The Orel Hershiser Fan Club published its first newsletter Saturday, and the biggest news was that there is an Orel Hershiser Fan Club. The Los Angeles Dodgers' right-hander evokes the kind of wild and unrestrained emotion normally reserved for those special, glittering moments in life. Like when you find a meat loaf sandwich in your lunch box.
Only the legends have fan clubs. Former heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes had a fan club, even if all of its members had the last name "Holmes." Tom Lasorda has a fan club, too. Everyone in Los Angeles County with a license to sell food is a member.
He's a fine pitcher. But an Orel Hershiser Fan Club? Who was this group's first choice, Merv Griffin? On the excitement meter, Hershiser generally registers somewhere between an America's Cup trial race and ESPN's coverage of the women's world wrist-wrestling championships.
This guy could make Don King's hair lay down.
It's hard to imagine how 100 kids from Mexico to Canada could get themselves so worked up over Orel Hershiser. But they have.
One of the items in the first official newsletter is headlined, "Orel Hershiser--Up Close and Personal," the phrase made popular on ABC television by Howard Cosell. This article is written by young Melissa Howell, who does not wear a hairpiece.
The final paragraph reads:
"Orel enjoys talking about his family and when he was asked his very favorite place to visit in the whole world, he replied, 'My parents' house.' "
Do you get the idea that Hershiser's idea of a really, really great time would be driving across the United States with his mother-in-law?
Also on the front page (there is only a front page and a back page) is a question-and-answer session between Hershiser and teen-agers Kristin Dell and Lesa Walker, the president and vice-president of the fan club based in the Santa Clarita Valley. The basic questioning goes like this:
Question: When did you first get interested in baseball?
Answer: When I was 8 I entered a baseball contest called Hit, Throw and Run. I ranked third in the country.
The Dodgers, who were unable to hit, throw or run this season, probably are grilling Hershiser right now, trying to get him to recall the names of the kids who were ranked first and second in the contest.
The young fans' interview took place at Dodger Stadium near the end of the dismal season, and by then, as the Dodgers continued their long slide down the sewer, Hershiser was a bit gun shy.
"I was glad that they brought a tape recorder for the interview," he said Saturday at print shop in Valencia, where 20 club members presented him with the first copy of the newsletter, "because I didn't want to be misquoted in my own fan-club newsletter. What would I do then? I can't attack my own fan club." And he complained to his fan club about the season-long questioning by the real media.
"With the general media, you can't say much because you get misquoted," he told the kids. "And they never ask me about my little boy, or what my favorite color is or what my favorite flavor is. But you kids asked those questions, and I was able to let my guard down and talk openly to you."
Now Orel, we all hope your little boy is fine. We really do. But--and I think I can speak here for the majority of the Los Angeles media--please excuse me if I don't much care if your favorite color is khaki green and your favorite flavor is, and I'm just guessing here, vanilla.
You make about $1 million a year. You pitch for perhaps the most scrutinized team in major league baseball in one of the largest cities in the world. Three million people a year visit your ballpark and leave lots of money behind, money that is used to pay your salary and help you pay for that house you just bought in Pasadena, overlooking the Rose Bowl.
So forgive us if we dare question you about silly little things like that pitch on the last day of the season at Dodger Stadium that Candy Maldonado propelled about three-quarters of a mile for a grand slam.
The newsletter reporters did, however, bring out one fairly interesting bit of information. Hershiser, who is generally regarded as the second-cleanest thing in the Dodger locker room, preceded only by Lasorda's plate, said his baseball idol when he was growing up in Michigan was Detroit's Denny McClain, the convicted racketeer and extortionist.
That's as heartwarming as finding out that Steve Garvey had a poster of Al Capone on the wall above his crib.