Feb 13

Farewell, Gino Cimoli


Getty ImagesGino Cimoli

Gino Cimoli, the first batter in Los Angeles Dodgers history, passed away Saturday at age 81, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Cimoli came up with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 at age 26 and was the leadoff batter in the inaugural major league regular season game in California, on April 15, 1958 at Seals Stadium in San Francisco. Cimoli struck out in Los Angeles’ 8-0 to the Giants.

“Gino was a part of history not just as a member of both the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, but throughout the game of baseball because of his role in the first-ever big league game on the West Coast,” a Dodgers spokesman told ESPNLosAngeles.com when asked about the Chronicle’s report. “The rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants picked up where it left off in New York, and Gino was the fortunate one to lead off that afternoon in his hometown. He will undoubtedly be missed by all who knew him, and our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends.”

Cimoli batted .269 with 19 homers in three seasons with the Dodgers, before going on to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City A’s, California Angels and Baltimore Orioles in a career that ran through 1965. In 10 seasons, he had a .265 average with 808 hits and 44 home runs.

Cimoli’s Los Angeles highlight came on Sept. 1, 1958, when he went 4 for 7 with a walk and scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 16th inning against the Giants, in a game San Francisco rallied to win. The Dodgers traded Cimoli to St. Louis after the 1958 season for Wally Moon and Phil Paine.

Cimoli, who went 5 for 20 with two walks for the Pirates in the 1960 World Series, had a pinch-hit single to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning in Pittsburgh’s memorable Game 7 victory. As a rookie, he was on the Dodgers’ 1956 World Series team but did not bat.

More from John Shea in the Chronicle:

… Cimoli was a Brooklyn Dodger but a San Franciscan at heart. He was inserted atop the lineup by manager Walter Alston, who knew the significance of the North Beach legend and kid from Galileo High School becoming the first big-league batter following the Giants’ and Dodgers’ relocation from New York.

Cimoli died Saturday morning of kidney and heart complications. He was 81.

“Gino was just an all-around nice guy,” said friend Bob Tobener, who had helped organize functions in recent years at which Cimoli spoke. “He was a great athlete. Out of high school, people said he was a better basketball player than baseball player. . . . He was a really good hitter.” …

… His daughter, Cherryl Keast, said, “Our life totally revolved around baseball. Baseball was our life, not that that was a bad thing. We lived where he played.”

Feb 09

Farewell, Tony Malinosky

Jae C. Hong/APTony Malinosky blows out candles as he celebrates his 100th birthday in Oxnard on Oct. 5, 2009.

We mentioned Tony Malinosky, the 1937 Brooklyn Dodger who was the major-leagues’ oldest-living player, in these parts last month. Sadly, the Dodgers have sent along word that Malinosky has passed on.

Tony Malinosky, the former Brooklyn Dodger who was the oldest-living major-leaguer, passed away Tuesday at age 101, the Los Angeles Dodgers said.

Malinosky played 35 games at third base and shortstop for Brooklyn in 1937, batting .228 in 79 at-bats. According to Baseball-Reference.com, his career-best performance was a 3-for-5 day against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Dodgers purchased his contract from the Pittsburgh Pirates the previous winter.

Born Oct. 7, 1909 in Collinsville, Ill., Malinosky attended Whittier College in California with Pres. Richard Nixon, according to the Dodgers, and served in the U.S. Army in World War II.

The Dodgers honored him at Dodger Stadium in 2009 on the occasion of his 100th birthday. He was living in Oxnard, Calif. when he passed away.

“Tony lived an incredibly full life, both on and off the field,” the Dodgers said in a statement. “He remained a Dodger fan his whole life and his visit to Dodger Stadium in 2009 gave the organization a great opportunity to celebrate not only his 100th birthday, but the Dodger chapter of his life that meant so much to him. He will be most certainly missed by all who knew him.”

For those who missed it the first time, here’s a link to Malinosky’s 2009 interview with KCLU.

Jan 09

Arizona shooting victim was daughter of Dodger scout

One of the victims of the tragic shooting in Arizona on Saturday was the daughter of Dodger scout John Green and granddaughter of former Phillies manager Dallas Green.

Nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green was among six people killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll, and 12 others wounded, including Arizona congressperson Gabrielle Giffords, on Saturday in a mass shooting in a Tucson mall.

“We lost a member of the Dodgers family today,” Dodger owner Frank McCourt said late last night in a statement. “The entire Dodgers organization is mourning the death of John’s daughter Christina, and will do everything we can to support John, his wife Roxana and their son Dallas in the aftermath of this senseless tragedy.  I spoke with John earlier today and expressed condolences on behalf of the entire Dodgers organization.”

Christina Taylor Green was born the day of the September 11 tragedy in 2001 and was featured in a book, “Faces of Hope,” on children who shared that birthday. According to reports, she had just been elected to the student council in her elementary school and had been invited to meet Giffords’ at her community gathering as a result. Her father told the Arizona Daily Star that she had become interested in politics from a young age. She also played second base on her Little League baseball team, the paper said.

John Green is the Dodgers’ East Coast supervisor of amateur scouting. Dallas Green pitched for eight seasons in the majors in the 1960s, then managed the Phillies to their first World Series title in 1980. He later managed the Phillies and Mets.

Dodger general manager Ned Colletti’s first job in baseball, as assistant to chief publicist Bob Ibach of the Chicago Cubs, came at the same time as Dallas Green was hired as general manager of the Cubs.

Dec 16

Farewell, Bob Feller

APBob Feller

There’s so much good material online on the life of Bob Feller, I’ll just start you off by linking to Joe Posnanski’s remembrance. Then there’s David Wade at the Hardball Times, Tim Kurkjian at ESPN.com, mulitple pieces by Rob Neyer at ESPN.com and Keith Thursby at the Times.  Don’t skimp on your reading …

* * *

  • Further to Wednesday’s points about the dangers of offering relievers multiyear contracts comes this piece from Dave Cameron at Fangraphs.
  • Daniel Burke, co-owner of the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate in Chattanooga, is ailing — an emotional situation for the family, and tangentially, one that could affect the Dodgers’ future with the team. David Paschall of the Chattanooga Times Free Press has the story (brought to my attention by a Dodger Thoughts commenter).
  • Sons of Steve Garvey points us to this New York Times article about gadgets and such that might be coming to baseball, including this little slice of heaven:

    At one booth, Brian Traudt explained his company’s innovation, which could improve the fan experience at stadiums, unless some people actually enjoy waiting in line for three innings for a cheeseburger. The product, Bypass Lane, is a kind of E-ZPass for concession stands that is administered through an application on a smartphone.

    The user enters the stadium and confirms its location via GPS. Once the section, row and seat number are included, the application identifies all the concession stands and provides menus. The fan orders — and pays — from the phone. When the order is ready, the fan receives a text message to pick it up at a lane dedicated to Bypass Lane orders. The fan can skip the longer lines — though perhaps not the jealous glances of other fans.

  • I hope you caught Wednesday’s MLB Network rebroadcast of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.  I was able to see the final six innings, and that was just a heap of fun.
Nov 11

Farewell, Dave Niehaus


Joe Brockhert/APDave Niehaus

One-of-a-kind Seattle Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus, there since the team’s inception in 1977, passed away Thursday at age 75. Former partner Ken Levine mourns him lovingly:

The best way for a baseball announcer to endear himself to a new audience is to be with a winning team. You report good news every night and the fans will love you. Piece of cake. When I first became a broadcaster for the Seattle Mariners in 1992, I joined Dave Niehaus, who had been their voice since day one back in 1977. He said to me, “I figured it out, Kenny. For me to get to a .500 record, the team would have to go 2042-0.”

Can you imagine how many truly bad, ugly games he has called over the years? Not a lot of good news to impart there. The Mariners for the first twenty years were just God awful.

And yet people in the Pacific Northwest clung to his every word. The attraction was not the team; it was listening to Dave. His passion for the game, vivid descriptions, and magnificent voice made any baseball game sound exciting, even a Mariners’.

Prior to joining Seattle, Dave worked alongside Dick Enberg calling games for the then-California Angels. Team owner Gene Autry once said to Dave, “You call a hell of a game. It’s not the one I’m watching but it’s a hell of a game.” Actually that’s only half true. It was the game you were watching, only better. Because Dave had something that so few announcers have today – SHOWMANSHIP. You were not just getting play-by-play, you were being told a tale by a master storyteller. Name me a better way of spending a warm summer night sitting out on the front porch.

Dave Niehaus passed away yesterday at age 75. Like all of Seattle, I’m devastated. We didn’t lose an announcer; we all lost a member of the family. Personally, Dave was the greatest broadcast partner I ever had. I’ve been very lucky to work with some of the best, including four Hall-of-Famers. I greatly respect them all and am eternally grateful for their friendship.

But I loved Dave Niehaus.

Within Larry Stone’s Seattle Times tribute is a quote from Ken Griffey, Jr. to ESPN Radio: “He meant everything. Everybody talks about the players who went there and the players who left, but he made the Mariners who they are. Without him, the guys out there are nothing. Day in and day out, he brought the excitement and drove thousands and millions of people to the ballpark to come watch us.”

Aug 12

Pat Burrell signing boosted Giants’ playoff chances


AP PhotoBrooklyn Dodgers outfielder Gene Hermanski, shown in April 1948, has passed away. Hermanski was one of Jackie Robinson’s original supporters and had a .385 on-base percentage in 506 games with the Dodgers.

Before Scott Podsednik and Jay Gibbons dotted the Dodgers’ major-league shores, the Giants picked up left fielder Pat Burrell from the scrap heap. All Burrell has done is provide a .905 OPS in 179 plate appearances (almost as many as Manny Ramirez has had with the Dodgers in 2010). On July 31, he hit a game-winning eighth-inning homer against the Dodgers, and Wednesday he repeated the feat against the Cubs.

He’s almost been like 2006 Marlon Anderson and 2009 Ronnie Belliard combined. Joe Pawlikowski of Fangraphs has more about Burrell’s turnabout.

Other notes while we wait for the daily Dodger starting lineup storm front to settle in …

  • Farewell, Gene Hermanski. A great name from the Dodgers’ past in Brooklyn, Hermanski passed away at the age of 90 according to New York Baseball History Examiner (link via Vin Scully Is My Homeboy).
  • The Dodgers will honor photography genius Jon SooHoo for 25 years of service in a pregame ceremony September 3, according to Inside the Dodgers, which also notes that SooHoo was Randy Johnson’s photography mentor while the two were at the Daily Trojan.
  • From the Dodger press notes: “After some crack research by MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and the Dodgers’ PR staff, it has been determined that (Juan) Castro is the only player in franchise history to serve three separate stints in the organization after departing and playing for another Major League team each time. Several players logged three different stints with the club, but remained in the organization. In the case of pitcher Giovanni Carrera (2001-02, 2004-05, 2006), he never made the big leagues after leaving the club in 2005 or prior to returning midway through 2006.”
  • Also via the press notes:

    Four Dodgers drew mention in Baseball America’s annual Best Tools issue. Major League managers voted Rafael Furcal as having the National League’s best infield arm and as the third-best bunter, Clayton Kershaw as having the Senior Circuit’s No. 3 pickoff move and Jonathan Broxton as the third-best reliever. In the minor league section, Kenley Jansen was also picked as the best reliever in the Southern League after dominating the circuit with a 4-0 record with eight saves and a 1.67 ERA in 22 games with Double-A Chattanooga.

    Several Dodger prospects earned mentions as well, as Ivan DeJesus was voted as the Triple-A Pacific Coast League’s best defensive second baseman; Dee Gordon drew praise as the best baserunner, fastest baserunner and most exciting player in the Double-A Southern League; Matt Wallach was selected as the best defensive catcher and Pedro Baez was voted as having the best defensive arm in the Single-A California League; and though both have since been promoted to Double-A Chattanooga, Jerry Sands was named the best power-hitting prospect and best defensive first baseman and right-hander Rubby De La Rosa was praised for having the Single-A Midwest League’s best fastball.”

Jul 13

Another Yankee titan passes

Farewell, George Steinbrenner. Friday at Yankee Stadium, they’ll be mourning both Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard. That’s going to be quite a night.

The great Alex Belth has a remembrance of George Steinbrenner at SI.com.

* * *

  • Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the fun story of Hong-Chih Kuo interviewing All-Star Dodgers about Hong-Chih Kuo.
  • Manny Ramirez went 0 for 9 with five strikeouts in three rehab games with Inland Empire, but hey …
  • Joe Torre on Matt Kemp, to John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus: “Everyone thought I was punishing Matt, but it was just clear to me that he was pressing and needed to take a few days to clear his head and get his confidence back. There are no statistics to tell you how a guy is feeling on the inside, but I don’t think there was any question that Matt wasn’t in the right frame of mind. We all want to be perfect, and sometimes Matt has a hard time coming to grips with the fact that nobody is perfect. He holds everything inside and always tells you everything is all right, but it can’t always be all right and it wasn’t all right with him. However, I see him being back to the old Matt Kemp now. He’s playing with confidence again and that’s only going to make us an even better team for the second half of the season.”
  • The trade market for starting pitching gets a thorough analysis from Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. The options probably won’t bowl you over. Meanwhile, I contributed a very short, on-the-fly comment about Ted Lilly to View From the Bleachers, saying that I wouldn’t want the Dodgers to give up much for him.
  • Baseball-Reference.com looks at the Hall of Fame case for Kevin Brown. The ultimate conclusion seems to be “no,” but the “yes” case might surprise you.

Update: Meant to mention this above: Alex Rodriguez has an acting role in the upcoming Mila Kunis-Justin Timberlake film, “Friends With Benefits,” reports Tatiana Siegel of Variety. My understanding is that he’s not playing himself.

Jul 11

Farewell, Bob Sheppard

The Yankee Stadium legend, who became the ballpark’s public address announcer in 1951, the year after Vin Scully joined the Dodgers, and stayed until 2008, passed away this morning at age 99. The New York Times has an obituary, and Keith Olbermann has this remembrance.

… His sense of humor was nearly as legendary as his enunciation and the meticulousness of his preparation. He had joined the Yankees so long ago – 1951 – that it was a point of perverse pride that the team had no record of who preceded him, and said so in its media guide. When I picked up the gauntlet of research I went first to Mr. Sheppard himself and asked him if, by chance, he knew but just hadn’t been asked. “Yes,” he intoned, pausing just as he did while behind the microphone. “Methusaleh,” he said with a laugh, referencing a biblical figure who lasted into quadruple figures. It turned out Bob had actually been hired by Red Patterson, the Yankees’ public relations director of the time.

In the ’40s and ’50s, public address announcing at Yankee Stadium – and elsewhere – was an afterthought. Patterson did it in between bon mots with the writers. He and other Yankee officials attended a football game played by the old Yankees of the All American Football Conference and were struck by the professionalism and thoroughness of the PA announcer there. They approached him as early as 1948 about doing baseball, but Sheppard could not fit the team’s weekday schedule into his full-time life as a speech professor at St. John’s University. Bob was more of a football guy anyway – he had quarterbacked St. John’s in the ’30s – and once confessed to me with a laugh that he had never attended a baseball game at Yankee Stadium until the team hired him during what would be Mickey Mantle’s first year (and Joe DiMaggio’s last).

In the new job, Sheppard essentially invented the process with which we are familiar today. Before him, stadium announcers rarely provided any information to the audience. Line-ups would be announced, and then each batter’s first plate appearance as we, but often thereafter the fan was on his own. The idea of the dramatic announcement in the ninth inning of a tie in the Bronx: “Now batting for the Yankees, number seven, Mickey Mantle,” was Sheppard’s. It truly changed not just the fans’ experience at the game, but the game itself. …

Jun 04

Farewell, John Wooden


Johnwooden.com

John Wooden, who held the city of Los Angeles tightly in his grip like the rolled-up program he clutched courtside, who along with Vin Scully was one of the city’s two true gentlemen, has passed away at age 99.

He was an influence on me as a child, like he was on so many others – an influence that wasn’t lost as I grew older. As much as anyone else outside my family, he taught me about sportsmanship, about striving for excellence without losing your bearings. And every time you heard him speak, you were reminded. The combination of Wooden’s dignity, sensitivity and acumen will never be surpassed.

Another thing he tried to teach is how to face death. I’m still struggling to learn — and today doesn’t make it any easier.

When news spread Thursday that his condition was grave, I began to prepare some thoughts about him, though I left them unfinished heading into today. This afternoon, I was walking and thinking about what I had written, thinking it was all a bit too grandiose – not for him, nothing could be too grandiose for him – but for me. I didn’t go to UCLA, though I grew up going to UCLA basketball games. I didn’t meet him, except for getting my picture with him at basketball camp. He was a hero of mine, but he belonged to so many others even more – on a deeply personal level. I will always have what I had with him. Others won’t. Think what their loss must feel like.

But still, I will miss him. I am not comfortable with the idea that someone with his life force is no longer alive. Even though Wooden would be the first, the very first, to say not to shed a tear, to say we should only celebrate the life instead of lamenting the death, I’m feeling a weakness, hearing this news. I feel him gone.

It’s not so easy to let go.

Jun 01

Dodgers to pay tribute to Jose Lima on Sunday

The Dodgers will fill Sunday’s game against Atlanta with tributes to the late Jose Lima — including his 2004 rendition of the National Anthem and an honorary first pitch from his son.

From the Dodgers’ press release:

… Prior to his untimely passing, the charismatic pitcher had been planning to perform at a Viva Los Dodgers Day this summer, much like he did at the Viva Los Dodgers festival in 2004 when he was an active player. Lima’s longtime friend and bandleader of L.A.’s Conjunto Amistad Johnny Polanco will perform a set in his honor this Sunday, followed by Estrellas de Tuzantla. Polanco has performed with various notable musicians including Prince, Cachao, Johnny Pacheco, Tito Puente Jr., Charlie Zaa, Ray De La Paz and Tito Nieves.

Several of Lima’s friends and family members will recount stories of his life while fans will be encouraged to sign a book of memories for his family.

Lima performed the National Anthem and God Bless America at a Dodger home game in 2004. Lima’s anthem rendition will be shown on DodgerVision before Sunday’s game against the Braves and his version of God Bless America will run during the middle of the 7th inning. Lima’s son, Jose Jr., is expected to throw out an honorary first pitch and there will also be an in-game video tribute to the right-hander. …

Starting two hours prior to the game, fans can enjoy live music, a family-friendly celebration and a beer garden presented by Bud Light in Lot 6. Auto gates open at 11 a.m., Estrellas de Tuzantla will perform at 11:15 a.m. and Johnny Polanco and Conjunto Amistad will take the stage at 12:15 p.m. Jose Jr.’s first pitch will take place at approximately 1:00 p.m. followed by the 1:10 p.m. game against Atlanta.

May 23

Remembering Jose Lima: Time ticks away so fast


Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers
Jose Lima received an ovation from Dodger Stadium fans at Friday’s game.

One of the things I’ll remember most about Jose Lima is his unspoken farewell to the Dodgers.

That shutout he pitched against St. Louis in the 2004 playoffs, that unbelievable, electric night, was also the last game Lima pitched for the Dodgers. Lima had come to the Dodgers with a contract of one year and expectations of about zero. The year before, he had pitched 73 1/3 innings for Kansas City with a 4.91 ERA and all of 32 strikeouts. The year before that, with Detroit, Lima’s ERA was 7.77.

Lima only found his way onto the Dodger roster the way fringe players often do, thanks in part to the misfortune of others. If Paul Shuey hadn’t ruptured a tendon in his thumb at the end of March 2004, Dodger fans might never have heard of “Lima Time.”

It was almost as much of a miracle that Lima stayed on the roster. His ERA on May 9, after nine appearances, was 7.91.  Whatever people feel today about Ramon Ortiz (who is only six months younger than Lima), that’s about what they felt about Lima six years ago this month.

But then Lima began having those “Lima Time” moments. He didn’t allow an earned run for a month, including 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball in relief against the Cubs and eight innings of in a start against Arizona. And although bad outings would crop up here and there, he became something of an unlikely hero. His personality – which alienated some of us when he pitched for other teams – became something you couldn’t get enough of.  You just looked forward to seeing him on the mound, even if the results were unpredictable.

All this led to the pinnacle of his time in a Dodger uniform, that October night against the Cardinals, the crowd mad with delight, Lima genuflecting after the final out.

The Dodger offseason began about 24 hours later, after the team lost the third of four playoff games to St. Louis. Not surprisingly, the popular feeling in town was that the Dodgers had to bring Lima back – how could they not?  But if you looked closely at the situation, you sadly realized that it was almost inevitable that Lima would not return. Based on the rules that existed at the time, the Dodgers were actually operating at a disadvantage compared with the other 29 teams in baseball in that they had to offer him salary arbitration or forfeit the right to negotiate with him on the open market. Essentially, the system at the time required the Dodgers pay Lima more than any other team had to. And given that Lima’s performance was so fluky, it just didn’t make sense for them to do so.

Lima signed a $2.5 million contract with Kansas City at Christmas, and the following year, his ERA soared to 6.99. After four more appearances with the Mets in 2006, Lima was out of the majors for good, at age 33.

It’s heartbreaking that a man with so much life left this world, just as he left the majors, so quickly. And it’s heartbreaking that it happened just as Los Angeles was about to spend more time with him – Lima, according to the Dodgers, had just become a member of the Dodger Alumni Association and was preparing make community appearances as well as open a youth baseball academy this summer in Los Angeles.

Our time to enjoy Jose Lima, from the start, was fleeting. Fundamentally so. There were few better to remind us to appreciate the moment while we can. For me, Jose Lima will always be one of the most important Dodgers in that respect – an infinite reminder of the finite, a beacon for savoring the precious.

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Others remembrances of Lima: