By Jon Weisman
Dodger fans anxious about their first-place team? It’s a time-honored tradition.
Fifty years ago this week, here’s how Sid Ziff of the Times led his column about the 1965 Dodgers, who had been in first place in the National League for two solid months.
The natives are getting restless and you can hardly blame them. They’re fed up with the banjo hitting of both our local ball clubs. A red hot Dodger fan says it gets under his skin to see those Dodger peashooters go up to the plate, strike out or hit a little harmless grounder to the infield.
“It’s getting so that a foul tip, a hit batsman and a base on balls is a batting rally for our Dodger feather-dusters,” he complains.
He figures that if the opposition gets one run, the chances of the Dodgers losing the game are 50-50. If the opposition gets two runs, the changes are 85% that the Dodgers will lose, and if they get three runs, nine times out of ten, the game is hopelessly lost.
“Isn’t it about time for Buzzie Bavasi to get up off his royal highness and get us a hitter or two?” he demands. …
Even opposing teams were mocking the league leaders. That same day, this was the opening to Frank Finch’s story about the Dodgers:
Waggish Gene Freese of the Pirates was saying, “Watching the Dodger batting attack is like watching a silent movie.” Perhaps so, Gene, but not as exciting.
It didn’t help that the Dodgers had just been outscored, 30-10, in losing three games of a four-game series that began June 24 with Willie Stargell becoming the first player ever to hit three home runs in a game* at Dodger Stadium. The first two shots were hit off Don Drysdale.
“I don’t want to hear any more complaints from our players that this park is too big. The Pirates proved it isn’t,” commented general manager Buzzie Bavasi as he swallowed another Tum.
All this came before a 16-game road trip that would begin against the Dodgers’ arch-rivals, the third-place San Francisco Giants, and cross through Chicago, Houston and second-place Cincinnati before ending with five games in four days at Pittsburgh.
On the first game of the trip, Juan Marichal extended his personal winning streak against the Dodgers to 10 games, pitching a 5-0 shutout. Drysdale, in his first start since the Stargell debacle, struck out 12 in a complete game but made consecutive errors on the first two batters of the bottom of the fifth inning — and when John Roseboro collided with the Giants’ Hal Lanier inside the baseline for a third error, it wasn’t long before four unearned runs had scored in the inning.
Willie Crawford, a Dodger at age 18, had two hits and a walk in 21 plate appearances. “The way I’m going, Frank, maybe you should play and I should write the story,” he told Finch.
And then, the legendary Jim Murray got into the act …
“Hello, operator? Get me Buzzie Bavasi. What? Whom shall you say is calling? Better skip it, baby. Just tell ‘im it ain’t the tax collector. But don’t give him any more hints.
“What? He’s talking to his psychiatrist, Dr. Yes-And-No? I’ll wait. (‘Oh, we ain’t got a barrel o’ money, maybe we’re ragged and funny … tum-ta-ta-tum … but we’re strolling along …’)
“Hello, Buzzie? Buzzie, baby! This is Jim. Now, JUST A MINUTE, BUZZIE! I’m calling to help.
“Listen, Buzzie. You know the stories going around about your team? You know, watching the Dodgers bat is like listening to a silent movie — listening to the Dodgers bat is like watching radio. Frank Finch has a whole collection of them. The Dodgers aren’t Murderers Row, they’re Murdered Row. Then, there’s the riddle: How do you tell a Dodger from a Little Leaguer? The answer is, you can’t. There is the suggestion that to speed up baseball they just have the Dodgers sign for three outs every inning and get on with it. What has 18 eyes and can’t see? The Dodgers. The three most useless things in the world are a vacuum cleaner in the Arctic, a swim fin in the Sahara, and a bat held by a Dodger.
“Buzzie, stop sobbing!” …
Murray’s column ran 50 years ago today. The Dodgers still had the best record in the National League. Nothing was ever easy, was it?