Orel Hershiser: ESPN Totally Not A Frat House, More Like Library! [5 Questions]


We tried to get former Cy Young Award-winner Orel Hershiser to say something harsher than “gosh” or to call out notorious player-dating actress Alyssa Milano as a Baseball Annie with turf burn on her knees.

No luck. … Hershiser is very much the serious, professor-like analyst he seems to be on ESPN baseball telecasts. Think Sam The Eagle with a blazer meets Ken Burns after a haircut, perm and shave.

Later today, former all-star and World Series MVP (1988) Hershiser is coaching youngsters in the Subway restaurants’ Little League Baseball Appreciation Game in Los Angeles. 

“It’s more of a game than it is a competition,”  Hershiser said via phone.

The exhibition game, held during National Little League Baseball Week, serves as the launch of the SUBWAY Baseball DeSIGNS tour, a traveling exhibit of kid-designed baseballs autographed by celebs like Katy Perry, Zac Efron, Blake Griffin, Ryan Howard and more, including Hershiser. (Go to www.subwaykids.com for tour dates and pictures). Proceeds from the Subway tour and the eventual auction of the celebrity baseballs benefit the Little League Baseball Urban Initiative program.

“It keeps kids playing baseball who might not otherwise have a chance to stay with the game,” Hershiser said.

Suffice to say, we don’t expect any bench-clearing melees or sign-stealing in today’s game. Maybe Milton Bradley or Ozzie Guillen can coach next year in the Subway Lord of the Flies Appreciation Game?

You’ll be coaching against fellow former major league all-star and Dodger Shawn Green today. What types of strategies will you employ against his team?

You mean to win the game? Well, I think it’s more of a chance to celebrate the event and the spirit of the cause behind the game. I’ll be focused on allowing the kids to enjoy the day and feel like they are in the big leagues. Hopefully, they’ll get more out of the opportunity to learn from being coached by two ex-big leaguers, rather than trying to win.

Dodgers great Steve Garvey wants you in his potential buyers’ group should the Dodgers eventually be put up for sale. How do you view team ownership and, if yours isn’t the group that succeeds, who would make the best owner for the team: Mark Cuban, the Fox network or Alyssa Milano?

The team is not for sale. Obviously, Garv and I will be inextricably linked to the Dodgers for the rest of our lives, so I understand the speculation. …Mr. McCourt and the current ownership, they are doing everything they can to compete and meet the expectation of Dodgers fans and they will continue to do that. If the opportunity ever arose for me to be involved with the team’s ownership, I’d certainly be interested, but until then, it’s speculative.

You played on both the Dodgers and the Giants, a baseball rivalry which received the worst kind of attention with the attack on Giants fan Bryan Stow outside Dodger stadium earlier this season. What’s the craziest thing you ever saw in the Dodgers-Giants rivalry and was there ever any place you didn’t feel safe as a player or analyst?

There was never a time when I didn’t feel safe as a player. And, I think that 99.9 percent of fans have never felt threatened during that rivalry… This is a time for all of Major League Baseball and its fans to rally around the Stow family. What happened was not only tragic and and a shame, but criminal, completely criminal.

In my playing days, the worst thing that anyone would have worried about was maybe having a beer dumped on them or an obscenity said toward them, but never any violence.

ESPN seems like a giant frat house? Is it really like that? How does it compare to, say, a Bowling Green (his alma mater) frat house?

Oh my gosh. ESPN is a very serious place. It’s not at all like a frat house. People there have their nose down and just grind it out to bring the best sports coverage possible on an event or broadcast. It certainly doesn’t remind me of sitting around the commons and talking with my friends. If anything, it’s more like sitting at the library grinding out and studying for an exam….

Contrast playing for (’99 Mets), and now working with, Bobby Valentine at ESPN. Do you ever wish an ump would come into the booth and run him from the game?

(Laughs) No. Never. I get along great with Bobby. He’s one of the most intelligent guys I’ve ever been around about baseball, actually about anything; he’s very smart. He challenges you and your brain. He’s not one to say just yes or no, or that something is a fact because someone said it. It makes him a great analyst.

Who cursed more: Bobby V or Tommy Lasorda?

Oh my gosh! I don’t know. I haven’t heard either of them curse in about five years.

Which current pitcher do you think has the best shot to break your consecutive scoreless innings streak?

Wow. Last year (Colorado’s) Ubaldo Jimenez was off and running at it, but he’s not doing as well this year. I guess, the guy who gets to 30 scoreless innings first is the favorite. Just to get to 30 to 35 innings is amazing; it’s four starts to get to 36 innings.

I thought it was the record that would never be broken when I broke it. Now that I have it, I am going to run with it, but I do hope someone has their day in sun; their chance to break it. When they do get close to it, I  want to be there. I think it’s good for baseball for old records to keep getting broken by modern-day players.

You are a very good poker player. Do you play while traveling with ESPN? Give us your best poker story.

I don’t play much during baseball season. I will not be in the World Series (of Poker) this year; I’ve just been real busy and too busy to commit to that. In the baseball off-season, I play a bit more. It’s fun and it’s an event that allows you to compete sitting down, which is a plus when you are older and your body breaks down (laughs).

As far as a good story, I don’t really have one other than to say it’s a much more difficult game than it looks. Poker is a mentally challenging game that involves strategy and concentration and thought. It’s a lot harder to compete in it and win than people might think just watching it.

The SUBWAY Baseball DeSIGNS tour will make stops across the country including Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York City and Williamsport, Pennsylvania at the Little League Baseball World Series. Go to SUBWAYkids.com to see baseballs and tour dates.

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