By Jon Weisman
Moving past their big preseason scare regarding Sandy Koufax’s elbow, the Dodgers’ found some rhythm in April. Los Angeles spent most of the month in first place, going 10-5.
Here are some tidbits of the times — a really fun time capsule, if you ask me.
- “Dodger scouts Tom Lasorda and Kenny Myers are home from a ’round-the-world junket,” wrote Frank Finch in an April 22 notebook for the Times. “After conducting baseball clinics in Japan for three weeks, they continued on to Europe. In Italy, they had an audience with Pope Paul and also visited Tollo, the hometown of Lasorda’s father. … Another highlight of the trip, Tom reported, was when the ball players sang ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in Japanese at their departure.”
- Vin Scully, speaking to Sid Ziff of the Times about the Dodgers: “We have a young team, and we’re going to make mistakes. But with the kind of pitching and speed that we have, we should be in every ball game. Nobody is going to beat us badly.”
- Duke Snider was named interim manager of the Dodgers’ Pacific Coast League affiliate, the Spokane Indians. The 38-year-old Snider was filling in for Pete Reiser, who was hospitalized because of a recurring heart condition.
- The fate of Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field, at 42nd Street and Avalon Boulevard, had been up in the air since the Angels moved out at the end of the 1961 season. On April 23, the Times reported that the Recreation and Park Commission voted to raze the park and build a community center in its place. Today, the location is the home of Gilbert Lindsay Park.
- The Times reported that Tony Mea, a Dodger ticket employee who joined the organization as Walter O’Malley’s chauffeur in 1950 (same year as Scully and Billy DeLury), died of a heart attack April 26 at age 61.
- April 26 was “Comedians Night” at Dodger Stadium, with appearances by Danny Kaye, Jonathan Winters and Danny Thomas. “Perhaps inspired by their presence, the Dodgers played some funny baseball in the first inning,” wrote Finch of a game in which the Phillies hit for the cycle against Sandy Koufax before three men were out, scoring three runs en route to a 4-3 victory. Phillies shortstop Bobby Wine made a leaping catch of Jeff Torborg’s line drive with the bases loaded and two out in the ninth to preserve the win, which knocked the Dodgers out of first place in the National League.
- From Finch’s notebook that day: “Although Maury Wills took a .351 batting average into Monday’s game, he had coach Pres Gomez pitch to him for 20 minutes of extra hitting.”
- Another Finch story showed that sabermetrics have long-ago roots: “One of the more vital statistics in the baseball averages is the RBI column, but neither major league keeps figures showing a player’s runs-not-batted-in percentage,” it began.
- A memorial game at Dodger Stadium for Nat King Cole, who died February 15 at age 45, was set for July 16. “The game will be played by the Hollywood All-Stars, which Cole used to manage, against the winner of a game June 25 between the sportscasters and sportswriters,” wrote the Times, noting that proceeds would go to the Nat Cole Cancer Research Foundation.
- Dodger owner Walter O’Malley planned to attend an April 29 luncheon where “Potentate John R. Rounsavelle of Al Malaikah Shrine will be honored by members of the Roorags.”
- Herman Franks arrived in town for the first time in his debut season as manager of the Giants. Franks made his professional debut as an 18-year-old catcher with the 1932 PCL Hollywood Stars, the Times noted. Franks hit .193 with Brooklyn from 1940-41.
- A day after Don Drysdale outdueled San Francisco’s Juan Marichal to move the Dodgers back into first place, Los Angeles remained there despite Koufax leaving his April 30 start in the sixth inning because of pulled muscle in his left leg. Wally Moon’s two-run single — his fifth straight successful plate appearance as a pinch-hitter — broke a seventh-inning tie and sparked the Dodgers’ 6-3 victory. Koufax would not miss a turn because of the injury.
- “Umpire Al Barlick, on orders from NL headquarters, had the Stadium pitching mound lowered five inches to the legal maximum of 15 inches,” wrote Finch in his notebook. “Other mounds around the circuit are also being shaved.”