Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Who was the Dodgers’ Kobe?

Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant at Dodger Stadium, July 31, 2013. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant at Dodger Stadium, July 31, 2013. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

It’s hard to be a sports fan in Los Angeles and not be affected by the end of Kobe Bryant’s career. Twenty seasons in a Los Angeles uniform? For one attempt at perspective, here’s the Dodger starting lineup on June 26, 1996, the day the 17-year-old Bryant was drafted.

Delino DeShields, 2B
Roger Cedeno, LF
Mike Piazza, C
Eric Karros, 1B
Raul Mondesi, RF
Mike Blowers, 3B
Todd Hollandsworth, CF
Greg Gagne, SS
Tom Candiotti, P

Candiotti, the starting pitcher that day, is now 58 years old.

On the way to work this morning, I asked myself who would be the Dodgers’ closest equivalent to Bryant, a spectacular, championship-winning (future) Hall of Famer who wore only one team’s uniform (albeit with two numbers). It won’t surprise you that there’s no exact match, but I do think there’s a closer one than you might realize.

  • Sandy Koufax and Roy Campanella are Hall of Famers, but their careers were sadly cut short.
  • Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Don Sutton and Zack Wheat had the longevity and excellence, but didn’t go from start to finish with the Dodgers.
  • Bill Russell and Jim Gilliam each played in the neighborhood of 2,000 games with the Dodgers and no one else, but while occasional All-Stars, they weren’t Hall of Famers.
  • Don Drysdale is an interesting possibility, making his debut as a teenager and pitching more than 3,400 innings in a Hall of Fame career, but he was done at 32.
  • How about Jackie Robinson? Though he played until age 37, the problem is that he doesn’t even make his Negro League debut until age 26 and Dodger debut at 28.
  • Fernando Valenzuela’s career has something in common with Bryant’s, but his final big-league game came nearly seven years after the Dodgers cut him loose.

There is one player, however, who joined the Dodgers at a tender age, played with them his entire career (finishing as the team’s elder stateman), was a superb all-around player who reached the Hall of Fame, is the franchise’s all-time most valuable player at a critical position, and is remembered for more than mere statistics.

That player is Pee Wee Reese.

[mlbvideo id=”3981243″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]

ReeseNow, maybe a 5-foot-10 shortstop born 97 years ago in Kentucky doesn’t strike you as the natural equivalent to one of the most spectacular players in NBA history. Though he was a 10-season All-Star, he was never a Most Valuable Player; though he was in seven World Series, he popped the champagne only once. And if it matters, Reese played all but one of his seasons in Brooklyn.

But Reese was a dynamic player, and probably comes closest to matching the long-term importance to a major Los Angeles franchise that Bryant has had.

If the retirement age isn’t as important to you, maybe Drysdale makes more sense. If you’re less concerned about a final season or two played elsewhere, Snider could be your guy. Maybe you throw out everything but electricity and go with Koufax, Robinson or Valenzuela. And clearly, if there’s one current Dodger who could become their version of Bryant, it’s Clayton Kershaw.

But honestly, if Pee Wee Reese is the Dodgers’ Kobe Bryant, I think that’s a compliment to both players.


Single-game Spring Training tickets now available


Joe Wieland returning to Dodgers


  1. Jon, when I started reading this, I thought, how can we even make a comparison? But you did it, and it’s terrific.

  2. I assumed Steve Garvey, but for other reasons.

  3. Kobe was drafted by the Hornets on June 26 and traded to the Lakers straight up for Vlade Divac. John Smoltz strikes me as the closest MLB comparison.

    For a Dodger comparison, the best player drafted by someone else who spent his entire career in blue – Andre Ethier? Delino seems like the Vlade Divac character if the Dodgers are the Hornets.

    • Jon Weisman

      Reese was not originally signed by the Dodgers, so I’ll stick with him.

      • Wow, didn’t see that he was traded for two guys who never played in the majors again. Everything else seems a somewhat apt comparison (as much as you can compare the NBA and MLB), so that’s pretty spot on.

        Also says something about those 40s and 50s Brooklyn teams that Reese doesn’t stick out more than he does.

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén