By Jon Weisman
With the Dodgers celebrating their 10 retired numbers in a pin series this year, I was curious who was the last active player to take the field with each of these legends. Here’s what I found:
1 Pee Wee Reese
Ron Fairly, who was 19 when making his debut with the 40-year-old Reese as a teammate on the 1958 “Welcome to Los Angeles” Dodgers, was 40 himself when he played his last big-league game in 1978. Years between Reese’s first game and Fairly’s last: 38
2 Tommy Lasorda (manager)
Because Lasorda’s number was retired thanks to his managerial career, we’ll record the last remaining player to take the field under his leadership. That would be current Dodger coach Juan Castro, who was on Lasorda’s last squad in 1996, before finishing his career with his third tour of Dodger duty in 2011. Years between Lasorda’s first game and Castro’s last: 35
4 Duke Snider
Snider played his final game as a Dodger in 1962. Fairly nearly won this time again, but he was outlasted by Willie Davis, who wrapped up his MLB career in 1979. Years between Snider’s first game and Davis’ last: 32
19 Jim Gilliam
“Junior,” otherwise known as “The Devil,” is a special case — owner of the only retired Dodger number not in the Hall of Fame. He passed away while serving as a Dodger coach, but we’ll do the tally from the end of his playing career in 1966 (after coming out of retirement the year before). Don Sutton, who was 21 in 1966 and played until age 43 in 1988, is an easy winner here. Years between Gilliam’s first game and Sutton’s last: 35
20 Don Sutton
Speak of the devil, or another devil. Which player from the 1988 Dodgers remained the longest in the Majors? No, not Jesse Orosco. Orel Hershiser, who retired after the 2000 season at age 41? Close, but no cigar. It’s Ramon Martinez, even though his career ended in 2001 at age 33. Years between Sutton’s first game and Martinez’s last: 35
24 Walter Alston (manager)
“Smokey” managed until September 1976. The starting pitcher in the very first game the Dodgers played in 23 years without Alston was Rick Sutcliffe, making his big-league debut at age 20. Sutcliffe played his final MLB game on July 22, 1994. But even if you counted Sutcliffe as an Alstonite, he would still have been edged out — by four days. Charlie Hough was 28 in 1976 and 46 when he pitched his last game, on July 26, 1994. Years betwen Alston’s first game and Hough’s last: 40
32 Sandy Koufax
Koufax, of course, retired at the (arm)-tender age of 30. Like Gilliam, his last season was 1966, so Sutton prevails here. Years between Koufax’s first game and Sutton’s last: 33
39 Roy Campanella
Campanella’s MLB career, stifled at the outset by segregation, was tragically cut short during the offseason before the Dodgers arrived in Los Angeles, so the last link to him is also the Dodgers’ last active link to Brooklyn. That would be another catcher, John Roseboro, a 24-year-old rookie who played 35 games in ’57, before hanging up his tools of ignorance in 1970. Years between Campanella’s first game and Roseboro’s last: 32
42 Jackie Robinson
Robinson called it a career after the 1956 season. (Imagine losing Robinson, Campanella and Reese in three consecutive years.) The longest link to No. 42 is Don Drysdale, who was 19 in his April debut that year and, like Ramon Martinez, played until age 33. Years between Robinson’s first game and Drysdale’s last: 22
53 Don Drysdale
Drysdale retired in 1969. Bill Russell debuted that season at age 20 and played until he was nearly 38 in 1986. But he still couldn’t outpace Sutton, even though Sutton was already in his fourth season. Years between Drysdale’s first game and Sutton’s last: 32
Put another way: current Dodgers A.J. Ellis, Andre Ethier, Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw played with Castro. Castro played under Lasorda. Lasorda was a teammate of Campanella, Gilliam, Reese, Robinson and Snider.
And Vin Scully, whose first year as Dodger broadcaster came in the final year of the managerial career of Connie Mack (born in 1862), saw them all.
Outstanding article laying out how the Dodger greats of yesteryear form a chain that connects to the players of today with a VERY rich tradition to uphold.
The MOST honorable thing for this year’s team is their connection to Vinny. There will never be another remotely like Vin!
Also, in spring training 1950, the Dodgers played the A’s. Vin met Connie Mack. Think of THAT!
I did think of that — in my last paragraph. :)
I also like a “last link to a trade”. Using Puazza as an example, Ethier is last link (at this point). Coming to Dodgers was of Shefield among others. Shef traded to Braves, part of that deal was Andrew Brown. Brown was sent to Indians to complete Milton Bradley’s deal. Bradley of course traded for Ethier.
Greg Weisman (@Greg_Weisman)
I’d be a little more interested in knowing the number of years between the retired number player’s LAST game and when that number was retired, i.e. how long did it take the Dodgers to retire each number.
Jesse Orosco pitched until 2003. So he outlasted Ramon Martinez by two years.
Thanks Jon, for a very important and informative article.