Speaking of the Dodgers, nobody expected them to even contend for the National League West title in 1988, let alone win the World Championship. However, the intensity and clutch hitting of Gibson (named the NL MVP at season's end) and the solid pitching of Orel Hershiser (who won a league-leading 23 games) spearheaded L.A. to a division championship by seven games over the Cincinnati Reds. In addition to his 23 victories, Hershiser led the National League with 267 innings pitched and 15 shutouts, and also set a record of 59 consecutive scoreless innings (formerly held by Dodger great Don Drysdale). These accomplishments, combined with his 2.26 ERA, earned him the National League Cy Young Award. However, it was in the post-season that Hershiser really distinguished himself – he started Games 1 and 3 of the NLCS against the tough New York Mets, won Game 4 in relief, and threw a complete game shutout in Game 7. He hurled another complete game shutout in Game 2 of the World Series and again went the distance in the clinching Game 5. Hershiser was named MVP of both the NLCS and the World Series, capping off arguably one of the greatest seasons a starting pitcher has ever had.
October 15 – In Game One of the 1988 World Series at Dodger Stadium, the Los Angeles Dodgers trail the Oakland Athletics 4–3 in the bottom of the ninth inning when the Dodgers' Kirk Gibson, badly injured in the NLCS against the New York Mets, hobbles to the plate to pinch-hit against Oakland's lethal closer, Dennis Eckersley. With two outs, a 3–2 count against him, and Mike Davis on second base, Gibson uses his upper body and wrists to launch a backdoor slider from Eckersley into the right-field stands for a 5–4 Los Angeles victory. Gibson's home run re-energized the underdog Dodgers and shattered the confidence of the A's, who lost the series in five games. It inspired the coining of the phrase "walk-off home run," and is widely regarded as one of the greatest moments in baseball history.
October 20 – Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser ends his dream season with a 5–2 four-hitter over the Oakland Athletics in Game Five of the World Series. The win gives the Dodgers their first World Championship since 1981, and makes them the only team to win more than one World Series in the 1980s. Hershiser is selected the Series MVP.
February 20 – Bob O'Farrell, 91, catcher for four NL teams over 21 seasons who won 1926 MVP award with the Cardinals
February 23 – Pete Donohue, 87, pitcher who had three 20-win seasons for the Reds and beat the Phillies 20 consecutive times from 1922–25
February 28 – Harvey Kuenn, 57, 8-time All-Star shortstop and outfielder, most notably with the Tigers, who batted .303 lifetime and led AL in hits four times and doubles three times; 1953 Rookie of the Year and 1959 batting champion, later managed Brewers to their first pennant in 1982
March 21 – Edd Roush, 94, Hall of Fame center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds who batted .323 lifetime; led NL in batting twice, and in slugging, doubles and triples once each; hit 30 inside-the-park home runs, and ended career with 13th-most triples in history
March 29 – Ted Kluszewski, 63, All-Star first baseman for the Reds who led NL in homers and RBI in 1954 and batted .300 seven times, known for his sleeveless jersey; later a Reds coach
June 9 – Newt Allen, 87, All-Star second baseman for the Negro Leagues' Kansas City Monarchs
July 4 – Lee Weyer, 51, National League umpire since 1963 who worked in four World Series and 5 NL Championship Series
July 20 – John W. Galbreath, 90, owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1945 to 1985, during which period the team won three World Series
September 2 – Jim Bagby, Jr., 71, All-Star pitcher for the Red Sox and Indians, led AL in starts and innings in 1943
September 16 – Bob Trice, 62, first black player in Philadelphia Athletics history
October 14 – Vic Raschi, 69, All-Star pitcher who won 20 games for the Yankees three straight years (1949–51), won World Series clinchers in 1949 and 1951
November 21 – Carl Hubbell, 85, Hall of Fame pitcher who won 253 games for the New York Giants, second most among NL left-handers upon retirement; named NL's MVP in 1933 and 1936, he led league in wins and ERA three times each and had 1.79 ERA in six World Series starts; 1677 strikeouts were NL record for left-handers until 1958, and won 24 straight games in 1936–37
November 22 – Ray Kelly, 74, sportswriter who covered the Philadelphia Athletics and Phillies since the late 1940s
November 30 – Wally Berger, 83, All-Star center fielder for the Boston Braves who had four 100-RBI seasons, batted .300 lifetime; led NL in homers and RBI in 1935
December 12 – Joe Reichler, 73, sportswriter and author who wrote for the Associated Press for 20 years and served as an assistant to the commissioner after 1966; editor of the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia since its first edition in 1969
December 21 – Willie Kamm, 88, third baseman for the White Sox and Indians who led AL in fielding average eight times and in putouts seven times; batted .308 in 1928 and led league in walks in 1925