurps the four bases we have set in the diamond, and we remember Clemente’s exactly 3000 hits instead of his .317 career average.
When a symmetrical number or pleasantly serendipitous calendar date complements a feat of objective excellence, the stars align for a moment. Within that constellation exists Orel Hershiser’s 59 scoreless innings streak: a brutally difficult achievement, precisely bookending the 1988 Dodgers season.
That year, Hershiser completed his last nine starts. The final six were shutouts. In his last start, on September 28, he blanked the Padres for nine innings, but the Dodgers failed to score a run. Hershiser reportedly asked manager Tommy Lasorda to come out of the game, but, by persuasion or epiphany, he strutted out for the tenth and completed the inning, scoreless, to capture the record from Don Drysdale.
In one of his essays, Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin posited that the structuring of space-time differed across genre and artform; he dubbed that configuration the “chronotope.” We’re used to the formal restrictions of the baseball game and the baseball season, as they’re so precisely delineated by threes and nines and 162.
Hershiser managed to distort time and space with his record chase, though, as the best and most alluring players do. We have the end of the Dodgers season, and we have the endpoint to the record chase, one inning beyond that which would normally be allotted. The Dodgers were ticketed for the playoffs, but the record would pause for the offseason as soon as Hershiser exited the game that night versus San Diego. It would drift ethereally for six full months, October through March, before visiting upon us again. Such Gregorian congruity is rare.
The arc of that night—Dodger Stadium thick with chronotropic elasticity—bent to Hershiser’s exploits. He returned for the tenth. With a lazy Keith Moreland fly to right and a prolonged crouch on the mound, as if the weight of the moment was too much, he entered the record books. Six long months would his streak survive.
In the first inning of the second game of the 1989 season, Hershiser surrendered a run to the Cincinnati Reds. Baseball marched on, to its rigid snare snapping on the threes and nines, and the stretched time of Hershiser’s record ceased.
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