In 1990 I visited the US for the second time. After the East Coast we travelled to Louisiana and between New Orleans and Tupelo we stopped at a gas station that seemed to come straight from 'Deliverance'. They had a shop with some snacks and a few books. Much to my surprise they had a book with a blue, white cover, a picture of a pitcher with an LA cap. It had the title 'Out of the Blue' in white Dodger-type letters and the name ‘Orel Hershiser’ in gold embossed lettering. The reading of this book would turn out to be the final push that put me in the Dodgers corner forever.
I read it while we were on the road and I loved taking a peek into Orel's private life. At that age (19) I hadn't read any biographies and since then I've read a bunch. I liked most, so maybe it's the type of book that made an impression as well as Hershiser's story, making it double fun to read. One of the most fascinating facts I learned was that Orel is a christian and incorporated this in family life and his pitching. Being an atheist myself I often feel a certain reluctance when people begin about their religion. But Hershiser didn’t preach. He described it in a very loving way that made him endearing and strong at the same time. It was also a great way to relive the 1988 season and how he felt during the 59 scoreless innings. I wanted to send the book to Dodger Stadium for Hershiser to sign it, but I never came around to it and one day he was gone.
It pained me to see him leave LA, but that's how things go. But as with all good Dodger players who leave the organization I kept on following his career. He had three very strong seasons with the Indians before he moved to the Giants (a shock then and now).
In 2007 I visited Chicago and got myself tickets for the Cubs-Dodgers series at Wrigley Field. I met Natalie Uyeno and Charlie Firestone. ESPN had it's wednesday night baseball broadcast from Wrigley that night and one of the commentators was no other than Orel. After the game we tried to reach the commentary boxes. Against the flow of leaving spectators we almost reached them until an usher let us know we had to go downstairs. We turned, disappointed and Charles who was looking up said "He just went by". So, we ran up the stairs, no usher in sight and yes, it was him: The Bulldog! Natalie asked him if he had a moment, he did, he signed a 1988 World Series ball for her, I took their picture. Then hesigned my Dodgers Jersey, posed for a pic and was gone. Yes, I look a bit bewildered on the photo, but man, how cool was this? Meeting The Bulldog? Fantastic!