in 2000, the prodigal son returned. orel hershiser, the bulldog, the man who pitched the dodgers to a championship in 1988, had been allowed to leave los angeles as a free agent after the strike shortened 1994 season. some complained at the time that hershiser had become a .500 pitcher, but they were ignoring the lack of run support he received from the dodgers of the early 90's. while he posted win-loss records of .500 (or worse), his era remained below 4 (except for his abbreviated 1991 season wherein he was pitching without a rotator cuff). at any rate, he landed in cleveland where he promptly continued his postseason dominance against the red sox in the alds, the mariners in the alcs, and even the braves in the world series (although he lost game 1). after three decent years in cleveland (his win-loss record somewhat masked his climbing era) and two world series appearances, hershiser again became a free agent, and decided to return to the nl west. the giants were happy to have him, as he won 11 games and pitched 202 innings for them, despite a 4.41 era.
for the 1999 season, hershiser signed as a free agent with the indians. however, the tribe released him during spring training and the mets picked him up. he pitched his final full season with new york that year, winning 13 games including the 200th of his career. he also tallied his 2000th career strikeout. in the playoffs, he appeared exclusively in relief, throwing 5 and a third scoreless innings to reduce his career postseason era to 2.59 with a 1.11 whip in 132 innings. not too shabby.
the 2000 dodgers were in need of pitching. they had traded ismael valdes to the cubs, so after kevin brown and chan ho park, they were looking at darren dreifort and carlos perez and a bunch of rookies (including luke prokopec and eric gagne) to round out the rotation. hershiser was signed as a veteran arm who had been surprisingly durable since his rotator cuff injury, having pitched at least 167 innings since his departure from the dodgers. he was inserted as the team's number 3 starter, and was hit hard in the first inning of his first start on the way to a four run, five inning performance. nine days later, hershiser was tabbed as the starter for the dodgers' home opener, and just as he had done in 1994, he didn't disappoint the opening day crowd. hershiser went 6 innings, giving up one run, and earned the win as the dodgers beat the reds. it would be the final victory of hershiser's career. he started 4 more games, losing all of them, and was released after allowing 8 runs (5 of which were driven in by bret boone) in the second inning of a game against the padres.
there aren't too many cards of hershiser in mets gear as he just wasn't featured in too many sets, and topps was able to issue their 2000 flagship card using a boring spring training photo showing him in his dodger uniform. what's worse than that lame 2000 topps card is that he was not included in any 2001 sets since he was released during the 2000 season. to right that wrong, here is his 2001 topps card that should have been:
it was actually pretty easy to find a picture of hershiser from 2000 (thanks la times) to use, but the 2001 topps template is tough to work with. i think it came out ok, though.
here's to you bulldog and your card that should have been!