Cranston nar­rates movie on Dodgers of cham­pion year

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Baseball - BY MIKE DIGIOVANNA Los An­ge­les Times

There was no hag­gling or arm-twist­ing in ne­go­ti­a­tions to pro­cure ac­tor Bryan Cranston, a Los An­ge­les na­tive and life­long Dodgers fan, as nar­ra­tor for an MLB Net­work doc­u­men­tary on the 1988 World Se­ries cham­pion Dodgers. “When my agents came to me and said Ma­jor League Base­ball would like you to … I said, ‘Yes!’ “said Cranston, 62, a four-time Emmy Award win­ner.

“They said, ‘But you haven’t heard the deal yet.’ I didn’t have to. Whether it’s on stage, on Broad­way, star­ring in a movie or tele­vi­sion se­ries or be­ing a voice in nar­ra­tion of some­thing that is mean­ing­ful to you, I want to be a part of good sto­ry­telling. And this doc­u­men­tary is a good story.”

So good that Cranston said he got goose bumps at the net­work’s New Jer­sey stu­dios as he chron­i­cled a sea­son that cul­mi­nated with one of the most dra­matic homers in World Se­ries his­tory, Kirk Gib­son’s Game 1, pinch-hit, walk-off shot off Den­nis Eck­er­s­ley that pro­pelled the Dodgers to their last ti­tle.

The doc­u­men­tary premiers July 15, the Sun­day night be­fore the All-Star Game.

“It trans­ports you back to those mem­o­ries, so you don’t just re­call them, you re­live them,” Cranston said. “Vin Scully call­ing Gib­son’s home run – ‘In the year of the im­prob­a­ble, the im­pos­si­ble has hap­pened!’ – Gibby’s arm pump, Tommy Lasorda thrust­ing his arms into the air. It was just an in­cred­i­ble sea­son.

“I was in that booth, go­ing through the di­a­logue, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I re­mem­ber that so well,’ and the pins and nee­dles and the ten­sion that it all cre­ated was won­der­ful.”

MLB Net­work of­fi­cials pur­sued Cranston be­cause they knew he was a huge Dodgers fan. They prob- ably didn’t re­al­ize the in­ten­sity and depth of his pas­sion.

Cranston was 5 years old when his fa­ther took him to his first Dodgers game in the Coli­seum in 1961. He was so en­am­ored with the way Wally Moon flicked balls over the high net in left field – homers known as “Moon Shots” – that he named his pro­duc­tion com­pany Moon Shot En­ter­tain­ment.

Scully didn’t just pro­vide the sound­track of his sum­mers grow­ing up in Canoga Park. The broad­caster’s sooth­ing voice was like a se­cu­rity blan­ket for Cranston, whose fa­ther, Joe, a strug­gling ac­tor and am­a­teur boxer, walked out on the fam­ily when Cranston was 11.

“I had a very chal­leng­ing child­hood – there was some al­co­holism, aban­don­ment, a bit­ter di­vorce, fam­ily sep­a­ra­tion,” Cranston said. “It was very tough in many ways, and that’s why I had, al­most as a tal­is­man, the Dodgers.

“At least for those three hours, when the game was on, I could al­low my­self to feel dis­tracted enough in a com­fort­able way, in a way that felt like a hug. It felt like for the du­ra­tion of the game, all was well. And Vin Scully had a lot to do with that.”

Cranston moved to New York City for five years in the 1980s but moved back to Los An­ge­les in 1988 af­ter land­ing his first reg­u­lar TV role in “Rais­ing Mi­randa.”

The sit­com bombed. The Dodgers were a hit, though there was lit­tle in­di­ca­tion of that go­ing into 1988. Most picked them to fin­ish fourth in the Na­tional League West.

“It wasn’t like there were any big su­per­stars,” Cranston said. “There was no huge player that made you go, ‘Oh, here’s the guy who’s gonna carry us.’ ”

That changed when the fiery Gib­son emerged as the NL most valu­able player and Orel Her­shiser closed the sea­son with 59 con­sec­u­tive score­less in­nings, break­ing Don Drys­dale’s ma­jor league record and cat­a­pult­ing the Dodgers into the play­offs.

The doc­u­men­tary, bro­ken into six acts, cap­tures all of the ex­cite­ment, tur­moil, twists and turns of the dream sea­son.

There’s an ap­pear­ance by An­gels man­ager Mike Scios­cia, the for­mer Dodgers catcher who hit a stun­ning, two-run, score-ty­ing, ninth-in­ning homer off New York Mets ace Doc Gooden in Game 4 of the NL cham­pi­onship se­ries in Shea Sta­dium.

“When that ball went out of the park, the crowd got so quiet I could ac­tu­ally hear my spikes dig­ging the dirt in the ground,” Scios­cia said. “It was sur­real.”

Gib­son won that game with a 12th-in­ning homer, evening the se­ries, 2-2. The Dodgers beat the heav­ily fa­vored Mets in seven games.

Few gave the Dodgers a chance against the 104win, Bash Broth­ers-led Oak­land Athletics in the World Se­ries. And no one – not even Gib­son – thought Gib­son, who in­jured his left ham­string and right knee in the NLCS, would play in Game 1.

The Dodgers trailed by a run with two outs in the ninth in­ning when pinch­hit­ter Mike Davis walked. “And look who’s com­ing up,” Scully says on the tele­cast, as Gib­son hob­bles to the plate.

“He looked like an old rodeo clown that has been beaten up and bat­tered over the last 25 years,” Cranston said. “You had hope, but the sense of re­al­ity, the odds of him hit­ting a game-win­ning home run … c’mon, that’s not go­ing to hap­pen.”

Ev­ery­one knows what hap­pens next. The film beau­ti­fully weaves the char­ac­ters and footage from that mem­o­rable night, build­ing to a crescendo that cli­maxes with “one of the most the­atri­cal mo­ments in base­ball his­tory,” Costas says.

AP file photo

The Los An­ge­les Dodgers’ Kirk Gib­son cel­e­brates af­ter hit­ting a game-win­ning homer to beat the Oak­land Athletics 5-4 in the first game of the 1988 World Se­ries.

Bryan Cranston

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