In 1988 George Michael's hit song "Faith" topped Billboard's Hot 100 chart, "Rain Man" became a movie box office success and it had only been seven years since the Los Angeles Dodgers were in the World Series. Today, 29 years have passed since the City of Angels was galvanized behind the boys in blue of Chavez Ravine winning the most coveted prize in all of baseball.
The Commissioner's Trophy, awarded to the winner of the World Series every year, was last raised by the Dodgers in 1988 when ace-pitcher and eventual series MVP Orel Hershiser led the team to their sixth World Series title in franchise history. The Dodgers under legendary manager Tommy Lasorda defeated the Oakland Athletics, four games to one, in that best of seven games series.
Justin Siepert, 26, hadn't been born yet when the Dodgers took on the Athletics in 1988, but still recalls the memories his father would share with him of that fateful series.
"He watched Kirk Gibson hit that walk-off home run to win that big first game against Oakland," Siepert said. "I'm just glad I finally get a chance to witness history with the Dodgers and share it with my son."
Between those 29 years, the region has seen the Lakers, Sparks, Angels, Galaxy, Kings and even the mighty Ducks win championships in their respective sports leagues, but an entire generation of Angelinos have gone on without knowing what it's like for the baseball world to be painted blue.
Brett Hernandez, 33, was only 4 years old when the Dodgers last made it to the grandest stage in baseball.
"I didn't see it when I was four but as I got older I would always hear about it from my mom and grandparents and watching ESPN Classic since there was no YouTube back then," said Hernandez. "Now as an adult it's amazing to see them at the World Series."
For the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers, with an average player age of 29.5 years, getting to this grand stage seemed like destiny. After winning the National League West Division for the fourth consecutive year and subsequently earning a spot in the post-season each of those previous years, only to have their campaigns ended early by their opponents, the Dodgers went on to win 104 games in the 2017 regular season. This feat, led by 22-year-old rookie Cody Bellinger's 87 scored runs, on the back of Dodgers ace-pitcher and three-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, propelled the Dodgers to the best overall record this season at 104-58.
The Dodgers secured their fifth consecutive trip to the post-season, winning the National League West 11 games ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks even after overcoming an 11-game losing streak near the end of the season. The Diamondbacks on the other hand earned their trip to the post-season as a wild card, though their journey came to a swift end at the hands of the Dodgers, losing 3-0 in the best of five games National League Division Series.
Another date with destiny awaited the Dodgers in the following round, as the defending 2016 World Series Champions Chicago Cubs returned to the National League Championship Series for the third consecutive year. With game winning performances at bat from Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner and Kiké Hernández, the Dodgers soundly defeated the former champions 4-1 in this best of seven games series, avenging the previous year's loss to the Cubs for the National League title and punching their ticket to the Fall Classic for the first time since Hershiser and the boys in blue last lifted the coveted Commissioner's Trophy.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were then four wins away from their seventh World Series title in franchise history and the only thing standing in their way were the 2017 American League Champions Houston Astros, who sought to cap their own 101-61 season with their first World Series title. The Dodgers had home-field advantage due to their better regular season record but what awaited the baseball world was a clash of two heavyweight teams, beginning with game one at Dodgers Stadium.
Alan Sanchez, 23, like many passionate Dodgers fans of his generation knew the gravity of this monumental opportunity for the boys in blue.
"Over a hundred wins this year and about 30 years behind that and it's all led up to this," Sanchez said. "It can come down to the wire but sometimes all it takes is a swing."
For Chris Taylor, one swing is all it took to open up the Dodgers' scorecard in the World Series, hitting a solo home run off Astros ace-pitcher Dallas Keuchel's first pitch of game one, following Kershaw's swift retirement of Houston's first three big hitters earlier in the first inning. After a start like that, to dispute the Dodgers as the team of destiny would seem like insanity. The Dodgers' closer Kenley Jansen wrapped up game one for the team with a 3-1 win, giving Kershaw the World Series win that long eluded the future Hall of Famer. However, the World Series is a best of seven games series and though the Dodgers had a 1-0 lead over the Astros, those three more wins would have to be earned inning by inning.
$959.88 is what the cheapest seat at Dodgers Stadium cost for game two in the infield reserve section 41 with about 20 hours to go before the first pitch, and for a game that went 11 innings, realizing just how excruciating and emotionally exhausting each inning of the 2017 World Series was going to be certainly was a tough lesson to learn from the nosebleeds. The atmosphere was tense through the first five innings as the Astros held on to a single run lead from the third inning until Joc Pederson hit a solo home run to tie the game in the fifth. The Dodgers widened their lead to 3-1 in the sixth and much like game one, the boys in blue seemed destined to win this game, but as they entered the eighth inning, elation at Dodgers Stadium slowly turned to desperation.
Whenever Jansen would come in to close a game for the Dodgers with a lead, the thought of blowing up the lead was practically inconceivable. However, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts opted to bring Jansen in an inning early, which was a rarity seemingly reserved for when your team is six outs away from winning game two of the World Series. Though the task seemed simple in nature, the beasts that were the Astros' batters were anything but, as the American League Champions scored on Jansen in the eighth and later in the ninth to take the game into extra innings.
As a fan, seeing the lead blown up in the ninth inning was a gut punch, but witnessing the Astros take a 5-3 lead in the 10th inning only for Kiké Hernandez to bring home the tying run and take us into the 11th made the drink spilled on me by a fellow fan almost feel like a shot of adrenaline. As another fan who jumped from the stands into the visiting team's bullpen shortly before being escorted out by security surely meant to let the Astros know, the Dodgers weren't going to go down without a fight.
Unfortunately for the 54,293 in attendance, the Astros came back to score two more runs in the 11th only for Corey Seager to bring the Dodgers back within one, but ultimately fall short of a victory. Game two was nothing short of an emotional roller coaster that came to a crashing halt.
That brief allusion seemingly signaled how the rest of the World Series would pan out as it shifted to Houston, with the Astros taking two of three games at home and a commanding 3-2 lead heading back to L.A. while the Dodgers, the team of destiny, seemed set to win it all at home.
After winning game six by the same 3-1 margin the Dodgers closed the first game of the Fall Classic with, the city was set for its first decisive game seven in a sports league final since the Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in 2010. Los Angeles was ready for the storybook ending to the Dodgers' 29-year hunt for a World Series title barring a horrific collapse.
To say Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish's performance in game seven was a resounding and horrific collapse that will reverberate in this city for a while would be an understatement. The last-second acquisition by the Dodgers from the Texas Rangers, meant to compliment the Dodgers' pitching rotation, allowed the Astros to score five runs in only the first two innings of the game. With that, despite the longest tenured member of the Dodgers' roster in Andre Ethier bringing Joc Pederson home for the Dodgers' only run of the game in the sixth inning, the Astros had rewritten the script to become the 2017 World Series Champions.
"We were built to win and what hurt the most was being one win away," Sanchez said after the series had culminated. "It was like a cruel twist ending to an otherwise thrilling movie, but in the end the villain got away and you're left feeling robbed."
To the naked eye the Dodgers and their fans appear to be left black and blue, bruised and battered. However, as millions of Angelinos have come to know since the Dodgers first arrived to Los Angeles from Brooklyn in 1958 with one World Series title, only to win five more in their illustrious L.A. history, the fight will continue. The road to the World Series happens every year and though many questions remain about how the Dodgers can improve going into 2018, no one will question this team's grit.
Much time has indeed passed since 1988. Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" is leading the music charts, another installment of the Star Wars saga is about to be released, and a region that has grown to over 18 million hearts and minds remain dreaming of the day the boys in blue raise the Commissioner's Trophy for a seventh time.
Although this once dubbed team of destiny fell short of reaching baseball's ultimate prize in 2017, as Sanchez put it, "It's not a matter of if, but when they'll win it all again."