By Jon Weisman
The 1965 Dodgers spent the last 28 days of May in first place — including Memorial Day, May 31, when 50,997 at Dodger Stadium saw the Dodgers and Reds split a doubleheader — but it was hardly an uneventful month. Here’s a word album of what was happening 50 years ago …
- Remember Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder? Back in 1965, before he became a national TV mainstay on CBS’ “NFL Today,” the Greek had already become well-known in Las Vegas circles. In early May, sports editor Paul Zimmerman of the Times wrote that Snyder predicted the Dodgers and White Sox would meet in an October rematch of the 1959 World Series.
- After a May 13 beaning, “Sweet” Lou Johnson spent the night at Daniel Freeman Hospital — the same hospital that was treating the man Johnson replaced in the Dodger lineup, injured outfielder Tommy Davis.
- On my dad’s 30th birthday — May 14, 1965 — Bob Buhl recorded his 30th and ultimately final career victory over the Dodgers. (In 1956 alone, Buhl went 8-1 in nine starts against Brooklyn.) Grover Cleveland Alexander holds the record for most victories against the Dodger franchise with 45, followed by Juan Marichal with 37.
- While Don Drysdale avoided a beanball war with the Giants, he had to be held back from a bench-clearing mess between the Dodgers and Brewers in the first game of a May 16 doubleheader, after Dodger reliever Bob Miller hit Cubs shortstop Roberto Pena with a pitch. Ron Santo and coach Alvin Dark “had to restrain Miller’s bosom buddy, Drysdale, from getting at Pena during the excitement,” wrote Frank Finch of the Times.
- In the nightcap, Drysdale hit a two-out double in the bottom of the ninth and scored on Wes Parker’s walkoff single for a complete-game, 3-2 victory.
- The Dodgers played their first ever game at Houston’s Astrodome on May 17, with Sandy Koufax striking out 13 in 10 1/3 innings of a 5-3 victory. Soon after Koufax batted for himself and hitting a one-out single in the top of the 11th, Houston infielder Joe Morgan committed his second and third errors of the game to fuel a four-run inning.
- Earlier, Koufax told Finch he was looking forward to the experience of the dome. “I’m anxious to see the stadium,” Koufax said. “I’ve never heard ball players talk about a park as much as they have about this one. I’m surprised they didn’t build a motel for the visiting teams right inside the park.”
- Finch added that “2,000 gallons of synthetic green coating were sprayed on the shaggy, dying grass last wek, but it still looks moth-eaten.” Said infielder John Kennedy about the Astros’ exploding scoreboard: “It’s ruining baseball.”
- The inaugural victory at the Astrodome was also Walter Alston’s 1,000th as Dodger manager.
- Finch reported that pitcher Claude Osteen and broadcaster Jerry Doggett went from Disneyland to the airport by helicopter to make the team flight to Houston.
- Rookie pitcher Mike Kekich was ejected in the second inning from the Dodgers’ May 18 loss to the Astros for bench-jockeying — three weeks before Kekich would actually make his Major League debut in a game. “I was still hollering when the other guys quit,” Kekich explained to Finch. Commented outfielder Wally Moon: “Mike’s got to get his timing down.”
- Dodger great Pete Reiser’s attempt to come back as manager of Triple-A Spokane after suffering from heart trouble at the end of Spring Training was abandoned, and Duke Snider remained on the job. “It is extremely difficult and nerve-wracking to try to manage a team under a doctor’s order not to get excited,” Reiser told The Associated Press. “Not being able to coach at third, to yell, or to argue with the umpire is not my cup of tea.”
- Times TV-radio columnist Don Page said that Vin Scully saved the Dodgers’ broadcast of the May 19 series finale in Houston.
Channel 11’s adventure in the Astrodome was an entertaining experience Wednesday evening. The ball game betweeen the Dodgers and the Astros would have been tedious without the between-innings tour of the plant and Vin Scully’s bright commentary. Even nonbaseball fans were lyrical over Scully’s reportorial elegance during his radio report the previous night. These sophisticated nonfans, who apparently reside in the hushlands of our sports-loving megalopolis, tuned in solely to hear Scully’s verbal guide of Texas’ contribution to athletic culture.
It destroyed the myth that one has to be here to appreciate it. Forgetting baseball, Vin Scully is one of the great reporters of all-time.
- Dodger vice president and general manager Buzzie Bavasi spoke out against the upcoming June debut of the amateur draft. “Baseball people are their own worst enemies,” Bavasi told Al Wolf of the Times. “They keep passing rules to keep themselves from spending their own money.”
- Bavasi noted that the expected No. 1 draft choice would be Arizona State outfielder Rick Monday, but he questioned whether Monday would find the Kansas City Athletics’ offer sufficient.
- The Dodgers lost their longest game of the year on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 16th May 23 by Howie Reed at Chicago. Los Angeles, which scored two runs in the top of the first and then was shut out for the next 15 innings, played the entire game using five pitchers, and it took only 4:09.
- NL president Warren Giles announced that team managers who permit their players to smoke on the bench would be subject to a $200 fine, reported Finch.
- Curt Flood hit a hard comebacker to start a May 25 Cardinals-Dodgers game off Don Drysdale that the big righty tried to field with his bare hand but failed, for an infield single. Drysdale retired every other batter he faced (save for a Dick Tracewski error) in his only career one-hitter. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the eighth, when Drysdale led off the inning with a single and later scored on Wes Parker’s two-run double off Bob Gibson. Time of game was 1:41.
- Finch after “Sweet Lou” homered twice in a 5-3 victory over Milwaukee on May 29: “LBJ — Louis Brown Johnson — would be nominated for President today if Dodger rooters had their say.” Said Johnson, who clapped his hands while circling the bases after his three-run shot in the bottom of the eighth rallied the Dodgers from a 2-1 deficit: “Why not? I’m my greatest fan.”
- Dodger scout Tommy Lasorda bet Braves manager Bobby Bragan a steak dinner that Milwaukee wouldn’t score 10 runs in the three-game series at Dodger Stadium. The Braves scored exactly 10 — winning the bet for Bragan with a ninth-inning run in the May 29 contest — but lost two of the three games.
- When May ended, Koufax had a 2.09 ERA, but it was Johnny Podres who led the team with a 1.55 ERA. But while Podres had 25 strikeouts, Koufax had 105.
After splitting that Memorial Day doubleheader, the Dodgers entered June with a 29-17 record and a three-game lead in the NL.
All my best to everyone on this Memorial Day 2015.