Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: History (Page 1 of 31)

The real tragedy of the Dodgers’ 1951 collapse

National Baseball Hall of Fame Library

If you’re a Dodger fan under the age of 70, which would seemingly cover a lot of you, how much do you really mind that the Dodgers didn’t win the 1951 pennant?

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The reign in pain: Justin Turner making HBP history


One other thread in the Andre Ethier legacy is that he is the all-time Los Angeles Dodger leader in times being hit by a pitch, with 58. But at the rate Justin Turner has been going, Ethier’s reign might not last the year.

Last year, the Dodger third baseman set a single-season franchise record with 19 HBPs, breaking Alex Cora’s previous and literal mark of 18. (Cora also held the Los Angeles career mark before Ethier.) That gave Turner 46 plunkings as a Dodger, putting him within 12 of Ethier — and Turner has averaged 14 HBPs over the past three seasons.

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The original Los Angeles Dodger rookie sensation was Dick Gray

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Four players in Los Angeles Dodger history have homered four times in their first 10 career games. You’re probably quite familiar with three of them: Matt Kemp in 2006, Yasiel Puig in 2013 and Cody Bellinger, who delivered his second two-homer game of the past week Friday in the Dodgers’ 8-2 victory at San Diego.

Before them, there was Dick Gray, who not only homered four times in his first 10 games, he did so in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ first 10 games ever.

Most total bases, first 10 games, Los Angeles Dodgers

Most total bases, first 10 games, Los Angeles Dodgers

Gray was truly the original rookie supernova for the Dodgers after they moved west from Brooklyn. After the Dodgers were shut out in their West Coast debut at San Francisco on April 15, Gray delivered Los Angeles’ first home run, run and RBI in the second inning of their 13-1 victory over the Giants, part of a 3-for-6 day.

The 26-year-old third baseman also hit the first Dodger homer in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum history on April 18, then hit another the next game. By the time he hit his fourth home run in the Dodgers’ ninth game on April 27, he was batting .382/.475/.735/1.210.

Unfortunately, little went right for Gray as a Dodger after that. While making a diving stop of a Bill Mazeroski grounder April 29, Gray jammed his finger. He found himself in a 4-for-32 slump thereafter (albeit with three triples), and with the Dodgers in a six-game losing streak, was optioned along with pitchers Danny McDevitt and Roger Craig to St. Paul.

Gray returned two weeks later and had another mini-hot streak, going 9 for 18 with a homer and three doubles in his first four games, May 28-31. But over the next two months, he hit .204/.291/.381/.672, and he was sent back to St. Paul. He didn’t return for the remainder of the season.

In 1959, Gray hit .154/.241/.288/.530 in 21 games before being traded to St. Louis for Chuck Essegian (who, like Mickey Hatcher in 1988, hit one regular-season homer for the Dodgers in 1959 but two World Series homers) and Lloyd Merritt, and his big-league career ended one year later.

A long-lost moment from a crazy 1982 season

The three-way 1982 NL West race was unforgettable, but we usually hear the story from the Dodger perspective, with a touch of San Francisco. Here is a wide-ranging look from the Atlanta side, thanks to this history (written by Jason Foster for The Sporting News) of a season-long documentary being made about the team.

Included is the video above of a Dodgers-Braves controversy I had no memory of …

During a crucial game against the Dodgers, Torre went ballistic over an umpire’s decision to send a runner back to third, rather than allow him to score, after a portion of a wall in foul territory collapsed and sent fans spilling onto the field.

Torre didn’t hold back, unleashing a colorful tirade that almost certainly would get a manager ejected today, but brought no repercussions in 1982.

Diamond, listening in real time on a headset, looked to audio engineer Ken Noland with an expression that said both, “Can you believe we’re getting this?!” and “Good luck editing that.”

“We really had to bleep that out,” Diamond said with a laugh. “I remember back in the edit room, in the audio room, that took us a few days to go through that and take all the … language out.”

Do read Foster’s entire story, which among other things, introduces a surprise narrator for the documentary whom Dodger fans will appreciate.

What the 1959 World Series meant to Los Angeles

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From the October 17, 1959 issue of The New Yorker: 

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“To a New Yorker, observes our man — a Manhattanite of long standing — the warmth of the embrace with which Los Angeles has hugged the Dodgers to its bosom is impressive, for while Brooklyn used to hold the Dodgers in affection, Los Angeles seems to hold them almost in awe. It would be hard to imagine any Angeleno, these giddy days, referring to the team as bums. And the city’s respectful adoration does not stem merely from the circumstance that a World Series has finally been staged in this palmy setting. Rather, it appears that the Dodgers have given the land of make-believe something real to cling to. “It’s not our feelings about baseball that have us all stirred up,” one reasonably old-time settler said the other day. “It’s that this cockeyed, sprawling place has finally had a chance to become a unified city. It’s the first time Los Angeles ever had a chance to become anything.”

David Ross’ long journey began with the Dodgers

david-ross

By Jon Weisman

Baseball’s magnum opus, Game 7 of the World Series, takes place tonight — the Cubs and Indians taking their 176 combined years of bridesmaiding to a final contest.

Among other storylines, this will be the final night as a player for David Ross, who has received about as grand a farewell tour as a backup catcher will ever find. Of course, most of that has focused on his years as a Cub, but he spent a plurality of his professional career in the Dodger organization.

The Dodgers signed Ross 18 years ago, days after he was taken in the seventh round of the 1998 draft out of Florida. Only three of the 50 players the Dodgers drafted that year played for the team: first-rounder Bubba Crosby, fifth-rounder Scott Proctor and Ross. At age 21, Ross signed with the Dodgers 15 days before 19-year-old Adrián Beltré made his MLB debut with the team.

Ross would make his MLB debut on June 29, 2002, pinch-hitting for Shawn Green (and striking out) in the ninth inning of a 7-0 loss to the Angels. Beltré played third base, while the Dodgers’ starting center fielder that night was Dave Roberts. Another player in that game, pitcher Terry Mulholland, is now 53 years old.

Ross also happened to be the last Dodger to make his big-league debut before I founded Dodger Thoughts about three weeks later. That might well have been the most noteworthy fact of his first season in the big leagues, if not for the night of September 2.

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Why Dodger fans don’t remember 1908 so well

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By Jon Weisman

The 1908 season is the touchstone for Cubs fans, the long-buried Holy Grail signifying the last time that Chicago’s National League team won a World Series.

If you’re a Dodger fan, 1908 is … well, it’s not so magical.

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Who’s in the mood for a good laugher?

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By Jon Weisman

The playoffs are so relentlessly tense, I was wondering when the last time Dodger fans could sit back and revel in a postseason romp.

Turns out, there’ve been a ton of pressure-packed innings in a row. Not since October 6, 2013 — 18 Dodger playoff games ago — has Los Angeles won a postseason game by more than three runs — in modern shorthand, a game that didn’t require a save.

But even though the Dodgers tied a franchise record for runs in a playoff contest with a 13-6 victory over Atlanta in Game 3 of the 2013 National League Division Series, that game was a roller coaster, considering the Dodgers trailed 2-0 early and didn’t break it open until scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth.

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Purging the ghosts of Dodger postseasons past

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

This is exorcism time.

Though it has been nearly 28 years since the Dodgers last reached the World Series, they have come tantalizingly close — closer than you might realize. The list of turning points — any one of which might have redirected the Dodgers from a title — doesn’t merely boggle the mind. It jengas the mind. It gnip-gnops the mind.

In all, there have been four National League Division Series (1996, 2006, 2014, 2015) and three National League Championship Series (2008, 2009, 2013) that might have gone the Dodgers’ way if not for a single play. There are 17 such plays captured below, and that’s not even an all-inclusive list.

Perhaps by confronting this chamber of horrors at once, we can spiritually move the Dodgers forward …

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The Legends’ Legend: Vin Appreciation Day

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Carl Erskine. Don Newcombe. Jamie Jarrín. And more, and more — all talking about Vin.

For our Dodger Insider tribute to Vin Scully, we presented numerous remembrances and tributes, offered in two different collections in the magazine.

The Legends’ Legend

Vin Appreciation Day

Please click each link above to read the full stories.

— Jon Weisman

#VinTop20: No. 1, ‘She is … gone!’

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In the Vin Scully Appreciation Day pregame ceremony this evening, the Dodgers finished revealing the results of the fan vote ranking Scully’s top 20 Dodger calls of all time. And here it is, No. 1: Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series home run.

— Jon Weisman

[mlbvideo id=”1183777883″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]

Previously:
No. 2, Koufax’s perfect game
No. 3, Henry Aaron’s 715th
No. 4, Returning after 9/11
No. 5, ‘If you have a sombrero …’
No. 6, Roy Campanella tribute
No. 7, Don Larsen’s perfect game
No. 8, Monday captures the flag
No. 9, ‘We go to Chicago!’
No. 10, Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter
No. 11, Joe Ferguson’s throw
No. 12, Fernandomania begins
No. 13, ‘The Squeeze!’
No. 14, Nomo’s No-No
No. 15, the 4+1 Game
No. 16, Don Drysdale’s streak stays alive
No. 17, Mike Piazza, Giant-slayer
No. 18, Yasiel Puig’s first slam
No. 19, Manny’s Bobbleslam
No. 20, Mark McGwire hits it way, way out

#VinTop20: No. 2, Koufax’s perfect game

2-koufax-perfect-1024x576

In the Vin Scully Appreciation Day pregame ceremony this evening, the Dodgers finished revealing the results of the fan vote ranking Scully’s top 20 Dodger calls of all time. Here’s No. 2: Sandy Koufax’s perfect game.

— Jon Weisman

[mlbvideo id=”1183731783″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]

Previously:
No. 3, Henry Aaron’s 715th
No. 4, Returning after 9/11
No. 5, ‘If you have a sombrero …’
No. 6, Roy Campanella tribute
No. 7, Don Larsen’s perfect game
No. 8, Monday captures the flag
No. 9, ‘We go to Chicago!’
No. 10, Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter
No. 11, Joe Ferguson’s throw
No. 12, Fernandomania begins
No. 13, ‘The Squeeze!’
No. 14, Nomo’s No-No
No. 15, the 4+1 Game
No. 16, Don Drysdale’s streak stays alive
No. 17, Mike Piazza, Giant-slayer
No. 18, Yasiel Puig’s first slam
No. 19, Manny’s Bobbleslam
No. 20, Mark McGwire hits it way, way out

#VinTop20: No. 3, Henry Aaron’s 715th

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Between now and Vin Scully Appreciation Day on September 23, the Dodgers are revealing the results of the fan vote ranking Scully’s top 20 Dodger calls of all time, one at each home game. Here’s No. 3: Henry Aaron’s 715th home run.

— Jon Weisman

[mlbvideo id=”1182484483″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]

Previously:

No. 4, Returning after 9/11
No. 5, ‘If you have a sombrero …’
No. 6, Roy Campanella tribute
No. 7, Don Larsen’s perfect game
No. 8, Monday captures the flag
No. 9, ‘We go to Chicago!’
No. 10, Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter
No. 11, Joe Ferguson’s throw
No. 12, Fernandomania begins
No. 13, ‘The Squeeze!’
No. 14, Nomo’s No-No
No. 15, the 4+1 Game
No. 16, Don Drysdale’s streak stays alive
No. 17, Mike Piazza, Giant-slayer
No. 18, Yasiel Puig’s first slam
No. 19, Manny’s Bobbleslam
No. 20, Mark McGwire hits it way, way out

Vin His Own Words: An extended 2014 interview

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Before the 2014 season, Vin Scully gave us an extended interview about his life and career that we presented over 21 pages in the commemorative 2014 Dodger Yearbook. Here, for the first time online, are those pages: Vin His Own Words. Click either image, and enjoy.

— Jon Weisman

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‘I just want to be remembered as a good man’

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The Man. The Voice. The Stories.
ESPN unveiled a wonderful collection of thoughts from around the baseball and broadcasting world on Vin Scully this morning. Click here.

By Jon Weisman

Two days ago, we gave you a selection of thoughts from Vin Scully on the Dodgers-Giants rivalry that came from his final conference call with reporters. Here are some more excerpts from that call (which you can hear all of above), looking back as well as looking ahead his retirement.

On what concerns he had about moving to Los Angeles with the Dodgers:

Well, I think the first emotion was, it was somewhat bittersweet. Maybe that’s not the proper word. But the thought of leaving New York was somewhat overwhelming. All my friends, my relatives, my high school, my college, everything was back in New York, and it was a little scary. But the other side was, “Oh, thank God I’ve got the job,” because there was a fear — and I was told this for sure — there was considerable pressure on (Walter) O’Malley that the people in Southern California wanted him to employ the announcers out here. And I’m sure for good reason. But Mr. O’Malley being the way he was, he prided loyalty, and Jerry (Doggett) and I were extremely loyal to him. We would have done anything he wanted. So there was tremendous relief that, “Wow, at least I’ve got the job.”

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