Born: September 16, 1958
Town: Cherry Hill
Orel Leonard Hershiser IV was born September 16, 1958 in Buffalo, New York and moved to Cherry Hill, New Jersey in the early 1970s. Previous to their move to the Garden State, the family had lived in Detroit and Toronto. Orel was already an accomplished baseball player by the time he enrolled at Cherry Hill High School East. He had placed third in the national Hit Run & Throw competition at age 8. Orel was also a talented junior hockey player.
Orel made the Cougars as a junior and was an All-Conference pitcher his senior year. He set a school record with 15 strikeouts in a game and attracted the attention of a few college scouts. Orel accepted a partial scholarship from Bowling Green, but failed to make much of an impression until his junior year, when he added 15 pounds of muscle over the summer and 5 mph to his fastball. That year he pitched a no-hitter against Kent State. He did not have a blazing fastball, but it had natural sink and he could get his pitches to break in two directions.
At 6’ 3” and 175 pounds, Orel showed enough upside to be selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 17th round of the 1979 draft. He spent five years in the minors fine-tuning his skills as both a starter and reliever, and was nearly included in a trade with the Texas Rangers. The Dodgers were glad they held on to Orel after he made the club in 1984. He began the year as the mop-up man in the bullpen, but worked his way into the starting rotation in July. He pitched four shutouts that month and finished 11–8 on the year.
In 1985, Orel went 19–3 and helped the Dodgers win the NL West. He had the league’s best winning percentage and finished third in the Cy Young voting. After a pair of .500 seasons in 1986 and 1987, Orel had a year for the ages in 1988, winning 23 games and throwing 59 consecutive scoreless innings. That broke the all-time record set by Don Drysdale in 1968. He was a unanimous pick for the Cy Young Award and continued his brilliant pitching through the playoffs and World Series, as the Dodgers won their second championship of the decade. Orel was named NLCS and World Series MVP, and was Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.
In 1990, Orel suffered a torn rotator cuff and underwent reconstructive surgery—the first time it had been successfully done on a big-league pitcher. Even so, he was never the same pitcher again, although he pitched well enough upon his return to win Comeback Player of the Year honors. Orel became a free agent after the 1994 season and signed with the Cleveland Indians. He went 16–6 and gave the Tribe a veteran presence that helped them win the pennant in 1995. His two victories against the Mariners in the ALCS made him the first player to win MVP awards in the ALCS and NLCS. He pitched for the Indians in both the 1995 and 1997 World Series.
Orel pitched for the Giants in 1998 and Mets in 1999, helping New York reach the NLCS. He signed a contract with the Dodgers in 2000 but was released early in the summer. Orel served as pitching coach for the Rangers from 2002 to 2005, and later did some television work for ESPN. He was part of a group that tried to buy the Dodgers in 2011. Although the group was unsuccessful, Orel was hired by the new owners to broadcast games. In 2012, his son Jordan was drafted by the Dodgers in the 34th round.