Christian Athlete: Orel Hershiser

Christian Athlete: Orel Hershiser

The fourth in a line of Orel Leonard Hershisers, this professional pitcher was born September 16, 1958. His parents lived in Buffalo, New York, at the time, but moved six years later to Detroit, Michigan, and again six years later to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He started playing baseball early and was able to achieve third place in a national competition for hitting, running, and throwing when he was only 8. He played Little League in the States before they moved to Canada.

He took a break from baseball in Canada, playing hockey instead. After his family moved to New Jersey, Orel rejoined baseball in his high school, playing on the varsity team in his junior year and setting a strikeout record of retiring 15 people at bat, which stayed the record for 21 years.  He received a partial scholarship to attend Bowling Green State University where he played baseball in his freshman year, but his grades were not good enough to be on the team in his sophomore year, so he headed home, hitchhiking. His parents encouraged him to go back and he worked at his father’s company and took summer school to improve his grades. He gained about 15 pounds that summer and this made his fastball about 5 mph faster, so he was able to play more often. In his junior year, he got into the all-Mid-American Conference All-Star team. He proceeded to pitch a no-hitter against Kent State.

Hershiser played for the Dodgers for just over ten years (1983-1994), then spent three years with the Cleveland Indians, followed by a year with the San Francisco Giants. He returned to the Dodgers for one year but was let go early, and then retired from baseball. He moved to consultant, broadcasting, and assistant work for baseball which continues.

Throughout his seventeen years as a baseball player, Orel Hershiser was also a committed Christian. He describes his conversion, “… deep inside I knew that everything I had become was a generous gift from God’s hand. Nine years before, I had slipped to my knees next to my bed at the Buckaroo Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, and committed my life to Him in simple faith.”

He displayed this faith in different ways. After the Dodgers won the National League Pennant, he dropped to his knees in thankful prayer. After winning the World Series, he looked to God in gratitude. He was known for singing a hymn to enhance his calm when things started to get stressful – usually the Doxology, which has the following lyrics:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him, all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

He sang it in the locker room, he sang it in the dugout, and he even sang it on the Tonight Show when being interviewed by Johnny Carson.

One of the pivotal moments in Orel’s career was dubbed the “sermon on the mound” – when his coach lectured him about his carefulness and reticence in pitching, and nicknamed him “Bulldog” so when the opponents heard his name, they would see him as a tough guy. This changed his whole attitude. It is reminiscent of the story of Simon being nicknamed Peter by Christ, resulting in a whole new person and attitude.

Orel Hershiser now plays competitive poker and is available for motivational speaking engagements.

Where to Buy
Out of the Blue
Miracle Men: Hershiser, Gibson, and the Improbable 1988 Dodgers
Between the Lines: Nine Principles
Sports Great Orel Hershiser (Sports Great Books)
Sports Illustrated December 19 1988 Orel Hershiser Sportsman of the Year


Read More By and About Orel Hershiser

Out of the Blue

Orel Hershiser and Jerry B. Jenkins co-authored this book about Orel’s life. He believed ordinary people could accomplish great things with hard work and he lived that philosophy. He shares his experiences and his faith.

Miracle Men

Examining the things that made 1988 such a great year for the Dodgers, this book looks at Hershiser’s record-setting pitching as well as many other things that defined the amazing 1988 baseball season.

Between the Lines

Hershiser is joined by Robert Wolgemuth in recounting nine principles for people to live by, which he learned from playing baseball. It includes things he learned in practice, from having a coach for a dad, from needing shoulder surgery, and more. He discusses self-discipline and balance, humor and love and gratitude. Tommy Lasorda wrote a foreword for this book.

Sports Great Orel Hershiser

A biography written for upper elementary students, this easy-to-read book tells the story of the pitcher who earned a Cy Young award and, with his team, won a World Series championship.

Sports Illustrated, December 19, 1988

This issue of Sports Illustrated features Orel Hershiser as Sportsman of the Year. 1988 was the year when Hershiser pitched for the Dodgers in what was arguably their best season ever.

Where to Buy
Orel Hershiser on Between the Lines
Orel Hershiser: Up close and personal
Tales from the Dodgers Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Dodgers Stories Ever Told (Tales from the Team)
The 1988 Dodgers: Reliving the Championship Season
Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition


Orel Hershiser on Between the Lines (Audiobook)

In this Audible recording, Hershiser discusses Between the Lines: Nine Principles to Live By, his career in Major League Baseball, and his childhood.

Orel Hershiser: Up Close and Personal

Though Hershiser’s life story is mentioned in this book, it is not the primary message. Instead, this book is written to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and explain salvation to young men pursuing a baseball career. It also includes stories from Branch Rickey and Bobby Richardson. It was written by Bill Horlacher and Joe Smalley.

Tales from the Dodgers Dugout

Anyone who wants to know more about the Dodgers internal workings would enjoy this book of stories from on and off the field. Memories from the lifespan of the team include a variety of experiences from the Boys of Summer.

The 1988 Dodgers

An incredible year in baseball history, 1988 saw amazing combined effort from the Dodgers that led them to the World Championship. Personal stories from many of the players, coaches, and other staff show how everyone was important to the team. It also talks about their lives after baseball and the careers they chose in the following years.

Brothers in Arms

Koufax, Kershaw, Hershiser and other Dodgers pitchers are examined in this book, which looks at their lives on and off the diamond, how they worked with the team, and what made them great – even if it was not baseball.