The 1988 Major League Baseball season ended with the underdog Los Angeles Dodgers shocking the Oakland Athletics, who had won 104 games during the regular season, in the World Series. The most memorable moment of the series came in Game 1, when injured Dodger Kirk Gibson hit a dramatic pinch-hit walk-off home run off Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley to win the game for Los Angeles. The Dodgers went on to win the Series in five games.
One of the American League's best players in 1988 was Athletics outfielder José Canseco, who became the first player in history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a single season, unanimously garnering league MVP honors. The A's surrounded him with a stellar supporting cast, led by fellow slugger Mark McGwire (with whom Canseco formed the famed "Bash Brothers" duo). Aided by strong pitching from Dave Stewart and Bob Welch and the lights-out Eckersley securing 45 saves, Oakland ran away with the American League West and swept the Boston Red Sox of Boggs, Rice, and Clemens in the playoffs before falling to the Dodgers in the World Series.
Speaking of the Dodgers, nobody expected them to even contend for the National League West title in 1988, let alone win the World Championship. However, the intensity and clutch hitting of Gibson (named the NL MVP at season's end) and the solid pitching of Orel Hershiser (who won a league-leading 23 games) spearheaded L.A. to a division championship by seven games over the Cincinnati Reds. In addition to his 23 victories, Hershiser led the National League with 267 innings pitched and 8 shutouts, and also set a record of 59 consecutive scoreless innings (formerly held by Dodger great Don Drysdale). These accomplishments, combined with his 2.26 ERA, earned him the National League Cy Young Award. However, it was in the post-season that Hershiser really distinguished himself – he started Games 1 and 3 of the NLCS against the tough New York Mets, won Game 4 in relief, and threw a complete game shutout in Game 7. He hurled another complete game shutout in Game 2 of the World Series and again went the distance in the clinching Game 5. Hershiser was named MVP of both the NLCS and the World Series, capping off arguably one of the greatest seasons a starting pitcher has ever had.
Awards and honors
MLB statistical leaders
Major league baseball final standings
Major League Baseball
- January 12 – Former Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Willie Stargell is the only player elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Stargell becomes the 17th player to be elected in his first year of eligibility. Pitcher Jim Bunning garners 317 votes (74.2%), and falls four votes shy of the 321 needed for election in his 13th year on the ballot.
- March 1 – For the first time since 1956, the Special Veterans Committee does not elect anyone to the Hall of Fame. Phil Rizzuto, Leo Durocher, Joe Gordon and Gil Hodges are among the candidates passed over.
- April – The Baltimore Orioles begin the season with a Major League-record 21 consecutive losses. Manager Cal Ripken, Sr., was a casualty of the streak, losing his job after the sixth consecutive loss.
- April 4 – George Bell becomes the first player to hit three home runs on Opening Day, as the Toronto Blue Jays defeat the Kansas City Royals 5-3.
- April 4 – The New York Mets hit six home runs in a 10-6 win over the Montreal Expos, setting a new record for the most home runs by one team on Opening Day.
- July 12 – After being maligned by the press as an unworthy All-Star starter, catcher Terry Steinbach hits a solo home run and a sacrifice fly to lead the American League to a 2–1 victory over the National League at Riverfront Stadium. Steinbach is named the MVP.
- September 17 – Jeff Reardon becomes the first pitcher to save 40 games in both leagues as the Minnesota Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 3–1. Reardon, who saved 42 games for the Montréal Expos in 1985, pitches the ninth inning for his 40th save in 47 opportunities.
- September 19 – The Oakland Athletics clinch their first American League West title since 1981 with a 5–3 victory over the Minnesota Twins. The A's would finish the season with 104 wins, a franchise record.
- September 22 – The New York Mets lock up the National League East with a 3–1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
- September 26 – The Los Angeles Dodgers pull out a 3–2 victory in San Diego to secure their fourth National League West championship of the decade.
- September 30 – Despite a 4–2 loss in Cleveland, the Boston Red Sox triumph in a close five-team race for the American League East by virtue of Milwaukee's 7–1 loss to Oakland.
- October 9 – The Oakland Athletics complete a four-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS with a 4–1 victory at the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum. A's closer Dennis Eckersley, who saved all four Oakland wins, is named Series MVP.
- October 12 – A gruelling seven-game NLCS is decided as the Los Angeles Dodgers blank the New York Mets 6–0. Orel Hershiser, who saved Game 4 and threw a complete game shutout in Game 7, garners the Series MVP Award.
- October 15 – In Game One of the 1988 World Series at Dodger Stadium, the Los Angeles Dodgers trail the Oakland Athletics 4–3 in the bottom of the ninth inning when the Dodgers' Kirk Gibson, badly injured in the NLCS against the New York Mets, hobbles to the plate to pinch-hit against Oakland's lethal closer, Dennis Eckersley. With two outs, a 3–2 count against him, and Mike Davis on second base, Gibson uses his upper body and wrists to launch a backdoor slider from Eckersley into the right-field stands for a 5–4 Los Angeles victory. Gibson's home run re-energized the underdog Dodgers and shattered the confidence of the A's, who lost the series in five games. It inspired the coining of the phrase "walk-off home run", and is widely regarded as one of the greatest moments in baseball history.
- October 20 – Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser ends his dream season with a 5–2 four-hitter over the Oakland Athletics in Game Five of the World Series. The win gives the Dodgers their first World Championship since 1981, and makes them the only team to win more than one World Series in the 1980s. Hershiser is selected the Series MVP.
- February 20 – Bob O'Farrell, 91, catcher for four NL teams over 21 seasons who won 1926 MVP award with the Cardinals
- February 23 – Pete Donohue, 87, pitcher who had three 20-win seasons for the Reds and beat the Phillies 20 consecutive times from 1922–25
- February 28 – Harvey Kuenn, 57, 8-time All-Star shortstop and outfielder, most notably with the Tigers, who batted .303 lifetime and led AL in hits four times and doubles three times; 1953 Rookie of the Year and 1959 batting champion, later managed Brewers to their first pennant in 1982
- March 21 – Edd Roush, 94, Hall of Fame center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds who batted .323 lifetime; led NL in batting twice, and in slugging, doubles and triples once each; hit 30 inside-the-park home runs, and ended career with 13th-most triples in history
- March 29 – Ted Kluszewski, 63, All-Star first baseman for the Reds who led NL in homers and RBI in 1954 and batted .300 seven times, known for his sleeveless jersey; later a Reds coach
- June 9 – Newt Allen, 87, All-Star second baseman for the Negro Leagues' Kansas City Monarchs
- July 4 – Lee Weyer, 51, National League umpire since 1963 who worked in four World Series and 5 NL Championship Series
- July 20 – John W. Galbreath, 90, owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1945 to 1985, during which period the team won three World Series
- September 2 – Jim Bagby, Jr., 71, All-Star pitcher for the Red Sox and Indians, led AL in starts and innings in 1943
- September 16 – Bob Trice, 62, first black player in Philadelphia Athletics history
- October 14 – Vic Raschi, 69, All-Star pitcher who won 20 games for the Yankees three straight years (1949–51), won World Series clinchers in 1949 and 1951
- November 21 – Carl Hubbell, 85, Hall of Fame pitcher who won 253 games for the New York Giants, second most among NL left-handers upon retirement; named NL's MVP in 1933 and 1936, he led league in wins and ERA three times each and had 1.79 ERA in six World Series starts; 1677 strikeouts were NL record for left-handers until 1958, and won 24 straight games in 1936–37
- November 22 – Ray Kelly, 74, sportswriter who covered the Philadelphia Athletics and Phillies since the late 1940s
- November 30 – Wally Berger, 83, All-Star center fielder for the Boston Braves who had four 100-RBI seasons, batted .300 lifetime; led NL in homers and RBI in 1935
- December 12 – Joe Reichler, 73, sportswriter and author who wrote for the Associated Press for 20 years and served as an assistant to the commissioner after 1966; editor of the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia since its first edition in 1969
- December 21 – Willie Kamm, 88, third baseman for the White Sox and Indians who led AL in fielding average eight times and in putouts seven times; batted .308 in 1928 and led league in walks in 1925
- ↑ Mackin, Bob (2004). The Unofficial Guide to Baseball's Most Unusual Records. Canada: Greystone Books. p. 240. ISBN 9781553650386.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.