Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Farewells (Page 2 of 5)

Longtime Dodger Billy De Lury passes away

Vin Scully and Billy DeLury (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)
Vin Scully and Billy DeLury (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

Billy DeLury, a Dodger employee since 1950, the same year Vin Scully joined the organization, passed away Saturday evening. He was 81 years old.

“I was privileged to know Bill DeLury for more than 60 years,” Scully said, “from the time he was an office boy in Brooklyn and rose to become a most valuable member of the organization as our traveling secretary. A Dodger from head to toe. A respected baseball man. And a deeply religious husband and father. Anyone and everyone in baseball who knew Bill will mourn his passing and he will be truly missed.”

Said Dodger president and CEO Stan Kasten: “Billy’s consistent dedication and outstanding character were both an inspiration in our front office as well as a daily reminder of our roots in Brooklyn. His presence will be missed by all who knew him.”

A native of Brooklyn, DeLury began his career with the Dodgers on September 1, 1950 at age 17 after graduating from high school, employed by the organization both in New York and Vero Beach, starting out in jobs including laundry and the mail room. He received his first World Series ring in 1955 while, as he called himself, “an office boy.”

Working his way up the ladder, DeLury sold advertising for Dodger programs, then moved into the minor-league department under vice president Fresco Thompson, before becoming assistant ticket manager and, for more than 20 years, the Dodgers’ traveling secretary. His service with the Dodgers was continuous, save for his military duty from 1957-58. In recent years, he has served as an assistant to the broadcasters and to the traveling secretary.


Billy DeLury with Vin Scully, Sandy Koufax, Jaime Jarrin, Tommy Lasorda and Maury Wills

A famous DeLury story involved him getting the assignment, while still a teenager, to leave the Polo Grounds in the ninth inning of the final game of the 1951 National League playoff between the Giants and the Dodgers, with Brooklyn ahead 4-1, to take the train back to Ebbets Field and begin distributing World Series tickets. When he arrived, there were no crowds, only a night watchman who told him of Bobby Thomson’s home run, which was dubbed the “shot heard ’round the world.”

Update: Jon SooHoo has posted some of his favorite photos of DeLury.

In Memoriam: John Keenan

john keenanBy Mark Langill

It was only natural Kansas native John Keenan would become a baseball scout, a position he held with the Dodgers between 1962 and 1998. His grandfather, Bert Wells, was a Dodger scout from 1940-79, and Keenan’s son Mike would become a Midwest crosschecker with the Cincinnati Reds.

Keenan was hired as a part-time scout by Al Campanis, who was then the franchise’s scouting director. He became a full-time scout in 1963, serving first as an area scout in the Midwest. Keenan spent his final 13 years in the organization as the Midwest supervisor or national crosschecker.

Among the players signed by Keenan are Don Sutton, Bill Russell, Davey Lopes, Rick Sutcliffe and Mickey Hatcher. Keenan also signed outfielder Mitch Webster, who as a scout in 2008 represented the Dodgers when Keenan was inducted into the Greater Midwest Professional Baseball Scouts Association Hall of Fame.

“John signed me, and has known me since I was a kid,” Webster said. “He has been a great mentor for me as a scout and as a player. All those hard times as a minor leaguer, you’re looking to stay alive, and John was always there to add encouragement.”

The funeral service for Keenan, who died Thursday, will be held Monday in Great Bend, Kansas.


In case you missed it: Two days until pitchers and catchers
By Jon Weisman

Pitchers and catchers, we’ll be saying hello to you at Camelback Ranch inside of 48 hours. Hope you packed as well as we did.

In the meantime …

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In case you missed it: Farewell, Stan Chambers

By Jon Weisman

The only broadcaster with a longer tenure in Los Angeles than Vin Scully was Stan Chambers. Chambers, who joined KTLA in December 1947, mere weeks after the station opened, was a direct connection to the origins of television in this city.

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In case you missed it: 2015 Dodger Caravan begins

By Jon Weisman

Despite this afternoon’s rain, the 2015 Pitching in the Community Caravan, presented by Bank of America, got off to a happy start today with a baseball skills clinic featuring Dodger first baseman Adrian Gonzalez at Garfield High School.

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Farewell, Max Stone

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We received word that Max Stone, a longtime fixture at Dodger Stadium, has passed away. Our deepest condolences to his friends and family. In addition to the video above, you can read more about Stone in this Kevin Modesti story from the Daily News in 2011.

– Jon Weisman

Video: Tribute to April Thompson

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Here is the video tribute that was shown August 5 at Dodger Stadium honoring longtime Dodger employee and friend April Thompson, who passed away August 2.

— Jon Weisman

The Triunfel-Arruebarrena hula

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Dodgers at Rockies, 1:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, LF
Scott Van Slyke, CF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Drew Butera, C
Miguel Rojas, 2B
Josh Beckett, P

By Jon Weisman

Erisbel Arruebarrena, 5 for 16 with a walk at the plate and as smooth a fielder as you’ll see at shortstop, didn’t have a long stay on the Dodger active roster this time around.

Two days after his recall, Arruebarrena went on the disabled list with a right hip flexor strain, and the Dodgers brought back Carlos Triunfel to take his place.

Don Mattingly told reporters that the injury happened sometime during Arruebarrena’s first at-bat Friday.

Meanwhile, Carl Crawford went 1 for 2 in a four-inning appearance with Albuquerque last night.

* * *

Earl Robinson, who made his Major League debut with the Dodgers in their first year in Los Angeles, died at the age of 77, according to the Dodgers’ public relations department. Robinson, who went to Berkeley High School and then attended California, went 3 for 15 with a walk for the Dodgers, and later played three seasons for Baltimore.

Farewell, Tony Gwynn

GwynnBy Jon Weisman

Tony Gwynn, the Baseball Hall of Famer who played 20 seasons for the San Diego Padres and the father and brother of former Dodgers Tony Gwynn Jr. and Chris Gwynn, has died at age 54.

The joyful Gwynn had 271 of his 3,141 career hits against the Dodgers, batting .330 with a .396 on-base percentage and 49 doubles against them in 225 games and 931 plate appearances, and .329 in 112 games at Dodger Stadium. From 1993-95, Gwynn batted .479 (56 for 117) with 18 walks against the Dodgers.

He had 78 multi-hit games against the Dodgers, and on June 26, 1997, he hit a game-winning, inside-the-park grand slam to beat Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium.

As great an opponent as I have ever seen at Dodger Stadium … rest in peace, Tony Gwynn.

Remembering Bob Welch, 1956-2014

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Welch headshot 2By Jon Weisman

Bob Welch was much more than a single strikeout of Reggie Jackson.

He pitched three one-hitters; I was at one of them, a 15-year-old trying to explain to the people he was with why the game was special. He pitched a shutout against the Reds in 1983 and homered off Mario Soto for the only run of the game. He had a 3.14 career ERA with the Dodgers, then moved on to Oakland and had a Cy Young Award-winning season when he won 27 games. After retiring, he became the pitching coach for the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, who won the World Series.

He was also someone who shared his personal life and battle with addiction in the book, “Five O’Clock Comes Early,” and as recently as this year, he was sharing difficult details of his life so that it might be of help to others.

It was hard not to be a fan of Welch, long after he faced down Jackson from 60 feet, six inches away.

Nevertheless, that strikeout looms so large in the legacy of Welch, who has passed away at the age of 57. Before Jose Lima, before Orel Hershiser, before Jerry Reuss, before anyone, it might be the singular postseason pitching moment in my lifetime of following the Dodgers.

Here’s my chapter on that event, from 100 Things Dodgers

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Video: Vin Scully remembers Don Zimmer

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Vin Scully’s transcendent tribute to Dr. Frank Jobe

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photo-4By Jon Weisman

Friends and family paid wonderful tribute to Dr. Frank Jobe today at Dodger Stadium, as Ken Gurnick recaps at Dr. Neal ElAttrache became choked up as he described how Jobe, who died March 6, “touched and affected us in very profound ways.”

But at the risk of telling you exactly what you’d expect, there was something about Vin Scully’s words that transcended. Whatever your expectations might have been, Scully topped them. Paraphrasing Albert Schweitzer, Amos Bronson Alcott, William Wordsworth and the Bible, Scully at once spoke about Jobe and about life itself.

So I requested that we be able to post the entirety of Scully’s remarks online, in the video above.

“Success can be measured by what you receive from your fellow man, but the value of a man is what he gives back,” Scully said. “Frank was successful, but more importantly, he was a man of substance and most certainly of value. He spent a lifetime giving back.

“The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives. But the triumph of life is to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful and keep the heart unwrinkled. Frank kept his heart unwrinkled, and for that he was triumphant. What then do we ask of life, but to serve, to love, to commune with our fellow man and with ourselves, and from the lap of earth look up into the face of God. The best portion of a good man’s life is his little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.”

Farewell, Dr. Frank Jobe

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frank.jobeBy Jon Weisman

It doesn’t seem possible to appreciate Dr. Frank Jobe’s importance to baseball. You’d be better off trying to take a closeup of Kilimanjaro.

Think of how many innings, how many careers — how much joy — that Jobe’s innovation brought to the world of this sport.

Somehow, Jobe isn’t in the Hall of Fame, although in essence, he reached exponentially beyond the 300-win and 3,000-strikeout plateaus that typically serve as qualifiers.

Jobe died this morning at the age of 88. You can find an obituary from Ken Gurnick at Here’s what I wrote about Jobe and John in 100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die:

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Farewell, Stan Musial and Earl Weaver

Saturday was a seriously rough day for baseball fans with the passing of Stan Musial and Earl Weaver.  My dad is taking the Musial passing particularly hard. He wrote in an e-mail:

Part of my history and a big part of my addiction gone.

Difficult to accept the typical, mediocre $8 mill per year persona that populates the mid to low ranks of most franchises as compared to what it was like at Wrigley or Ebbets, much less Sportsman’s, to see The Man walk to the plate, crouch and hammer the ball against a right-centerfield wall.

There was nothing like it.

But I wanted to take a free moment to pass along two worthwhile pieces about Weaver that appeared today. At Baseball Prospectus, former Dodger general manager Dan Evans talked about getting to spend time at age 22 with Weaver.

… Hall of Famer Don Drysdale was one of the White Sox announcers at the time, and he was quickly becoming one of my mentors. We talked immediately after the tough loss, and Drysdale mentioned that Weaver was a master, a manager I should pay close attention to and learn from.

Early the next morning, Don called my room and asked if I would like to meet Weaver. I jumped at the opportunity.

Drysdale and I wandered over to the batting cage as the Orioles began batting practice that evening, and the next 20 minutes were incredible. It was apparent that Weaver and Drysdale were on good terms. Weaver was engaging, eager to talk about the game he loved. He spoke about how essential pitching and defense were to a winning club, because the two components never went into extended slumps. He talked about the need to keep extra players sharp, but more importantly, make them feel they were part of the team by finding spots for them to perform. He stressed that he was constantly trying to find favorable match ups, whether through an in-game substitution or a start for an extra player. Weaver said that his legendary index cards tipped him off to info that would reinforce his gut hunches and also would be used in conversations with players about whether they were playing or going to sit. He mentioned that every player is flawed, and that the key is finding situations where their strengths have the best chance of being best utilized, and not to dwell on their weaknesses.

Then Weaver looked right at me and said, “this game is all about outs.” He said that you had to convert potential defensive outs to win regularly and had to maximize your offense’s ability to score runs. He and Drysdale talked about how important instincts were, and how nearly all the great defenders in baseball history were equipped with great instincts. Weaver kept mentioning intelligence and instincts being critical elements of players who touched the ball the most on defense, because it was their decisions that would often affect the game’s outcome.

Our conversation moved to Ripken, who was in the cage at the time and would win the AL Rookie of the Year Award after that season. Weaver had decided to move Cal to shortstop just three weeks earlier, and he made a couple of terrific plays against us in the first two days of the series. He told us that Ripken was one of those examples of intelligence and rare instincts. Weaver said that Ripken would be outstanding down the line, that he was just learning the position but seemed to be in the right place all the time. He and Drysdale tried to list all the “big” shortstops, and they struggled. Then Weaver added, “plus, this guy is going to hit, and hit a lot.”

That is the evaluation side of Weaver that separated him from most of his peers. Not only could he identify talent, but he also knew how to squeeze the most out of his players, and not ask them to do things they were incapable of doing. …

And at the Hardball Times, Chris Jaffe passes along “11 things I didn’t know about Earl Weaver.” He touches on something that stunned me as I realized it Saturday.

Farewell, Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer’s “Babe,” I believe, was the first grown-up baseball biography I ever read. Creamer passed away at the age of 90 this week. Alex Belth offers an appreciation of Creamer at Bronx Banter, including a link to a 1964 Sports Illustrated time capsule of a piece on Vin Scully.

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