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Freeway Series: When these Angels were Dodgers, the Ravine was their happy place

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, and coaches Mickey Hatcher and Alfredo Griffin, share idyllic memories when they played for a winning Dodgers team of the '80s and '90s that was beloved by its fans. They return for the Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium, where there's little serenity to be found now.

June 23, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia, left, and pitcher Fernando Valenzuela are all smiles while running together on Aug. 1, 1981 at the team's first workout session following a midseason Major League Baseball strike.
Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia, left, and pitcher Fernando Valenzuela… (Rick Meyer / Los Angeles…)

Mickey Hatcher did not produce the signature moment from Game 1 of the 1988 World Series — that honor belongs to a certain gimpy pinch-hitter who pumped his fist as he hobbled around the bases after his stunning game-winning home run.

But there was a humorous bookend to Kirk Gibson's dramatic ninth-inning two-run shot off Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley, which gave the Dodgers a 5-4 win and propelled them toward the World Series championship.

It was provided by Hatcher, who then was a Dodgers utility player but will be wearing an Angels uniform Friday night when the teams resume their Freeway Series rivalry at Dodger Stadium.

At a workout day before the World Series, Hatcher bumped into Oakland's Game 1 starter, Dave Stewart, as the Dodgers were leaving the field and the A's were taking it.

The two came up through the Dodgers' system together and were friends, so Hatcher thought he'd try to get into Stewart's head.

"We were joking around, and I told Dave that I feel like I'm going to hit a home run off him," Hatcher said. "Dave said, 'Not if I throw it at your head,' and I said, 'That's my favorite pitch!' "

Sure enough, in the first inning of Game 1, with a runner aboard, Hatcher hit a home run to left field off Stewart to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

"When I hit the home run, I ran around the bases as fast as I could," Hatcher said. "I didn't even want to look at Dave."

That homer was the start of a superb World Series for Hatcher, who hit .368 (seven for 19) with two homers, a double and five runs batted in while subbing for the injured Gibson in left field and batting third in each of the five games.

And it is Hatcher's favorite Dodger Stadium memory, the one he thinks about every time he returns to Chavez Ravine.

For Angels Manager Mike Scioscia and first base coach Alfredo Griffin, two other members of that Dodgers team, Gibson's famous home run is the Dodger Stadium memory that stands out.

"No doubt, that's my favorite moment from a game, when Gibson hit the home run," Scioscia said. "I just remember the electricity of it and the packed house. The fans stayed for 45 minutes after the game, and they were just going crazy."

Scioscia, a catcher, played 13 years with the Dodgers from 1980-92. He was on two World Series-winning teams, in 1981 and 1988, and he caught a pair of no-hitters, by Fernando Valenzuela and Kevin Gross.

But if he had to pick a runner-up to the Gibson home run on his list of favorite Dodger Stadium memories, it would be one that occurred before a game, not during one.

"It was opening day of 1989, when we got our World Series rings from [then-Commissioner] Bart Giamatti," Scioscia said. "There was something incredible about that feeling, just thinking about the team we had and the guys that put together such a great run."

That team included Gibson, Mike Marshall, Steve Sax and pitching ace Orel Hershiser, who went 23-8 with a 2.26 earned-run average and finished the season with a record 59 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, breaking the mark held by Dodgers great Don Drysdale.

"The way Orel pitched, breaking Drysdale's record, all the exciting things that happened during the season and in the playoffs," Hatcher said. "It was just a magical year."

What also stands out in Griffin's mind is the serenity he felt at Dodger Stadium during his three years (1988-91) with the team.

"It's a place where you want to be every day," Griffin said. "It's not a place where you say, 'Oh, man, I don't want to go to work.' Dodger Stadium, when I was there, was a really happy place. It was relaxing. It was a lovely place."

That was a different era. The Dodgers lost their decades-long charm of family ownership in 1998 when Peter O'Malley sold the team to Fox, which hired the general manager (Kevin Malone) who let Scioscia, who was coaching in the organization, get away.

These days, the Dodgers are struggling on the field, sagging at the gate and rapidly falling out of favor with what was once one of the country's most loyal fan bases.

"It's hard to see what's going on there now — things have really changed," Hatcher said. "When I was there it was like a big family — everyone in the organization felt like they were part of the team, and you knew everyone by name.

"I don't know if I ever would have become a coach if Peter O'Malley didn't give me the opportunity after my career was over to become a player-coach at [triple-A] Albuquerque in 1990.

"When O'Malley sold the team and Kevin Malone came in, they got rid of a lot of good baseball people who were in the system. It changed everything for me and for Mike.

"We were frustrated, but we didn't stop carrying over what they taught us."

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