The 1988 World Series proved that, sometimes, you get what you expect out of life … but only after you wind through the wilderness a couple of times and turn the whole thing on its head.

See, this Series was supposed to be a yawner because it pitted the high-flying Bash Brothers Oakland A’s of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire fame against the stingy and scrappy Los Angeles Dodgers.

Tommy Lasorda was a Dodgers legend, and Orel Hershiser was maybe the game’s best pitcher, but … come on! No amount of NL-style tactical maneuvering would overcome the Athletics’ firepower.

1989 Score 1988 World Series card

We all knew it would be a minor miracle if this thing lasted even five games.

And … that’s how it played out. Sort of.

All these years later, this is still remembered as one of the most dramatic World Series of all time, but the thing is … just about all the drama happened in Game 1.

Here, let me tell you about it game by game, with the help of the one most significant baseball card related to each contest.

1988 World Series Game 1 – Dodgers 5, A’s 4

OK, rules are made to be broken. Especially when they’re your own rules and you just have to break them because they’re too darn limited.

That’s definitely the case with Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, because you can’t tell the tale with just one pasteboard.

The story for this one began late in the regular season, and especially in the NLCS against the Mets. In particular, the Dodgers’ big off-season acquisition, Kirk Gibson, came out of that series barely able to walk thanks to injuries to his left hamstring and right knee.

1988 Fleer Update Kirk Gibson

1988 Fleer Update Kirk Gibson (#U93)

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Gibby had been the heart and soul of the Blue all season long, and many thought he was in line for the NL MVP award (he was, as it turned out).

So, entering Game 1 without their leader, the Dodgers looked like a longshot to make any noise whatsoever.

And things pretty much played out as you would expect, with the A’s scoring four runs in the second inning on a two-out Jose Canseco grand slam against Tim Belcher.

Luckily for the Dodgers, they had already — and uncharacteristically — struck first thanks to a two-run dinger by Mickey Hatcher off Dave Stewart in their opening at-bat.

Dodgers relievers, and Stewart, pretty much shut stuff down from there, though L.A. managed to scratch out another run in the sixth on a Mike Scioscia RBI single.

Heading to the bottom of the ninth, then, the A’s were right where they wanted to be — up by a run and with a fresh lockdown Superman closer Dennis Eckersley on the hill.

Game over.

And it looked like that through the first two batters, too, as Sciosia popped out to short and Jeff Hamilton struck out.

Down to their final out, though, former “A” Mike Davis coaxed a walk from Eck.

With pitcher Alejandro Pena due up, Dodger Stadium began to chatter at the possibility of a pinch hitter … couldn’t happen could it?

Tommy wouldn’t do it … would he? And, even if he wanted to, could he … ??

And then, it happened.

Gibson himself hobbled to the plate and chills shot down spines across America.

1988 Donruss Baseballs Best Dennis Eckersley

1988 Donruss Baseball’s Best Dennis Eckersley (#43)

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Eckersley threw everything he had at the former Tiger, and Gibby worked the count to 2-and-2, then fouled off two more pitches before taking ball three.

Davis stole on that pitch, which meant Gibson could tie the game with a hit, but that still seemed like an impossibility.

On the next pitch, though, the eighth of the at-bat, Gibson tied into Eckersley’s slider and sent it flying deep into the October night, not stopping until it reached the right field bleachers.

I was jumping around my bedroom watching that game even though I hated the Dodgers (as a Reds fan), and I swear to this day that The Natural theme music began playing somewhere outside in the dark Indiana night.

These two cards wrap up that feeling as well as any could with “Baseball’s Best” closer (Eckersley) delivering his nasty stuff while new L.A. hero Gibson digs in wrapped all up in Red, White, and Dodger Blue on his 1988 Fleer.

1988 World Series Game 2 – Dodgers 6, A’s 0

1988 Topps Mike Marshall

1988 Topps Mike Marshall (#249)

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For a lot of years, Dodgers fans held out hope for Mike Marshall to deliver Major League power to the team.

The big (6’5″, 215 pounds) right fielder definitely showed some pop, reaching a career high of 28 home runs in 1985.

But Marshall also had trouble staying on the field, peaking at 144 games played … in 1988.

That timely healthy season carried into the playoffs and put him in the batter’s box against Storm Davis in the third inning of Game 2.

The Dodgers had already scored a couple of runs in the frame, courtesy of consecutive singles by Hershiser, Steve Sax, Franklin Stubbs, and Hatcher after a leadoff pop-out by Alfredo Griffin.

All Marshall did was pull Davis’ 0-2 pitch into the left field stands, giving L.A. a 5-0 lead in a game they would win 6-0.

Fittingly, big Mike is swooping through the zone with a powerful swing on his 1988 Topps card.

1988 World Series Game 3 – A’s 2, Dodgers 1

1988 Topps Mark McGwire 87 Record Breakers

1988 Topps Mark McGwire ’87 Record Breakers (#3)

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The A’s headed home for Game 3 of the Series in a 2-0 hole and with their big bats just sort of laying flaccid on the side of the baseball road.

It wasn’t at all what anyone expected, and if Oakland didn’t get off the snide soon, the unthinkable might happen.

The A’s bought themselves a sigh of relief by small-balling a run in the bottom of the third to take 1-0 lead, but L.A. came “roaring” back to tie it up in the fifth.

It stayed that way deep into the ninth, and it looked like the game was headed to extra innings when Canseco popped up to lead off the inning.

Next up, though, was 1987 American League Rookie of the Year, who had fallen all the way from 49 home runs that magical summer to *just* 32 in ’88.

After working the count to 2-2 against Dodgers reliever Jay Howell, though, Big Mac slammed a live drive into the left-center seats to end the game.

In that moment, he totally looked like that bashing young man on his 1988 Topps ’87 Record Breakers card.

1988 World Series Game 4 – Dodgers 4, A’s 3

1988 Topps Big Alfredo Griffin

1988 Topps Big Alfredo Griffin (#247)

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Griffin, like Howell, had played with the A’s in 1987 but came to the Dodgers in a humongous trade that, among other things, sent Bob Welch to Oakland that December.

The veteran shortstop made it into just 95 games with L.A. in 1988, but he drew the starting assignment for Game 4 of the Fall Classic.

It was a contest that saw the Dodgers once again jump out in front, and they led 3-1 after three.

The A’s scored again in the bottom of the sixth, and then the Dodgers got something going in the seventh when Griffin drew a one-out walk off of Stewart.

Alfredo went to third on a Steve Sax single to center, and then Tracy Woodson grounded out to short as Griffin scored.

It would be the insurance run the Dodgers needed, as the A’s scored once in the bottom of the frame (Dave Henderson doubled home Walt Weiss) … and then were done.

Griffin running in Blue — as he’s doing on his 1988 Topps Big card — is the enduring image of Game 4.

1988 World Series Game 5 – Dodgers 5, A’s 2

1988 Topps Revco League Leaders Orel Hershiser

1988 Topps Revco League Leaders Orel Hershiser (#12)

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If there was one guy you wanted on the mound in October of 1988 when you absolutely needed to keep the other team from scoring runs (like, you know, all the time), it was Orel Hershiser.

After all, the dude had just broken Don Drysdale‘s record for the most consecutive scoreless innings and posted a 23-8 record with a 2.26 ERA. A few weeks after the World Series, that would be good enough to land a Cy Young Award for Bulldog.

Before that, though, the Dodgers had a chance — three! — to close out the A’s.

Hatcher got the party started early with a two-run homer off Storm Davis in the first, and that was mostly all Hershiser needed.

He went the distance and struck out nine, giving up four hits and four walks, and two runs courtesy of two Stan Javier ribbies (on a sac fly and a single).

By the time of that second bit of Javier magic, though, the Dodgers had already tacked on three more, and the Fall Classic was pretty much done.

With two complete-game wins, Hershiser nabbed the Series MVP award and established himself as an October legend — just like his teammate Gibson.

It’s all blue skies on Hershiser’s Revco card, which isn’t the most gorgeous issue but marries a bona fide “League Leader” with the box set, a staple of the 1980s hobby.

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