Shut down the Internet: pic.twitter.com/z2vlYQ9ko5
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 19, 2014
By Jon Weisman
In their 26th year of pursuing their seventh World Series title, the Dodgers don’t feel they’ve fulfilled their mission because they didn’t win a championship.
Nevertheless, despite what happened in October, it was a memorable 2014 for a variety of reasons.
In January, beloved broadcaster Vin Scully served as Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade, then later intoned “It’s time for … NHL hockey” as Dodger Stadium successfully hosted the first outdoor National Hockey League game ever in Southern California, with the future Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings losing to the Anaheim Ducks, 3-0.
Two months later, the Dodgers broke more geographic history, flying to Sydney to open the 2014 season against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first official MLB games in Australia. Clayton Kershaw, naturally, was the winning pitcher on Opening Day, but the lasting image from the trip was one of Scully petting a koala.
When they returned to Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers officially christened their new outfield plazas for the 2014 regular season. An immediate hit, the plazas proved a popular gathering spot, featuring new culinary options to compliment the famed Dodger Dog, such as Tommy Lasorda’s Trattoria.
May Day brought a victory for the ages, or at least, the entire lifespan of the franchise in the National League. With the final out of their 6-4 triumph over Minnesota, the Dodgers won their 10,000th game since joining the National League in 1890. Ten days later came a timely Old-Timers Day, featuring Dodger legends from the past seven decades, including Sandy Koufax.
Nearly 18 years after their last no-hitter, the Dodgers threw two of them in a 25-day span. First, Josh Beckett, coming back from an injury-plagued, winless 2013 season, stifled the Philadelphia Phillies on May 25, then Kershaw delivered the masterpiece of his precocious career, a 15-strikeout wipeout of the Colorado Rockies on June 18 in which the only baserunner reached on an error.
Shortly before Kershaw’s no-hitter, the Dodgers found themselves in a deep hole in the National League West: 9½ games behind the San Francisco Giants (a number that retroactively would increase to 10 once the Giants completed a suspended game against Colorado with a victory). It was similar to the 9½-game deficit they overcame in 2013, but manager Don Mattingly preached patience, warning that such rapid-fire history was unlikely to repeat himself.
But lo and behold, the Dodgers did it again, winning 16 of their next 22 games to catch the Giants after a nailbiting, 1-0 victory over Cleveland on June 30. In that game, by the way, the Dodgers’ narrowly missed their third no-hitter of the season, with Michael Bourn’s single off Dan Haren in the third inning representing the only hit.
The Dodgers finished the first half of the season in first place, and celebrated the All-Star Break with four players in the Midsummer Classic: Dee Gordon, Zack Greinke, Yasiel Puig and Kershaw, who had just wrapped up a 41-inning scoreless streak that vaulted him into NL Cy Young Award contention despite having missed the month of May with an injury to his Teres Major muscle. Kershaw ended up winning NL Pitcher of the Month honors in both June and July.
Los Angeles came out strong after the break, despite facing the most brutal part of its schedule: 26 out of its first 29 games of the second half against winning teams — 18 of them on the road. The Dodgers went 16-13 in stretch, managing to actually increase its NL West lead by 2½ games. (During that time, Dodger Stadium also hosted another extra-curricular treat, the first concert appearance by Paul McCartney since the Beatles played their penultimate concert there in 1966.)
Though pressured by their Bay Area rivals, the Dodgers won both September series with San Francisco, clinching the division thanks to a tour de force performance by Kershaw.
Amid all the excitement, the Dodgers also faced some sad farewells to beloved members of their family, paying tribute to and playing in memory of Tommy John surgery pioneer Dr. Frank Jobe, baseball lifer Don Zimmer, fireballing righty Bob Welch and relief pitcher and screwball tutor Bobby Castillo.
Previously on Dodger Insider: