OAKLAND — Fact and fantasy had mingled for weeks, like a Hollywood creation slowly unfolding. But now they have somehow intertwined, and the Dodgers' improbable dream of winning the World Series is a reality.
Thursday night at the Oakland Coliseum, the final scene was played in a Dodger season of expectations not only fulfilled but surpassed.
The Dodgers used the tireless right arm of pitcher Orel Hershiser, the leading man, and the efforts of their corps of "Stuntmen" to beat the Oakland Athletics, 5-2, and win baseball's championship in a startling 5 games.
As Hershiser, the Series' most valuable player, struck out Tony Phillips in the dramatic climax of the Dodgers' championship season, he looked skyward to give thanks. But he also may have been asking, "Is it real?"
It certainly was. Reality may have hit the A's like a forearm bash to the midsection, but it cascaded over the Dodgers like champagne.
"It wasn't supposed to happen," relief pitcher Jay Howell said. "People weren't supposed to write this. I think we are as overwhelmed as anyone by this. We didn't think we'd beat the (New York) Mets in the playoffs, and we weren't sure about the A's."
There is no mistake: It is the Dodgers, not the seemingly more talented A's, who are officially crowned baseball's best. This is the Dodgers' sixth World Series title, the second in Manager Tom Lasorda's tenure. His first was in 1981.
Typical of the Dodgers' rise, contributions were made by many sources. Most notable on a night of stars was another dominating pitching effort by the indefatigable Hershiser, who pitched a 4-hitter, and another offensive windfall by Mickey Hatcher, who hit a 2-run home run and became the offensive star of the Series.
Those are the facts. Now for the fantasy. Even as late as 2 weeks ago, hardly anyone not wearing blue gave the Dodgers a chance to beat the Mets in the National League championship series. And once the Mets were dismissed, the Dodgers were said to have no chance against the all-powerful A's, who won 104 regular-season games.
Yet, it was as if Lasorda knew the script in advance and used it to his team's advantage. Every time the Dodgers were counted out, Lasorda pointed it out to his club.
"I planned it," Lasorda said. "I wanted it that way. I wanted people thinking that this club was a bunch of patsies. I kept telling our team that people gave them no chance.
"This is, without a doubt, the greatest accomplishment of a team who didn't have the greatest talent. This was greater, for me, than 1981. Because we didn't have that talent, but we had guys who wanted to play and who had that desire. I've said it all along, this is a team of destiny."
The Dodgers simply refused to believe that they were not good enough. Some might say that the 1988 Dodgers, who, in lieu of the injured Kirk Gibson and Mike Scioscia, gave us the likes of Hatcher, Danny Heep and Mike Davis, may be the weakest World Series champion since, well, the 1987 Minnesota Twins.
The Dodgers, who won 94 games en route to the National League West title, realized their lofty ambitions because they knew their limitations. But throughout the Series, they stretched themselves beyond their limits.
Who would have thought that journeyman Hatcher, who was out of a job in 1987, would hit home runs in Games 1 and 5 and be suitable as Gibson's stand-in?
Who would have thought that Hershiser, who really is mortal, could put together an amazing late-season streak in which he allowed only 5 earned runs in his last 101 innings?
Who would have thought that Gibson, who figured to use his bat only as a crutch in the Series, could hobble out of the dugout in the dramatic ninth inning of Game 1 and hit a game-winning, 2-run home run that staggered Oakland?
Who would have figured that, despite a series of debilitating injuries to Gibson, Scioscia, Mike Marshall and John Tudor, the Dodgers would receive contributions from Rick Dempsey, Davis and others?
Who would have thought it? The Dodgers, that's who.
"It's just like a dream," said Hatcher, who gave Hershiser a 2-0 lead with a home run off loser Storm Davis in the first inning Thursday night. "I never expected this, but in a way I \o7 did \f7 expect it. This team has done whatever it set its mind to do.
"We don't care what people say, what they write, whether the other team thinks we are any good. This is the kind of team we are. When the big boys went down, we were not afraid to put somebody else in and keep winning. We won the world championship because we are a team."
That concept was never more evident than in the decisive Game 5 before 49,317 at the Oakland Coliseum.
Hershiser, who shut out the A's in Game 2, was dominating once again. Pitching on 3-days' rest for the fifth time in the postseason, Hershiser re-established his dominance early, allowing a run in the third but then shutting out the A's over the next 4 innings.