By Jon Weisman
Frank Finch, the Dodger beat writer for the Times 50 years ago, would frequently report in the summer of 1965 that Maury Wills was ahead of the pace of his record-setting season of 104 stolen bases in 1962. That year, Wills had 27 steals at the end of May and 42 by the end of June. In 1965, Wills had 30 steals at the end of May and 47 by the end of June.
But the thing about 1962 for Wills was his enormous finishing kick: 53 steals (in 59 attempts) after July 31. Wills didn’t come close to matching that, producing 22 stolen bases from August 1 on, to finish with 94 — still the second-best total in National League history.
Here are many more interesting Dodger tidbits from the first two weeks of June 1965. There’s a lot, but really great stuff if you’re a Dodger fan …
- Al Ferrara was so badly bruised by a collision with Lou Johnson “when he awoke at his hotel Monday (June 1) that he had to have a bellboy help him dress,” wrote Finch.
- Former Dodger outfielder Frank Howard had a happy homecoming with the American League’s Washington Senators when they traveled to play the Angels at Chavez Ravine on June 2, hitting two homers in a 13-0 victory. Howard was one of seven former Dodgers on the Senator roster, according to John Hall of the Times.
- The Dodgers’ wildest game of the 1965 season, an 11-10 victory June 3 in St. Louis, boosted the Dodgers’ lead in the NL to five games, which would be their biggest margin for all of 1965. Sandy Koufax was knocked out three batters into the third inning after allowing seven runs (though only two were earned), but the Dodgers rallied from deficits of 7-3 and 10-7, capped by Ron Fairly’s two-run homer in the eighth.
- “After coming out of temporary retirement five games ago,” Finch wrote in his notebook, “Jim Gilliam, the backs of his legs throbbing, said, ‘I feel like Spring Training was just three days old.’ Asked if there would be a salary adjustment now that he’s wearing two caps as a coach and player, Jim said, ‘I hope so.’ Buzzie Bavasi will take care of one of his favorite players handsomely, of course.”
- The Dodgers lost more than a game in the standings when their series at Milwaukee began June 4 with a three-run walkoff homer by Eddie Mathews off Bob Miller. Set to move to Atlanta in 1966, the lame-duck Braves drew only 5,706 for a game that matched the NL’s first-place and second-place teams. “I hope we can make traveling expenses,” Dodger traveling secretary Lee Scott told Finch. “It costs us around $3,000 for hotel bills and meals for a three-day stopover here, and that doesn’t count the transportation costs for coming in and going out.” The next night, 4,116 saw the Braves hand the Dodgers’ their worst loss of the season, 9-1, reducing the Dodgers’ NL lead to three games.
- The Dodgers salvaged their only win of their four-game, three day stay in Milwaukee when Don Drysdale hit his 22nd career homer and pitched his 30th career shutout in the first game of a June 6 doubleheader. Drysdale, who lowered his ERA to 2.40, became the NL’s first 10-game winner — eight of those victories coming after a Dodger defeat.
- In his very next start June 11, Drysdale would hit a game-winning homer off Warren Spahn in the eighth inning of a 2-1 victory. Drysdale said he had been using Willie Davis’ 33-ounce bat.
- “Koufax probably wouldn’t want this story told, but we think it’s worth passing along,” wrote Finch in his notes. “There is a local baseball fan hospitalized by a serious illness who idolizes Sandy, and when a mutual friend arranged for Koufax to visit her in the hospital she suffered a relapse through sheer excitement as the hour of Sandy’s visit neared. When he heard about it, Sandy asked for a ‘rain check’ to visit her the next time the Dodgers are in town.”
- Walter O’Malley reiterated his feelings about the launch of the MLB draft to The Associated Press: “We opposed it and we are still opposed to it, but we are willing to go along with the rest and give it a try.”
- Two days after their worst loss of the season, the Dodgers had their biggest win, 14-3 at Philadelphia on June 7. Koufax had a single and two-run double while striking out 13.
- Mike Kekich, the 20-year-old who was ejected from a game in May before he ever appeared in one, finally made his MLB debut with the Dodgers on June 9, allowing four runs in 3 1/3 innings. Kekich gave up only two hits but walked five, and Finch compared him to a “young Sandy Koufax — fast and wild.” It would be his only start for the Dodgers in 1965.
- The Times reported that air density comparison tests were being run at Dodger Stadium and the site of the Angels’ stadium in Anaheim to help determine where to set the distance of the outfield fences at the latter.
- After Koufax shut out the Mets in New York, 5-0, on June 12, Finch wrote that “Shea Stadium has to be the world’s biggest open-air nut house.”
- Johnson’s right thumb was broken by an Al Jackson pitch that night, but he missed less than a week of games.
- To seal a doubleheader sweep in New York the next day, starting pitcher Johnny Podres came out of the bullpen to get the final two outs of a 4-3 victory, for his only save of the year.
Read all the previous “Remembering ’65” posts by clicking here.