2008 Woodson feature
World Series Innings with Tracy Woodson
By Phil Stanton
Woodson enters his sixth season as the head coach at Valparaiso.
The fourth-seeded Crusaders reached the title game of the 2011
Horizon League Tournament, falling by one run to top-seeded
Wright State in the title game.
Woodson coached in professional baseball for
eight years after playing for 13 seasons. Woodson was a member
of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1987-89, contributing to a World
Series title in 1988. He played for the St. Louis Cardinals in
1992 and 1993.
Woodson reflected on the Dodgers’ postseason run
in 1988 and looked ahead at the Crusaders for 2012.
First Inning – In your first big league season
in 1987, the Dodgers finished in fourth place in the West. How
much fun was the pennant race during the 1988 season?
Wow, it was quite a bit different because in ’87
they brought up the full limit of 40 guys because they were
tying to identify who was going to be with the organization, who
they were going to give opportunities to. Then in ’88, we were
in the pennant race the whole time so it wasn’t a tryout. Each
game meant something toward the season. So it was quite a bit
Second Inning – The Mets won the East by 15
games. How thrilling was it to win the NL pennant in a tough
It was difficult. [Kirk] Gibson stood out in that
series. He hit the big home run in extra innings to win one of
the games and he had the play where he pulled his hamstring and
hurt his knee, which led up to what happened in the World
Series. It was tough, but once we got to Game 7 and [Orel]
Hershiser pitching, we knew we had a very good chance of winning
Third Inning – Oakland was a heavy favorite in
the World Series. Did you feel that the Dodgers were the
underdogs against the A’s?
I don’t think we paid attention to that. When I
look back, we were a heavy underdog to the Mets and the A’s.
Everybody thought the Mets and the A’s were the two best teams
with 100 or more wins and we had 90-some wins. Bob Costas made
the comment that this might be the worst team ever put on the
field for a World Series game because Gibson was hurt. If you go
back and look, we weren’t the strongest team. We had good
pitching, but we weren’t the best team by far. [Manager Tommy]
Lasorda used that as leverage to our players, telling us “Listen
to what this guy is saying. He doesn’t believe it.” That was
Tommy’s strength. He could motivate a team of six-year-olds if
he had to.
Fourth Inning – You have shared before some of
your thoughts on Kirk Gibson’s famous two-run homer in the
bottom of the ninth to win the opening game. If you would, walk
us through it again.
He didn’t come out for introductions. I honestly
thought about this, “How can you not come out for
introductions?” I wasn’t going to start, but my name was going
to be announced and I was going to be in the introductions. He
never showed up. NBC used it. They made a big deal that Gibson
wasn’t in introductions, he’s not available. Tommy kept going
back, starting about the sixth inning, “How do you feel, big
guy?” He would always give him the thumbs down. I think I
pinch-hit in the fifth inning and I was going in and out and he
was continuously taking balls off the tee. You could hear the
bat. They orchestrated it perfectly. Gibson said, “If you get
somebody on, I’ll give you my best at-bat.” It was unreal.
Dodger Stadium did not stop cheering for 15 or 20 minutes after
the game. It was ridiculous.
Fifth Inning – Orel Hershiser shut out Oakland
in Game 2 and went the distance in the finale in Game 5. How
dominating was Hershiser in the 1988 postseason?
He broke [Don] Drysdale’s record toward the end
of the regular season, so it was the last two months of the
season. It was ridiculous. It’s not like he was 95 mph. He was
88 to 90 probably, but everything moved. He put everything where
he wanted it. It was a clinic.
Inning – Tommy Lasorda was the manager of the ’88 Dodgers. Did
you learn anything from his that has helped you as a Division I
He would use anything. He was the rah-rah. He
would get the people above our dugout, people at Dodger Stadium,
by just raising his arm and steps out of the dugout at times. He
would yell at the other team, “You’re not intimidating me!” But
they can’t hear you when there are 50,000 or 60,000 people. But
he used it all, it didn’t matter. I always say I use his
motivation and Joe Torre’s calmness when I was managing pro
ball. Those were my two managers in the big leagues, and what
they both accomplished is unbelievable.
Seventh Inning – Each October, do you still
think back to the 1988 postseason run by the Dodgers?
Absolutely. Every year it comes, I think about
it. They just put up a stat [Sunday] night during the Cardinals
and Brewers game, talking about the last time the Brewers were
in the Series. It showed a list of the longest and the Dodgers
were one of them, hadn’t been to the World Series since ’88. I
always think that it would be nice if they never got back, that
way we would always be remembered. Eventually I think it’s got
to happen with a team like the Dodgers.
Eighth Inning – Gibson and Mike Scioscia were
your teammates in 1988. Did you think both had the ability to
become managers in the major leagues?
I knew Scioscia did, being a catcher. He was very
intelligent. I thought Hershiser may get into that area. They
sat next to Tommy a lot and were hinting a lot of things.
Gibson, I never saw him as being a manager. But it sounds like
the players in Arizona love playing for him. If you’re a
player’s manager and you do well, they’re going to love you.
Ninth Inning – How did fall practice go for
the Crusaders and how do you feel about the team heading into
the 2012 season?
We’re excited. We got to the finals last year for
the first time in our conference in a number of years, the first
time since I’ve been there. We started out 1-17. We went on a
West Coast trip for two weeks and then came back here and lost
1-0 to Creighton. We played a great schedule early and it
prepared us for later on. We finished 25-32 and lost in the
championship game to Wright State 4-3. We brought in 17 new
guys. We lost 15 from last year’s team. But we have the nucleus
of our lineup back. We’ve got to replace a couple of our
starters. We’ve got our closer back who was Second Team
All-America two years ago, back from Tommy John [surgery]. We
like our situation.
(photos courtesy of Valparaiso Media Relations Office)