Sep 25

Did you see Jackie Robinson bunt that ball?


Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty ImagesJackie Robinson

While poking around the Dodgers’ all-time seasonal sacrifice hit leaders Friday to come up with the tidbit on Clayton Kershaw, I noticed that Jackie Robinson had the bold-face total of 28 in his rookie year, 1947. (I mentioned this in the comments section, but felt it trivially interesting enough for a separate post.)

Times were different then, obviously, but I still found it rather stunning. This was a year in which Robinson hit .297 with 74 walks and 48 extra-base hits and led the National League in stolen bases. He grounded into five double plays in 590 at-bats. There probably weren’t many hitters for whom the sacrifice was more of a waste than Robinson. Yet there he was, squaring up more than anyone around.

In fact, in a 15-game stretch from August 10-23, during which Robinson OPSed .998, someone thought it’d be a good idea for him to sacrifice bunt eight times. My way of putting that in perspective: Robinson had more sacrifice hits in those two weeks than Rickey Henderson had in 1,746 games from 1981-93.

It was a long time ago, but I wonder if there was anyone who noticed Robinson was red-hot at the plate and wondered when they were going to stop making him give himself up.

* * *

My favorite part of Arash Markazi’s ESPNLosAngeles.com column on Manny Ramirez’s return to Southern California:

Dodgers organist Nancy Bea Hefley and her husband, Bill, drove down to Anaheim to catch up with Ramirez and (Juan) Pierre, before leaving for their home in northern Nevada prior to the opening pitch.

“When Manny arrived, the team wasn’t doing anything and he just brought a spark,” said Hefley, who gave Ramirez and Pierre a big hug each in the visitor’s dugout. “He brought a spark to the team in the dugout and on the field and made it very exciting.” …

* * *

Shades of Randy Wolf: Ted Lilly should clearly be offered salary arbitration after this season, though he will probably turn said offer down, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.

Petriello also passes along this note from Mark Whicker of the Register that outfield prospect Jerry Sands will experiment at third base in the Arizona Fall League. Whicker’s main point in his column is that the Dodgers shouldn’t give up on their homegrown core, despite this year’s frustrations.

Sep 18

‘Ball Four’ at 40 celebration in Burbank 

Today, the Baseball Reliquary is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” with six hours of events at the Burbank Central Library.

Bouton, Tommy Davis and others will be on two panels taking place, beginning at 11 a.m. Baseball Reliquary executive director Terry Cannon recommends you arrive at 10:30 a.m., and notes that posted parking time limits are being waived at “a small lot which adjoins the library, and a larger lot across the street on Glenoaks and Olive (entrance on Olive).”

Click the links above for more details – could be a tremendous way to spend your Saturday.

Sep 15

Tonight’s feature presentation: Obscure but memorable cleanup hitters

Jay Gibbons is batting cleanup tonight for the third time as a Dodger. That would not have seemed likely a month ago, but Gibbons is far from the most unlikely Dodger cleanup hitter of the past seven seasons. Who’s your favorite from this list?

Dodger cleanup hitters since 2004
2010:
James Loney (50 games), Matt Kemp (43), Manny Ramirez (41), Casey Blake (7), Jay Gibbons (3), Andre Ethier (2).

2009: Blake (43), Ethier (42), Kemp (27), Ramirez (26), Loney (21), Russell Martin (3).

2008: Jeff Kent (74), Loney (28), Ramirez (25), Martin (18), Blake (8), Ethier (3), Nomar Garciaparra (3), Andruw Jones (2), Mark Sweeney (1).

2007: Kent (132), Luis Gonzalez (20), Loney (6), Martin (1), Mike Lieberthal (1), Olmedo Saenz (1), Shea Hillenbrand (1)

2006: J.D. Drew (83), Kent (59), Saenz (7), Ethier (5), Garciaparra (3), Kemp (2), Loney (1), Joel Guzman (1), Ricky Ledee (1).

2005: Kent (110), Saenz (26), Ledee (10), Jason Phillips (8), Jose Cruz, Jr. (3), Jayson Werth (2), Hee-Seop Choi (1), Mike Edwards (1), Milton Bradley (1).

2004: Adrian Beltre (92), Shawn Green (63), Milton Bradley (3), Saenz (2), Juan Encarnacion (1), Robin Ventura (1).

* * *

Al LaMacchia, the 1940s major-leaguer who became a scout for six decades thereafter, finishing up with the Dodgers, has passed away at the age of 89.

Bill Plaschke of the Times shone a light on LaMacchia when he talked about the scout’s recommendation that the Dodgers acquire Andre Ethier — a column that (and I certainly mean no disrespect to LaMacchia) inspired this response from Fire Joe Morgan.

My most sincere condolences to LaMacchia’s family and friends.

* * *

Today is the 30th anniversary of Fernando Valenzuela’s major-league debut, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. The Dodgers will pay tribute to the occasion on Sunday’s game.

Sep 14

Kershaw LXXXI: Kershawctupus

Let me introduce you to a really cool website, CriticalPast.com (which I found via Baseball Think Factory). It offers all kinds of historic film footage — here’s a link to what comes up under a Dodgers search. For example: a quick newsreel peek at the Dodgers during Spring Training, 1953. I’ve also gotten lost looking up various old pieces of Los Angeles history.

* * *

Dodger manager Joe Torre, who has indicated he wanted to play the most competitive Dodger lineup in remaining games against contenders, chose lefty-hitting Jay Gibbons at first base over lefty-hitting James Loney against lefty San Francisco pitcher Barry Zito. Loney is 2 for 26 with no walks in his career against Zito. Gibbons is 3 for 15 with a double and two walks.

Using this criteria, Torre ran out of options somewhat quickly.

* * *

Late add: the 2011 tentative Dodger schedule. Season opener on April Fool’s Day at home against the Giants. It’s the first Friday opener for the Dodgers in 32 years, Tony Jackson writes – changes things up, but I kind of don’t mind it.

Sep 11

A Happier 9/11

It has been seven years since this piece was first published: September 11, 2003. A lot has happened since then – including a very happy September 18, 2006. But this game will always remain special, and I hope you don’t mind me continuing to remember it on this date.

* * *

Twenty years ago today, Dodger Stadium hosted its greatest game.

It began swathed in bright blue skies and triple-digit temperatures. When it ended, 228 crazy brilliant minutes later, shadows palmed most of the playing field, and every Dodger fan who witnessed the spectacle found themselves near joyous collapse.

The game was between the Dodgers of Steve Sax and Pedro Guerrero, of Greg Brock and Mike Marshall … and the Braves of Dale Murphy, of Bruce Benedict, of Brad Komminsk.

In the end, however, it came down to one man. A rookie named R.J. Reynolds.

Continue reading

Sep 09

Pagliacci’s team

The analogy doesn’t quite work, but the above was the best I could come up with for the latest result. Los Angeles got a rare first-inning lead on Andre Ethier’s two-run homer, but gave it up for good on a three-run homer by Houston third baseman Chris Johnson in the sixth inning. The Dodgers lost their sixth straight game and fell to 69-72.

Only four Dodger teams have finished below .500 since 1988. According to my research on Baseball-Reference.com, no Dodger team has ever entered September with a winning record and finished the season with a losing record.

Aug 25

Classic 1965 Sandy Koufax interview

Sandy Koufax was Sports Illustrated’s 1965 Sportsman of the Year. Dodger Thoughts friend Stan from Tacoma passes along the massive interview Koufax did for the issue, which begins thusly:

Sandy, what’s the difference between the way you manage your life and the way anybody else would manage his?

–I don’t do anything different. I do the things that most people do. There are times when I feel like I have an obligation not to do certain things because I’m preparing myself to pitch. But other than that my life is about as normal as I can keep it.

Yes, but you have this reputation for being awfully hard on yourself.

–Maybe I am. I know sometimes people’ll say, “Well, you’ve done everything possible, what’re you gonna do next? You can’t pitch a better ball game.” And I say to myself, “Well, why not? Why can’t I do more, why can’t I do a better job?” There’s nothing to stop me — except the hitters. You can always try to pitch a better ball game, the best you possibly can.

Sandy, I’ve seen you after you’ve pitched and you sit at your locker and you look like World War II. At this stage of your career isn’t there any tendency on your part to jake it a little, not to put out quite so much?

–I can’t. I can’t. Sometimes you get enough runs and you try to take it easy and all of a sudden you’re in trouble.

Yes, but you go out there and work like a guy who’s expecting to be cut right after the game.

–You’ve got to put out on every pitch. How do you know what the other pitcher’s going to do? He’s out there trying to get your team out, too. People say, doesn’t it make you a better pitcher because your team doesn’t score runs, doesn’t that make you bear down? Well, the Dodgers score more runs than people think, but even if your ball club scores a lot of runs I don’t think you can take the attitude that you can give up two or three runs and still win. You’ve got to say to yourself, “I don’t know how many I’m gonna get, but if I can keep the other side from scoring any I have a lot better chance.” So you put out on every pitch. …

* * *

  • The disappointing Dodgers’ worst 34-game stretch this season has been 13-21. That’s the exact record that the Los Angeles Sparks rode into the WNBA playoffs that start tonight.
  • Gregg Found and Matt Willis of ESPN.comdelve into Hiroki Kuroda’s near-historic 0-for-40 season at the plate.
  • Did you know Takashi Saito can’t see a catcher giving signs with his fingers at night? Mark Bowman of MLB.com has details (via Hardball Talk).
  • Jim Thome, who had four singles in 17 plate appearances as a Dodger a year ago, is having one of the best age-39 seasons in baseball history, according to Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk.
  • Check out friend of Dodger Thoughts BHsportsguy’s Dodger-related homage to Allan Malamud at True Blue L.A.
  • Colorado rallied from a 10-1 deficit today to defeat Atlanta, 12-10, sweeping the Braves in a three-game series. And San Francisco rallied from a 10-1 deficit as well — the Giants were tied with the Reds in the ninth, 11-11.
Aug 24

Pitchers in the outfield

Ryan Howard was ejected in the 15th inning of tonight’s Phillies-Astros game, forcing Philadelphia to use pitcher Roy Oswalt in left field.

From 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die:

Suspended Animation
Lest it be forgotten, the Dodgers also tried to burn the midnight oil one time in Chicago – but that was back when Wrigley Field had no midnight oil to burn. On August 16, 1982, the Dodgers and Cubs played 17 innings of a 1-1 tie before umpires suspended the game due to darkness. It resumed the following day with the Dodgers winning 2-1 in 21 innings.

“The guys who had already been in the game were cheering the other guys on,” Rick Monday told Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times. “Someone made the observation that it was like a Pony League game. We were going, ‘Hey batter, batter, batter!’ all the way to ‘Pitcher’s got a rubber arm!’ Yeah, we were a little nuts.”

So was the Dodgers defense. Fernando Valenzuela logged time in the outfield after Ron Cey’s ejection in the 20th inning left the team one player short. But in the top of the 21st, Steve Sax scored on a sacrifice fly that saw umpire Eric Gregg raise his arm to call out before switching to the safe sign midway through. Bob Welch entered the game in the bottom of the 21st as, of all things, a defensive replacement for Valenzuela, and Jerry Reuss finished his fourth inning of shutout ball to win in relief — just before throwing five innings in the regularly scheduled game, a 7-4 Dodger victory, to grab that decision as well.

Aug 18

Clayton at 18


Ben Platt/Los Angeles DodgersLogan White and Clayton Kershaw, June 2006
Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw’s first Dodger mugshot

As mentioned on Dodger Thoughts on Tuesday, first-round draft pick Zach Lee will make his first appearance at Dodger Stadium before tonight’s game. Here are some photos from the day 18-year-old Clayton Kershaw made his Dodger Stadium debut, in June 2006.

Also, here’s a linkto what Dodger Thoughts had to say about Kershaw the day he was drafted.

Aug 10

Gibbons a new hero as Dodgers romp, 15-9


Barbara Johnston/US PresswireJay Gibbons hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning to give the Dodgers an 11-5 lead.

Newest Dodger (at least for one more day) Jay Gibbons became the Dodgers’ all-time leader in OPS – minimum five career plate appearances with the team – going 3 for 4 with a home run in the Dodgers’ unusually bloated 15-9 victory over Philadelphia tonight.

Gibbons’ OPS of 2.200 (three singles and a homer in five trips to the plate) breaks the record of 1.467 previously held by Pat Diesel of the 1902 Brooklyn squad and Orlando Mercado, who had two singles and a double in five at-bats at the end of the 1987 season, which I never knew about because I was traveling through Europe. Ah, those were the days.

Well, to quote Natalie Merchant, these are days, as well. Andre Ethier had three singles, a double, a walk and was hit by a pitch tonight, becoming the first Dodger to reach base six times in a game since Russell Martin on April 25, 2008. Before that, the last Dodger to do it was Shawn Green during his four-homer game in 2002. The feat has been achieved 22 times in Los Angeles Dodger history.

Casey Blake also homered as the Dodgers reached base 25 times in all, scoring a season-high in runs and giving them 23 in their past two games. Perhaps we can say they emerged from their slump: The Dodgers have broken the five-run barrier four times in their past eight games. On the other hand, tonight’s pitching …. we won’t get into that.

* * *

Rafael Furcal, already sidelined for eight days with back issues, finally submitted to spending at least the next week on the disabled list, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Juan Castro is expected to be Wednesday’s newest Dodger – his third sojourn with the team.

Jul 05

An intentional post about intentional walks

Twice-former Dodger reliever Guillermo Mota, now with the Giants, walked four batters intentionally Sunday, the most by a pitcher in a game since 1998.

Baseball-Reference.com lists 49 pitchers with at least four IBB in a game, dating back to approximately 1952. Their teams are 3-45-1 in those games.

Another Giant, Mike McCormick, in the year he became the first to win the National League Cy Young Award after Sandy Koufax retired, apparently holds the record for most intentional walks in a game with six. Two came in the first inning, and two came in the 11th.

Don Drysdale, Ron Perranoski and Larry Sherry each walked four batters intentionally in a game for the Dodgers, all in the 1960s, all in losses, all before Walter Alston basically abandoned the intentional walk.

The last Dodger to walk three batters intentionally in a game was Derek Lowe in 2008. They were his only walks of the game, and Lowe didn’t allow any runs. But the Dodgers lost in 11 innings, 1-0.

Jul 04

Hong-Chih Kuo: a heartstopping six strikeouts in Dodger victory


Rick Scuteri/APLeft-handed batters are now 0 for 30 with 16 strikeouts against Hong-Chih Kuo this season.

Hong-Chih Kuo is an equal-opportunity heart-attack giver – to his fans and his opponents.

Joe Torre let Kuo throw two innings today, his most since September 1, 2008, and 32 pitches, his most since July 21 of that year. And as his pitch count rose, I felt a tingling in my left arm as I thought of Kuo’s fragile elbow.

But what an elbow. Kuo struck out six batters in those two innings, making a statement to those who didn’t support him for this year’s All-Star team and serving as the linchpin on the mound for the Dodgers in their 3-1 victory today over Arizona.

Kuo’s mastery was part of a closeout by the Dodger pitchers today, which struck out eight of the final 10 batters they faced.

Starting pitcher Chad Billingsley did what the Dodgers have asked him to do. He threw strikes and toughened up with runners on base. Billingsley allowed one run over six innings, striking out eight, and had only 35 balls called among the 26 batters he faced. His pitch count ran up to 111 in six innings because Arizona did walk twice and rap six hits off him, including a booming RBI triple by Mark Reynolds that gave the Diamondbacks a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. But Billingsley struck out the next three batters and slammed the door on Arizona thereafter.

That meant the Dodgers were able to tie things up on Rafael Furcal’s double and Andre Ethier’s single in the sixth inning, and then take the lead on Matt Kemp’s two-run homer with Furcal aboard in the eighth. Kemp has an OPS of over 1.000 and four home runs in his past 12 games.

Jonathan Broxton got the Dodgers’ 15th and 16th strikeouts in his perfect ninth inning, his first save opportunity since June 9.

Jun 29

Trade Don Drysdale!


AP
Don Drysdale, March 1959

Fifty years ago, this was the hot trade rumor of the day, according to Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror: Don Drysdale, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider to the Yankees for Tony Kubek, Elston Howard, Ryne Duren and Johnny James. Buzzie Bavasi shot it down. (The link  also takes you to a feature on baseball stats godfather Allan Roth.)

Hodges and Snider were near the end of their careers, but Drysdale was only 23. He was coming off a 3.46 ERA in the 1959 title season, but he ran into a slump, posting a 7.11 ERA in 31 2/3 innings over seven appearances (six starts), only one of them a quality start.

Don Drysdale a Yankee. Gosh, it must’ve seemed like such a good idea to dump the kid at the time. All I need to find is one article calling him a head case or mental midget and my year will be complete.

  • Matt Kemp will return to the Dodger starting lineup tonight, Joe Torre told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Testimonials for Don Mattingly come in this article by Gideon Rubin for the Daily News from former teammate Dave Righetti and current Dodger Jeff Weaver. “There’s one thing that he’s about, and that’s hard work,” Weaver said. “He communicates well, and the guys respect him.”
  • Ten managerial candidates to consider have been conveniently offered by John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus. Mattingly is on the list, along with Alex Cora’s brother Joey, former Dodger Ron Roenicke  and one-time Dodger candidate (before Paul DePodesta was fired) Torey Luvullo.
  • Lucas May singled, doubled and homered twice for Albuquerque on Monday.
  • Carlos Monasterios has taken a walk on the rehab trail. He allowed five runs (four earned) on nine baserunners while striking out four in 3 2/3 innings. Three of the runs came on a first-inning homer. “I thought Monasterios threw the ball pretty well,” Isotopes manager Tim Wallach told Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner. “The home run he gave up in the first was probably a bit of an Albuquerque home run.”
  • James McDonald will return to the Albuquerque active roster Thursday, Jackson reports.
  • I make the case for Hong-Chih Kuo’s inclusion on the National League All-Star Team at Rob Neyer’s Sweet Spot blog at ESPN.com.
  • How do you solve a problem like George Sherrill? Ask Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Joe Posnanski is looking for your nominations for top sports books.

Update: Adrian Beltre tells Alex Speier of WEEI the story of how he became an underage signee of the Dodgers, and the fallout that ensued. (via MLB Trade Rumors)

Jun 25

Flashback to 2004: ‘Yankees Suck’ is a figure of speech

The last time the Yankees came to Dodger Stadium, six flip-floppin’ years ago, I had one child (with another on the way), a job at LACMA, and under two years of baseball blogging under my belt. I had recently joined up with All-Baseball.com, a precursor of sorts to Baseball Toaster, and we picked the final of the three Dodger-Yankee games to do the Rashomon project, in which a bunch of us covered the game from different angles.

Here’s my piece: “‘Yankees Suck’ is a figure of speech”

Continue reading

Jun 25

How Reggie Jackson might have led the Dodgers over the Yankees in the World Series


AP
Reggie Jackson played in five consecutive All-Star Games from 1971-75 and 14 in his career.

In 1973, Reggie Jackson won the American League Most Valuable Player Award. In 1974, he finished fourth in the voting (in a year he had a .391 on-base percentage, .514 slugging percentage and a league high 20 intentional walks and 166 adjusted OPS).

In 1975, two years before he would begin tormenting Los Angeles in consecutive World Series, Reggie Jackson almost became a Dodger.

That’s the tale that comes out of Dayn Perry’s new book, “Reggie Jackson.” In the winter before the ’75 season, the future Yankee by way of Baltimore first tried to engineer a deal to Los Angeles.

… Finley presented Reggie with a contract for 1975 that would pay him precisely what he made in 1974. Reggie told the media that his contract offer was “too depressing” to discuss.

He called Finley and asked to be traded. “If I can sell yhou for two million dollars,” Finley said, “I might not give you some of the money, but I’d at least send you a box of candy.”

Reggie, stunned that Finley might trade him, went to Hawaii to fulfill his duties as host of the “Team Superstars” television show. There he met with Dodgers executive Al Campanis. Reggie told him he could be a Dodger if they met Finley’s asking price of $2 million. Campanis said it was a posssibility. Reggie then phoned Finley and told him the Dodgers were interested. “I can’t play money,” the owner said. “He explained to Reggie that unless he received a king’s ransom in talent, he couldn’t trade his best player and still manage to sell tickets. Parting with one of baseball’s biggest tars in a cash grab simply wouldn’t play with the fans. Reggie knew that, but he also knew what Finley had told him earlier. Reggie called him a liar and hung up. …

Then the story that Reggie had attempted to engineer a trade to the Dodgers made the rounds in the Oakland press. Finley confirmed the rumor and said that he’d been shocked by Reggie’s actions. He didn’t mention that he had given Reggie permission to seek out a deal, and he didn’t mention that he had discussed trading Reggie to the Philllies, Indians, Yankees, and Orioles, among other teams. When Reggie learned of Finley’s lies, he called the Oakland beat writers and told them that Finley was willing to sell him for $2 million. They went back and confronted Finley with Reggie’s version of events. He laughed it off. “The Oakland fans would run me out on a rail,” Finley said.

Shortly thereafter, Finley defeated Reggie in their arbitration hearing in Los Angeles. Reggie had oped to make $200,000 for 1975, but the arbitrator chose Finley’s figure of $140,000. Freshly embittered, Reggie went back to Arizona for Spring Training.

Having not come up with the ability to complete the trade, the Dodgers went with Willie Crawford in right field in 1975, then acquired Reggie Smith in place of Joe Ferguson and others in June 1976.

In 1975, Jackson’s final season with Oakland, he led the league with 36 home runs, in what was otherwise an off year for him. He left as a free agent, while Finley would later run afoul of baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn by trying to sell other star players like Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers and Vida Blue.

Two seasons later, Jackson was a Yankee, and you know what happened next. Seven home runs in the 1977-78 World Series, three in one game, along with one stray hip.

But the Dodgers did have that one moment of pure wonderfulness against Jackson. Here’s how I described it in “100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die”:

Perhaps even more than the pitch, people remember the reaction: Reggie Jackson detorquing himself from a swing that almost corkscrewed him into the ground, grabbing his bat high on the barrel and violently thundering a furious curse.

David slew Goliath. Jack brought down the Giant. And Bob Welch, all 21 babyfaced years of him, struck out the Bronx Bomber on a 3-2 pitch in the ninth inning to save Game 2 of the 1978 World Series and bring on a deafening roar at Dodger Stadium.

The day the Series opened, rumors were spreading that fireballing Dodger rookie Welch had an arm problem. Nonsense, insisted Tommy Lasorda. “Bob had a soreness in his side, down along his rib cage,” he told Scott Ostler of the Los Angeles Times. “Our trainer said he’s fine.”

AP
Steve Yeager raises his fist after Bob Welch strikes out Reggie Jackson with two runners on base to end Game 2 of the ’78 Series.

Apparently. Clinging to a 4-3 lead in the top of the ninth, the Dodgers sent out Terry Forster for his third inning of work. Yankee playoff hero Bucky Dent opened the inning with a single to left field and moved to second on a groundout. A walk to Paul Blair put the go-ahead run on base, signaling that Forster had passed his expiration date.

Lasorda’s do-or-die replacement had 24 career appearances, 11 in relief. The two batters he needed to get out, Thurman Munson and Jackson, had 465 career home runs – three of them hit by Jackson in the last game of the previous year’s World Series. Dodger fans at the stadium and across the country waited for the roof to cave in.

Welch fed a strike in against Munson, who hit a sinking drive to right field that Reggie Smith caught at his knees.

It was Jackson time. This wasn’t just any slugger. This was the enemy personified, a man, though well-liked in his later years, considered perhaps the most egotistical, vilifiable ballplayer in the game.

Welch began by inducing Jackson to overswing and miss. With Drysdalesque flair, he then sent in a high, tight fastball that sent Jackson spinning into the dirt.

Jackson later told Earl Gustkey of the Times that he was expecting Welch to mix in some of his good offspeed pitches, but instead came three fastballs, each of which were fouled off. Then there was a waste fastball high and outside to even the count at 2-2.

After another foul ball, another high and outside fastball brought a full count. The runners would be moving. Short of another foul, this would be it.

As everyone inhaled, in came the heat. Amped up, Jackson swung for the fences – not the Dodger Stadium fences, but the fences all the way back in New York.

Only after Jackson missed the ball and nearly wrapped the bat around himself like a golf club, only through Jackson’s rage, could Dodger fans begin to comprehend what happened.

Jackson carried his fury into the dugout and clubhouse with him, pushing first a fan on his way to the dugout and then Yankee manager Bob Lemon once inside.

The only thing that could have made the event better for Dodger fans would have been for them to have had longer to enjoy it. The Dodgers didn’t win the World Series that year; they didn’t win another game. Welch himself was the losing pitcher in Game 4, allowing a two-out, 10th-inning run in his third inning of work, and gave up a homer to Jackson in Game 6. But for a moment, the Dodgers and their fans enjoyed one of the most triumphant and exhilarating victories over the Yankees ever imaginable.

If, after revisiting those World Series memories, the thought of Reggie Jackson as a Dodger is still unimaginable, consider the event that took place hours before the Welch-Jackson strikeout. Here’s an excerpt from my chapter on Jim Gilliam, the longtime Dodger who is the only member of the organization to have his number retired without reaching baseball’s Hall of Fame:

On the afternoon of October 11, with Game 2’s first pitch hours away, baseball paused and gathered at Trinity Baptist Church to pay their respects – 2,000 strong – at Gilliam’s funeral. A memorable photo from that day shows Dodger tormentor Reggie Jackson of the Yankees standing solemnly between Lopes and Tommy Lasorda. All three delivered eulogies.