Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: History (Page 1 of 34)

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!

Longest Dodger hitless streaks include All-Stars and heroes

Dodger reserve Edwin Ríos is getting a lot of attention for his struggles, magnified because they are coming at the start of the season. So far in 2021, Ríos is 4 for 44 (a nightmare Moses Malone scenario) with one extra-base hit, and he is hitless in his past 24 at-bats. 

But as you can see from the above chart of longest hitless streaks by Dodger position players since 2000, a drought is hardly a death knell for a Dodger career.

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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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Farewell, Tommy Lasorda

The amazing life of Tommy Lasorda ended Thursday at the age of 93

I was just becoming a baseball fan when he became the Dodgers’ manager in September 1976. Nearly 40 years later, I would find myself in the Dodger press box cafeteria at lunch as an employee and introducing my two sons to Lasorda, and having him shake hands with them.  

Here is my chapter on Lasorda for 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die:

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Dick Whitman at 100: Mad Men namesake played for Brooklyn

Today is the 100th birthday of Dick Whitman, who falls into the category of worlds colliding for me.

Dick Whitman was the birth name of the character known as Don Draper on one of my all-time favorite shows, Mad Men. Coincidentally (or not), Dick Whitman was also the name of a major-league outfielder who made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946.

That debut came after serving in a war, which both the real and fictional versions of Whitman had in common.

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Return of the Clayton Kershaw Playoff Chart

Click the chart below to enlarge. 

Green: Ace-level starts
Orange: Two earned runs or fewer in first six innings
Yellow: Mixed bags
Red: Disasters
Light gold: Relief appearances

I created the Clayton Kershaw Postseason Chart two years ago to communicate how Kershaw has been both great and terrible and everywhere in between during the postseason.

The Dodgers’ brief window in the 2019 playoffs didn’t change the narrative. In his first start, he pitched well enough to win but didn’t. Then he had a disastrous relief outing, his first such nightmare out of the bullpen in a decade.

Kershaw has made 25 career playoff starts. Here’s how they break down:

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Dodger bullpen breaks two National League records

All the short-season caveats apply, but the Dodger bullpen did set two National League records for the live-ball era (1920-on). 

  • Dodger relievers set a National League record for the lowest single-season WHIP at 1.044. The bullpen broke the NL mark held by the 2003 Dodgers, who were led by Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota and Paul Quantrill. Unfortunately, they just missed the major-league record of 1.003, held by the 1965 Chicago White Sox. 
  • They also broke the NL mark for lowest on-base percentage allowed: .274, also held by the 2003 Dodgers. The ’65 White Sox allowed a .264 OBP.   

While the team only played 60 games, Dodger relievers did average an unprecedented 4 1/3 innings per game.  In fact, so omnipresent was the Dodger bullpen that for the first time in franchise history, relief pitchers had more than half of the team’s wins — 26 out of 43. 

Victor Gonzalez, Adam Kolarek, Jake McGee and Brusdar Graterol each had WHIPs below 1.00. 

Obviously, it’s dubious to suggest these records would have held up over 162 games. But in the realm of 2020, we can say this: Dodger relievers were the best. 

Duke Snider holds a major NL record that no one talks about

Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is one of the most hallowed records in baseball history, even though most fans today weren’t alive to see him play. 

But we live in an era with a greater appreciation for getting on base by any means necessary. So while an all-time on-base streak hasn’t built up the cachet of DiMaggio’s 56, it’s worth calling out who holds that record.

In the American League, the titan of touching first is Ted Williams, who reached base 84 straight games in 1949. In fact, Williams owns two of the top three streaks, with his 73-game streak in 1941-42 coming just behind the 74-gamer by DiMaggio that includes his hitting streak.  

In the National League, this underrated record is held by none other than Hall of Fame outfielder Duke Snider of the Dodgers, who reached base in 58 consecutive games from May 13 through July 11, 1954.

Snider broke a record of 56 consecutive games held by two fellow Hall of Famers — Roger Bresnahan (1904) and Snider’s future Dodger teammate Arky Vaughan (1936).

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An epic Dodgers collapse Phillies comeback, 30 years ago today

On August 21, 1990, I went to a baseball game with a friend. And I stayed for about seven innings, and then we left early. 

I don’t think we thought twice about it. It was a weeknight. We had jobs. 

And the Dodgers were winning, 11-1. 

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The legacy of Babe and Roger in America

The last paper I wrote as an undergraduate student at Stanford was for a class called Sport in American Life, one of my favorites. It was taught by a terrific visiting professor, Elliot Gorn, and for me, there was no more perfect capper to my American Studies major than to be able to write an essay on baseball, in particular a comparison of the way fans and the media regarded Babe Ruth and Roger Maris.

It’s not a perfect essay, to be sure, but this lull in our baseball lives seems to me to be as good a time to revisit it as any. It has now been 31 years since I wrote it, or longer than it had been from the time Maris hit his 61st home run the time of the paper, which is amazing to me.

My favorite research discovery was that the same beat writer for the New York Times, John Drebinger, covered Ruth’s 60th homer in 1927 and Maris’ record-breaking blast in 1961. The contrast in style between the two stories by the same man might have partly been a reflection of the times, but it still spoke volumes to me. 

Also of note is the clear influence Bill James had already had on me by then. I had started buying his annual editions of his Baseball Abstract in 1981, when they were self-published and advertised in the classifieds of The Sporting News. By the time I was working on this paper, James had become much more widely read but was still very much a revolutionary. I quoted him liberally in this paper, and while my work didn’t approach his, the spirit of trying to distinguish between myth and reality was already strong. In a way, this might have been among my first, proto-Dodger Thoughts piece of writing.  

Anyway, here it is. (You might need to zoom in with your browser to read it more easily.)

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Gleyber Torres and the myth of Dodger passivity

Gleyber Torres has never played for the Dodgers, but he has come to have a peculiar place in Dodger lore. 

People keep saying that the Cubs’ July 25, 2016 trade of Torres, then a 19-year-old mega-prospect, with three other players to the Yankees for super reliever Aroldis Chapman is an example of what the Dodgers need to start doing in pursuit of an elusive 21st-century World Series title.

Supposedly, Torres is the canary in the Dodgers’ coalmine of caution.

“Their organizational philosophy prevents them from making the kind of the deal the Chicago Cubs did in their championship season in 2016, ending a 108-year drought,” wrote Dylan Hernandez in the Times this weekend, though he’s far from the only one to make such an argument. 

Here’s what this theory ignores: 

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Best of the 2010s:
The All-Decade Dodgers

Raymond Gorospe/MLB.com

We have nearly reached the end of the ’10s, and though selections of the Dodgers’ all-decade team should probably wait until after the 2019 World Series, these few days of relative calm before the storm of the postseason seemed like a good time to reveal them. Nothing is likely to affect these choices between now and then (although I’m fascinated by the idea that something could). 

Most challenging was having to deal with five legitimate candidates for the four openings at outfield/first base. Catcher was nearly a toss-up, and second base yielded its own surprise. 

Here we go … 

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Brothers in Arms excerpt: The underrated Claude Osteen

Today is the 80th birthday of Claude Osteen — a pitcher not nearly enough Dodger fans of today know about. To celebrate, here’s his chapter from Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition …

By the 1960s, Dodger pitching development was revving like a Mustang, and it wasn’t thanks only to Drysdale and Koufax. To illustrate: of the 1,610 games Los Angeles played during the decade, 83 percent were started by pitchers originally signed by the Dodgers. Of the eight Los Angeles pitchers to start at least 50 games in the ’60s, seven were homegrown.

Claude Osteen was the standout, in more ways than one.

Ambling in the shadow of three Hall of Fame teammates and not exactly a household name to 21st-century fans, Osteen has to be one of the more underrated pitchers in Dodger history. With 26.3 wins above replacement in nine seasons for Los Angeles, Osteen ranked 15th among the franchise’s great arms and eighth in Los Angeles. Osteen’s 100 complete games tie him for 12th on the all-time Dodger list, and as for shutouts, only his three Hall of Fame contemporaries plus Nap Rucker had more as a Dodger than Osteen’s 34.

“We took a lot of pride in finishing the job,” Osteen says. “I took a lot of pride in throwing shutouts—it’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of.”

Osteen played an enormous role in capturing the Dodgers’ final World Series title of the ’60s, provided a stabilizing bridge to the pennant-winning Dodger teams of the 1970s and extended the Dodger tradition to a later generation as pitching coach from 1999 to 2000. Though it all began for Osteen elsewhere, he nearly had roots as a Dodger as well.

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1981 World Series MVP Award Presentation: The wrong Steve

Mike Littwin/Los Angeles Times

It was weird enough, after the Dodgers won the 1981 title, when they split the World Series Most Valuable Player Award among three players.

It became weirder still when Bob Uecker and MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn included the wrong man, Steve Garvey, in the award presentation. It was Steve Yeager, not Garvey, who had been voted the winner alongside Ron Cey and Pedro Guerrero.

Howard Rosenberg/Los Angeles Times

Garvey expressed heartfelt gratitude for the award that he wouldn’t get to keep. Yeager, hovering in the background at the outset, eventually got to the microphone, though he is never named as a tri-MVP winner. Guerrero got a big hug from Al Campanis, but no chance to speak at all. 

Enjoy the presentation above, in all its awkward glory.

Most obscure but memorable Opening Day starters for the Dodgers, 1989-2019


For no particular occasion …

In honor of Mike Ramsey (1987), here are the most memorable Opening Day starters for the Dodgers since they last won a World Series:

Trenidad Hubbard, CF (1998)
Blake DeWitt, 2B (2010)
Olmedo Saenz, 1B (2006)
Juan Rivera, LF (2012)
Jason Phillips, C (2005)
Juan Encarnacion, RF (2004)
Luis Cruz, 3B (2013)
Justin Sellers, SS (2013)
Vicente Padilla, P (2010)

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