Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Dodgers (Page 1 of 62)

Life as a Lost Angeles Rams fan

For all my devotion to the Dodgers, my sports fandom was ignited by the Rams.

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Podcast: My dad talks about life as a sports fan in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s

So, maybe Episode 4 is a little early for a very special episode of the Word to the Weisman podcast, but we’ve got one.

For the newest installment, I interviewed my father, Wally Weisman, specifically about his experiences growing up as a sports fan in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. My dad was born in Chicago in 1935 and became a huge sports fan almost immediately — then moved to Los Angeles in 1951 and had to adapt to a West Coast sports scene that was still in the early stages of development — no Dodgers, no Lakers, and a Rams team that itself was relatively new.

He shared some great stories from as early as 1940 all the way to when I was born in 1967, including a couple of interesting ones outside the world of sports. It’s obviously personal, but I think many of you will find it interesting. It’s not every day that you hear someone talk first-hand about Sid Luckman and Bronko Nagurski, or seeing the Bears play at Wrigley Field, or seeing the Globetrotters play the Minneapolis Lakers when the games really meant something. And a number of his recollections impressed me — for example, knowing that his hero, Stan Musial, absolutely destroyed Dodger pitching at Ebbets Field.

As a bonus, and in keeping with the family theme, Episode 4 debuts the new Word to the Weisman podcast theme song, “Citrus Skies,” from lamekids, with the music composed and performed by my 14-year-old son — known in these parts as Young Master Weisman. You can find lamekids’ music at several spots including YouTube, Spotify and more.

Listen below, or click here to listen on iTunes, Google Play or 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.

Buzzsprout

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!

My favorite Dodger Thoughts stories of 2018

Hi everyone. I didn’t have a regular posting schedule on Dodger Thoughts this year, so I thought I might recap my highlights from the year. Thanks for reading!

The Thirty Years War (January 24)

Baseball Toaster: A quick but fond remembrance (February 2)

***NEW BOOK ALERT***
Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition
 (February 5)

Bringing back the Miracle
on Ice — and on VCRs
 (February 11)

So, what am I doing? (February 14)

Lindsey Jacobellis: ‘I could be upset, but where is that going to get me?’ (February 16)

Why I stand proudly against the serial comma (February 17)

No … just, no … (February 27)

Andre Ethier waits at the gate (February 27)

Dodgers’ division dominance comes with plenty of drama (March 8)

Best kids shows of the 2000s: A semi-comprehensive list (March 13)

The real tragedy of the Dodgers’ 1951 collapse (March 22)

Hyun-Jin Ryu’s comeback unique in Dodger history (April 17)

What Seager’s lost season signifies for the 2018 Dodgers (April 30)

Presenting the heart-stopping, game-dropping, low-flying, win-defying, mental-lapsing, season-collapsing, legendary 2005 Los Angeles Dodgers (May 14)

Eying trades, the 2018 Dodgers are at once NL favorites and World Series underdogs (July 14)

The better angels of our Twitter (July 16)

Baseball has its day in the son (July 21)

After wielding attire iron at Dodgers, it’s Joe Simpson who should be embarrassed (July 28)

The worst play in baseball: The walkoff balk (August 4)

Street cleaning seems bogus, right? (August 7)

Would you have fired Tommy Lasorda before the 1981 season? (August 23)

Why baseball defies your expectations (September 3)

Clayton Kershaw and the value beyond a World Series (September 20)

Thoughts about John Smoltz, in five parts (October 24)

The Dodgers, Dave Roberts and the human element (November 7)

The Hall of Fame, the Dodgers and the Harold Baines effect (December 12)

Yasiel Puig leaves behind Dodger memories like none before him (December 21)

A writer’s happy journey sideways in 2018 (December 31)

Wishing you the best for 2019 …

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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Yasiel Puig leaves behind Dodger memories like none before him

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Was there a more entertaining Dodger than Yasiel Puig?

There are many plots and subplots to today’s trade news, some with vital implications for the future of the team, that I will leave to others, because I find all I can think about right now is the Wild Horse’s final gallop in Los Angeles.

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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

The Hall of Fame, the Dodgers and the Harold Baines effect

So now Fernando Valenzuela has to get in. So now Gil Hodges has to get in. So now Orel Hershiser has to get in. So now Steve Garvey has to get in. So now …

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The Hall of Nearly Great: Reggie Smith


The Hall of Nearly Great, a collection of essays about memorable major-league players who weren’t considered worth of the Hall of Fame, came out in 2012. I contributed the following chapter about Reggie Smith. 

As an adult, maybe even as a teenager, you see the complete arc of a major-leaguer’s career. You’re there for the beginning – or, depending on your level of dedication, the pre-beginning: the minors, the run-up to the draft, college or high-school ball.

But when you’re a kid, you encounter ballplayers in media res. They arrive in your consciousness fully formed. Past is the opposite of prologue – past is epilogue.

Reggie Smith landed in my world in the middle of the 1976 season, the first full season that, at age 8, I became invested in the Los Angeles Dodgers as a fan. Speaking of fully formed: He joined a team that had that infield: Steve Garvey at first base, Davey Lopes at second, Bill Russell at short, Ron Cey at third. These were the people in our neighborhood.

Smith dropped in out of nowhere, by way of St. Louis. What was supposed to happen? It couldn’t have been that he would become the favorite player in the lineup for a kid fan birthed on Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey. That he would be the gateway to a life of challenging the conventional wisdom of who was most valuable.

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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

An Adrián Beltré appreciation from Los Angeles

It’s impossible for a baseball fan like myself to be blindsided by the news that a ballplayer staring at his 40th birthday, with 3,166 hits already in his back pocket, is retiring.

And yet, when I saw on Twitter at 7:15 a.m. today that the great Adrián Beltré has called it a career, my gut got punched in a way that I was totally unprepared for.

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Who pitched the Dodgers’ top games each year in the 2000s? Some names will surprise you

Clayton Kershaw is by far the most dominant pitcher for the Dodgers — if not all of Major League Baseball — in the 21st century. Not surprisingly, he has pitched the game of the year for the Dodgers more times than anyone else.

But using the tried and true Game Score formula as a barometer, Kershaw has topped the charts in only four of his 11 big-league seasons. During the Kershaw era, some unexpected names have stolen the spotlight from Kershaw, if only for a moment.

In fact, in the 13 seasons from 2001 through 2013, 13 different pitchers had the top Game Score for the Dodgers.

Here’s a year-by-year rundown of the Dodgers’ best Game Score performances each year, dating back to 2000.

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For the Dodgers, payroll is a means — not an end

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

Last week, Bill Shaikin of the Times reported on the existence of a private document, prepared nearly two years ago before the 2017 MLB season, proposing that the Dodgers would keep annual team payroll through 2022 below $200 million, a level that would avoid luxury tax penalties.

Coming off a 2018 season in which the Dodgers reined in their previous extravagance under the Guggenheim ownership in the process of losing their second straight World Series, Shaikin’s revelation was sure to anger many devoted fans.

Whether it actually comes to pass remains to be seen …

  • The document was geared for potential investors, so it was designed to make future expenses seem modest.
  • It is, no doubt, at least somewhat obsolete, given that it predated revenue from the past two World Series runs. (Shaikin cited a Dodger official who said he would be shocked if 2019 payroll didn’t surpass $200 million.)

… but nevertheless, it wasn’t the happiest piece of news to reach a hungry fan base.

Not surprisingly, Bill Plaschke of the Times was quick to write about the bad message it sent. But by Plaschke’s standards, his take was fairly measured, and frankly, I thought the uproar that followed would be more intense than it’s turned out to be. The story hasn’t had a great deal of shelf life. It simmers. Many fans seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach with the coming offseason.

That’s not to say distrust doesn’t remain, but the fans most likely to triggered by Shaikin’s story are already so hostile to the Dodger front office that his revelation had little room to move the needle. Like a Spinal Tap cover, their feelings toward the people running the franchise could be “none more black.”

Independent of that, I also think that for all the attention payroll gets, the money that the Dodgers spend is besides the point. They could go bonkers on bucks, and it won’t matter to those fans if the players don’t perform and the team doesn’t win.

We know this, because it happened as recently as 2017. The Dodgers had a payroll that was about 20 percent higher than any other MLB franchise, added Yu Darvish at the trade deadline, and still took a beating when they lost World Series Game 7.

To further verify, I tested a theory on Twitter.

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The Dodgers, Dave Roberts and the human element

Dave Roberts (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

In front of an emotionally eviscerated Dodger fan base, in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2018 World Series on October 27, Kiké Hernández came to the plate at Dodger Stadium.

Only an hour earlier, a thrilling glow suffused Chavez Ravine. Having survived an 18-inning Game 3 marathon, Los Angeles had taken a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox. The Dodgers were eight outs away from evening the Fall Classic at two games apiece.

Then their world collapsed around them like a dream in Inception. Nine Boston baserunners crossed the plate, the final four in the top of the ninth, obliterating a beautiful consciousness.

In that soul-darkening ninth inning, Hernández stood at the plate as a symbol of star-crossed Octobers. Coming off the most successful regular season of his major-league career, Hernández homered in his 2018 playoff debut, the Dodgers’ 6-0 trouncing of Atlanta in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. The multiposition master, baseball’s Swiss Army knife, then went 12 consecutive games without a single extra-base hit or RBI.

Hernández couldn’t hit right-handed pitching. He couldn’t hit left-handed pitching. He couldn’t hit, period. Entering the gloom of Game 4’s waning moments, Hernández had made 30 outs in his past 33 at-bats.

As another fallen hope stood on first base in the person of Brian Dozier, Hernández took two fastballs from Boston closer Craig Kimbrel, then let rip at a knuckle-curve and launched a fly ball to deep left-center for a two-run home run. Except for the fleeting sliver of hope it kindled in those who could conceive the greatest miracle postseason comeback in Dodger history, it was a footnote. The Dodgers lost the game by the score of 9-6 instead of 9-4.

The next day, in a game the Dodgers could not spare, Hernández was in the starting lineup against Boston lefty David Price, batting third.

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Which free agents might fit with the Dodgers?

Mikey Williams/Los Angeles Dodgers

Amid the flurry of warm, nurturing advice over the past week that followed the Dodgers’ World Series defeat, there was the Facebook commenter who had all the answers, perhaps most notably: “Sign FOUR no. 1 ace starters.”

That seemed like amazingly good counsel, but whether it’s feasible, I wasn’t quite sure. So I decided to check the lists of top 2018-19 MLB free agents and explore — not only in pitching but among position players as well — the top names that might help the Dodgers.

Keep in mind that the Dodgers will always be looking for under-the-radar gems, but that doesn’t mean they might not grab a headline ballplayer or two …

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When aardvarks took over baseball

Photo: Honolulu Zoo

When the aardvark revolution came to baseball, progress was slow at first.

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