An honor awaits former Indians pitcher Orel Hershiser in Cleveland this summer.
Hershiser, a Bowling Green State University alumnus, is one of this year’s inductees into the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame along with former Steelers and Lions quarterback Charlie Batch (Eastern Michigan), former NFL running back Michael Turner (Northern Illinois), Toledo women’s basketball player Dana Drew-Shaw, and Carol Cartwright, who served as president of Kent State University and then BGSU.
The five inductees will be recognized at an honors dinner on May 30 at the Cleveland Renaissance Hotel – not far from Progressive Field, where Hershiser anchored the Indians’ starting rotation for three of the team’s most successful years in history.
Hershiser was drafted by the Dodgers in 1979 after being named the Mid-American Conference’s Most Outstanding Pitcher, going 6-2 with a 2.26 ERA, with 52 strikeouts in 62.2 innings pitched. He remains the last Bowling Green pitcher to throw a complete game no-hitter. Hershiser had been recruited by baseball coach Don Purvis.
“Orel had an effortless delivery, a wonderfully loose arm that was free and flowing, a live fast ball, an outstanding curve and great control,” Purvis recalled to Russ Schneider of the Plain Dealer in 1988, when Hershiser’s pitching led the Dodgers to their last World Series win to date.
“Orel was an outstanding pitcher, but did I expect him to become this good? Nobody could predict something like that, although I knew we really had something when he came to BG.”
Less than two years later, Hershiser needed his shoulder reconstructed in what was at the time a radical surgery. In what turned out to be his final start with the Dodgers in 1994, he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but the strike hit, effectively making him a free agent.
He fielded offers from multiple teams, but signed on with the Indians in April 1995 (the season wouldn’t start for another month). “There is an unbelievable opportunity to win here,” Hershiser said in the next day’s Plain Dealer. “Most importantly, there’s a chance to win a world championship. The Indians have a quality ballpark, a quality ballclub and are located in a quality city. I want to be a part of that.”
A championship eluded Hershiser in his three years in Cleveland, when he went 45-21 with a 4.19 ERA. He was named American League Championship Series MVP in 1995, becoming the first person to receive that honor in both leagues. His Indians career ended ignominiously, getting shelled in Game 2 of the 1997 World Series, and he latched on with the Giants for the following season. After one season by the Bay, he returned to Cleveland on a minor-league deal but was released in spring training. He signed with the Mets, going 13-12 as the Mets made the playoffs. He made one more tour with the Dodgers the following year before hanging it up, but remains attached to the team as part of its broadcast crew.
Hershiser was a recent candidate on the veterans’ ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but Cooperstown has thus far eluded him. However, he was inducted into the Bowling Green State University Hall of Fame in 1985.