He seems to have stepped out of a time machine on which the dial is set for 1934, St. Louis. Mickey Hatcher is Dizzy, Daffy and Pepper all rolled into one, a one-man Gashouse Gang whose antics and hell-bent style of play have inspired the 1988 Dodgers to improbable heights. On a team of obvious character, Hatch, as in booby, is the biggest character of all.
When L.A. has needed a lift of late, Hatcher has often been there to provide the electricity. In Game 1 of the World Series, Hatch, who had one home run in the regular season, hit a two-run job off A's starter Dave Stewart in the first inning to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. Asked why he ran around the bases so fast, Hatcher replied, "Basic lack of experience. I guess I had too much—how do you say it?—ladrenalin going." Close enough. In Game 2, Hatcher came back with two hits, including a run-scoring single.
Hatcher, who is nicknamed Mickey, after Mantle, was an All-America in baseball and football at Mesa (Ariz.) High. After playing both sports at Mesa Community College, he went off to Oklahoma, where he was a split end and an outfielder. The Dodgers signed him after making him their fifth pick in the 1977 draft.
One summer before signing, Hatcher played for Anchorage in the Alaska summer league, the scene for one of many Hatcher tales. He and a teammate spotted a cute little Kodiak bear cub crossing the road, so they decided to give chase. "We just wanted to get a picture, so we started running after him up a hill," Hatcher says. "I threw a rock at the cub to make him stop. Then all of a sudden, I hear this tremendous grrrrrroar, and here comes mama bear. We ran back down that hill so fast."
One winter, while playing for Licey in the Dominican Republic, Hatcher decided he wanted to go back to the States early. He saw his opportunity at a pool party attended by the club owners and their wives. "There was this roof overlooking the pool, so I climbed up there in my underwear," he says. "One of the Christian leaders on the club, Jerry Dybzinski, tried to talk me down, but most of the other guys, including Mike Scioscia, were yelling for me to jump." Hatcher did just that, performing a perfect belly flop, which splashed just about everybody around the pool. "The guys were giving me 9's and 10's, and the women in their white gowns were soaked. As it turned out, though, the Dominicans loved it, and they wouldn't let me go."
The Dodgers traded him to the Minnesota Twins in 1981, and for six years he gave the Twins a steady bat and some kamikaze play. In one 14-month period he crashed into the leftfield, centerfield and rightfield walls at Fenway Park in Boston, knocking himself out each time. One spring he decided to pull a prank on his old manager, so when the Dodgers were in Orlando to play the Twins, Hatcher cut up Tom Lasorda's pants. Lasorda was furious, possibly because he had to ride the bus back to the Dodgers' training base at Vero Beach in his underwear. When the Twins traveled to Vero Beach later that spring. Hatcher was expecting some retaliation. Sure enough, Orel Hershiser threw a pitch over his head, and Hatcher thought that might be the end of it. But later in the game, he turned around in leftfield to see the American flag being lowered. The next thing Hatcher knew, his clothes, torn to shreds, were being hoisted up the flagpole.
Minnesota released Hatcher before the start of the 1987 season, and he suffered a little as he watched the Twins win the world championship last year. But he hooked on again with the Dodgers, and now he's having the time of his life. Playing in the postseason even gave him a chance to finally meet his idol. "While we were in New York to play the Mets, I went to Mickey Mantle's restaurant and asked him to sign a menu for me. The only thing I'll treasure more than that menu is a World Series ring."
Hatcher's exuberance has helped lift the Dodgers to the most unlikely heights.