Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Books (Page 1 of 3)

Nearing 500 wins at age 49, Dave Roberts (like him or not) is on track for the Hall of Fame

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

This is Dave Roberts’ managerial record with the Dodgers through 162 x 5 games:

2016: 91-71 (.562), NL West champion
2017: 104-58 (.642), NL champion
2018: 92-71 (.564), NL champion
2019: 106-56 (.654), NL West champion
2020-21: 104-57 (.646), World Series champion in 2020
Total: 497-313 (.614), five division titles, three pennants, one World Series

Since 2019, Roberts has essentially produced back-to-back seasons of more than 100 wins, including a World Series title. He has won at least 100 games three times in the equivalent of five seasons. At present, he ranks seventh in major-league history in winning percentage. This week, he will likely win his 500th game, all before turning 50.  

The Irony Committee-approved irony about publishing a story about Roberts’ record today is that he would have already hit the impressive 500-win milestone, if not for last week’s unfortunate Dodger meltdowns.  

In this year’s new edition of 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Dieyou won’t find very many hot takes. Depending on how you feel about things, you might not find any.

But maybe the closest that I come to offering one is in the book’s new chapter on Roberts, when I make the case that the Dodger manager is on an early path to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Yeah, that’s right. 

Let me qualify things in a hurry. First of all, “early” is “early.” Roberts still has a lot to do before he would even be considered for Cooperstown. For all I know, his managerial career could end in three months, and this discussion becomes a speck of dust on the basepath of life.

Second, whether Roberts would be elected is a separate question from whether he is deserving. He could be elected without being deserving, and he could be deserving without being elected.

Nevertheless, it actually seems pretty obvious to me that on his current trajectory, Roberts would be enshrined in the Hall, and the only controversy inherent in this news is that it will come as a shock to a number of fans — perhaps Dodger fans more than any others.

And maybe, just maybe, that means there’s more to Roberts than the managerial decisions that infuriate so many. 

To back up my belief, here’s what I wrote about Roberts in 100 Things Dodgers before the season began. I’ll add more thoughts after this excerpt.

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Novel progress, 2021


So, the novel that I first described here in 2018 and updated here and here and here in 2019 and here at the end of 2020 … is done. Or, at least, it’s as done as these things get before someone agrees to publish them. 

And that’s where things are right now. I have an agent who has begun to pitch the novel to editors, and I’m in the rather nauseating stage of waiting for one or more to bite. I even wonder whether it’s bad luck, bad karma or bad form to talk about it at this stage, but here I go. 

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NEWLY REVISED EDITION: 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die — new for 2021 — is on sale now

Exciting news! For the first time since 2013, a new edition of my book, 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, is about to be released. Updated to include events leading up to the Dodgers’ World Series title, the 2021 version officially publishes June 1, and you can preorder now! 

Ever since the first edition came out in 2009, I have always aspired for this book to be the ideal resource for any fan of the Dodgers: young or old, casual or passionate, focused on the present or the past. And now, I can finally say the book has caught up to the most eventful decade of the past half-century in the history of the franchise. 

Coming in at a record 368 pages, this new third edition captures all kinds of highlights from the past eight Dodger seasons — the many highs and the devastating lows — culminating in the wonderful catharsis of the 2020 World Series. The new 100 Things Dodgers also offers new chapters and sidebars focused on the more recent Dodger stars and personalities, including Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, Andre Ethier, Andrew Friedman, Kenley Jansen, Yasiel Puig, Dave Roberts, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Juan Uribe. I have also updated previous material on Jaime Jarrín, Eric Karros, Matt Kemp and much more, including Dodger Stadium itself. And needless to say, after 2020, Clayton Kershaw stands out as someone whose body of work called out for a new look. 

Here’s a snippet, from the opening of my new introduction to the third edition, to set the stage: 

Officially, Triumph Books published the second edition of 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die the morning of April 1, 2013.

You might say that a lot has happened in Dodger history since then.

In fact, only hours after the previous edition hit the public, Clayton Kershaw took a George Kontos fastball over the center-field wall at Dodger Stadium, breaking a scoreless tie on his way to pitching a shutout against the Giants in the first game of the season. That Opening Day was the opening salvo in an unprecedented run of Dodger history: eight straight National League West titles, including three NL pennants, leading up to the 2020 season that brought—say it with me now—the Dodgers’ first World Series title in 32 years.

I could write an entire book about those eight seasons alone (and hey, maybe I should). At the same time, that octet of excellence deserves a spot not separate from, but rather in context with, the history of a franchise whose roots date back to the 19th century.

And that’s where this new edition of 100 Things Dodgers comes in. …

While the new edition of 100 Things Dodgers officially hits the stands on June 1, but you can preorder now from such places as … 

If you’ve already enjoyed previous editions of 100 Things Dodgers, I feel confident you’ll be happy to step up to this one. And if you haven’t owned a copy of the book yet, this is the perfect time to buy one, for yourself or your friends and family (especially if you need a belated Mother’s Day gift or an elated Father’s Day present). 

Let me close out my pitch by returning to the book’s introduction. 

… Having this much exciting material to convey is the kind of problem an author dreams of having. As I said in the introduction to the first edition, “The Dodgers aren’t the only epic story around, but they’re a pretty great one—with fantastic characters, emotions, and plot twists that are nearly impossible to abandon.” I wrote that when the franchise had won exactly one playoff series since 1988. To think what has happened since: The Dodgers are truly the gift that keeps on Dodgering.

Whether you are updating your previous edition of 100 Things Dodgers or opening these pages as a newcomer, I hope you’ll find one constant. You might know who Jackie Robinson and Vin Scully are, what 1951 and 1955 represent, how “Dodgers” itself is a unique name in sports. My mission remains to tell the story behind the story, to inform as well as reminisce, to enlighten and enliven, no matter how casual or diehard a fan you are. The years since 2013 have only made that mission more dear. No matter what brings you to this book, I hope you find memories big and small from throughout the history of the Dodgers to treasure. 

And with that, I hope you buy 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die today!

Farewell, Don Sutton

Photo: Baseball Hall of Fame

Befitting the longest and in some ways most complex pitching career in the history of the Dodgers, Don Sutton has the longest chapter in Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition. For someone who was a Hall of Famer without much doubt, Sutton was almost chronically underestimated in his value. 

In tribute to Sutton, who has died at the age of 75, here is that chapter:  

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Novel progress, 2020

Nope, I haven’t stopped.

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Brothers in Arms excerpt: Clayton Kershaw and the World Series

Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers

Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition comes to a conclusion with a focus on Clayton Kershaw at the end of the 2017 season. The book was published in 2018, without any knowledge of what was to be revealed about that 2017 World Series. 

Below, I’m reprinting the final 1,000 words of the book, just to serve as a reminder of where we stood at that time and to help underscore what it meant for Kershaw to get his World Series title. 

In the first World Series game for the Dodgers since 1988 and the hottest World Series game on record (first-pitch temperature: 103 degrees), against the top offense he had ever faced in the playoffs, Kershaw presented his biggest nationwide audience with his most dominant playoff start, throwing seven innings of one-run ball against the Astros in which he allowed three hits and no walks while striking out 11—the first World Series pitcher of any stripe to fan at least 11 with no walks since Newcombe in 1949. This was Kershaw incarnate, the one everybody had expected all along. After Los Angeles and Houston went on to split the first four games of the Series, Kershaw returned to the mound in Houston for Game 5, and with the Dodgers scoring three runs in the first inning and another in the top of the fourth, there before Kershaw stood the most pristine opportunity to seal his legacy.

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Sheltered, Part 4:
Don’t forget the joy

Some of my current angst is rooted in the novel I began working on almost 20 months ago. 

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Novel progress, 2019

I’m not here right now — this just seems like a nice, writerly pic.

Over the past year, I have published as little as I have since nearly the start of the 21st century. But it has been one of my most fulfilling years as a writer.

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Halfway to the beginning

It was August 11, 2018, according to my journal, that I made the decision to put aside the non-fiction book I started working on and dive into trying to write my first novel.

On Sunday — 51 weeks later — I reached the halfway point of the rough draft. 

Just to put that in perspective, my first book on the Dodgers, from conception to completion, took about six months. My second Dodger book, took about nine, mostly accomodating the interviews I wanted to do. 

Those books came with deadlines, and deadlines haunt you like shadows. You can hide, but you can’t outrun them. So there was no choice but to stay up late, wake up early and give over massive amounts of free time to getting those books done. 

But still – a year in, I’m only halfway through a draft that will need heavy rewrites. Why am I doing this to myself?

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Brothers in Arms now available as an audiobook!

Exciting news, everyone! Today is Clayton Kershaw’s birthday … which is the perfect release date for the one of the best audiobooks possible – an audiobook version of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition. The talented James Patrick Cronin reads my words out loud.

Order the audiobook today at Audible.com using the link tinyurl.com/dodgerpitchers-audible! Or order through Amazon, where you can continue to purchase print or digital copies as well!

For more information on the audiobook, go to Blackstone Library — and also visit the Brothers in Arms category here at Dodger Thoughts.

If you enjoy or enjoyed Brothers in Arms in any format, please leave a review at Amazon. Thank you.

Bookin’

Warning: Personal, non-Dodger content ahead.

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Don Newcombe, 1926-2019

Don Newcombe has passed away today at the age of 92. In honor of the inspiration for my book, Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Traditionhere is the entire chapter devoted to Newcombe. 

Don Newcombe

The agony. The terror. The hopelessness. The tears. The pain.

At the climax of his incredible career, these were the feelings that consumed Don Newcombe.

It’s all hard to imagine, hard to reconcile with the image that remains of the burly 6-foot-4 right-hander pitching like the side of a mountain coming at you from 60 feet, 6 inches away, or with his regal presence at Dodger Stadium in the 21st century, floating into the stands during batting practice in a suit and hat past his 90th birthday, with present-day members of the team lining up to spend time.

But Newcombe’s sublime legacy has masked the heartache that came along the way.

Surely it should have been enough, more than enough, just to endure, just to survive, as an African-American pitcher in the opening decade of Major League Baseball’s integration. The attacks and the indignities, big and small, on and off the field, could have broken Newcombe, who wasn’t the first player to sever the color line like Jackie Robinson, nor the first pitcher like Don Bankhead, but who was years younger than either — a mere 23 — when he took the stage for Brooklyn in 1949.

But on top of it all, like a fusillade of fastballs to the gut, Newcombe was repeatedly drilled during his big-league career, by fans, by the media, even by managers and teammates. Some of the damage was self-inflicted, brought on by his own behavior. Much, however, was superfluous, misguided and even cruel, judging Newcombe by his shortcomings – real or imagined – no matter how numerous his successes.

The pressure and expectations crescendoed into a collapse, a breakdown of a vulnerable soul that few understood. That he eventually recovered to give the rest of his life back to the game and its players is as important as the story that preceded.

His journey, as much as that of any pitcher in Dodger history, is profound.

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A writer’s happy journey sideways in 2018

My favorite piece that I wrote this year was “Baseball has its day in the son,” the story of how my 10-year-old developed a new interest in following baseball in unlikely circumstances.

“A modest thing, but thine own,” as Vin Scully liked to say. I felt I adapted a uniquely personal moment into a story that could be meaningful to total strangers, while keeping the true feeling intact.

Aside from the happy memories of the moment itself, it was a story that energized me, making me believe that a non-fiction, non-baseball book I had been sketching, one that I alluded to 10 months ago, could actually work, not in the sense of being any kind of bestseller, but simply in the hopes of being something to someone.

As much as the Dodgers are part of my soul, they have never been the only part. Amid all the pleasure I enjoyed from the publication of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition, I have been wanting to stretch myself as a writer. The piece about my son, along with several others like it in my history at Dodger Thoughts that revolved around life more than baseball, convinced me that I wasn’t crazy to write a sustained narrative devoted to what was right in front of me.

Less than a month later, those plans were on the shelf.

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Interview: The true no-spin zone with knuckleballer Charlie Hough

Hey, guess what — the third installment of the Word to the Weisman podcast is already up! Following in the footsteps of Carl Erskine and Burt Hooton is my interview of Charlie Hough, the knuckleballing great who pitched professionally from 1966 to 1994.

Because there was only a couple of pages worth of space for Hough in Brothers in Arms, there are memories galore in this conversation that didn’t make it into the book, including his journey from position player to knuckleballer, comparing and contrasting Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda, and his thoughts on several Dodger pitchers from across the decades. Hough’s career in baseball as a player, coach and instructor covers roughly 50 years, so trust me, it’s great to hear from him.

Listen below, or click here to listen on iTunes. You can also listen on SpotifyI also recommend you subscribe to the podcast, so you know the moment a new episode is available — especially helpful now, since I don’t have a set schedule.

If you enjoyed this or would like to hear other interviews from me, please let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me @jonweisman on Twitter. Thanks!

Listen on Google Play Music

Interview: A happy chat with Burt Hooton

Slowly and unsurely, I am sharing some of the conversations I had while writing and researching Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition, on what I have christened the Word to the Weisman podcastHaving already posted my chat with Carl Erskine, we now move exorably but enthusiastically to Burt Hooton, whom I consider to be one of the two or three most underrated pitchers in Dodger history.

Whether or not you have already read about Hooton in Brothers in Arms, I think you’ll enjoy hearing him talk about his life in baseball in his own drawl. I recommend this both for older fans like myself who saw him pitch and younger fans who might not be aware of his talent, given that the way he was overshadowed in the public eye by the likes of Don Sutton and Fernando Valenzuela.

Listen below, or click here to listen on iTunes. 

If you enjoyed this or would like to hear other interviews from me, please let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me @jonweisman on Twitter. Thanks!

Listen on Google Play Music

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