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 …
Category: History (Page 2 of 33)
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.
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.
Below is a list of the pitchers who kicked off every postseason for the Dodgers since the start of the 20th century. If the Dodgers won the game, that’s in bold.
Click on any name for the boxscore. I’ve asterisked the Dodgers’ six World Series title years. Note that in five of those years, they lost their first playoff game.
Overall, the Dodgers are 11-20 in their 31 playoff openers heading into tonight: 9-13 since the franchise moved to Los Angeles, 2-7 when the team was in Brooklyn.
Clayton Kershaw has the most postseason Opening Day starts with five, followed by Derek Lowe, Ramón Martínez, Fernando Valenzuela, Don Drysdale, Don Newcombe and Rube Marquard with two each. Hall of Famer pitchers Don Sutton and Sandy Koufax each had only one.
The Dodgers are playing a Game 163 tiebreaker for the first time in 38 years. In this excerpt from 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, relive the story of the last time …
In the 1980 season, from April 26 on, the Dodgers never lagged nor led by more than three games in a taut NL West. Tied for first place with Houston on September 24 with 10 games remaining, they suffered back-to-back 3–2 defeats to San Francisco and San Diego to fall two back. A week later, yet another 3–2 loss to the Giants put the Dodgers three back with three to play. The saving grace was that the Dodgers would be hosting Houston for the final three games of the regular season. But facing starting pitchers Ken Forsch (3.20 ERA), Nolan Ryan (3.35), and Vern Ruhle (2.37), the Dodgers faced a tall task.
What followed was one of the most memorable series in franchise history.
I’m writing about an event that likely won’t come to pass, an event that most Dodger fans hope doesn’t come to pass.
But as their three-game series at San Francisco begins tonight, the Dodgers could soon be facing as many as four consecutive do-or-die games to reach the National League Division Series.
Sandy Koufax wasn’t unknown when he arrived in Los Angeles from Brooklyn, but it was on this date in 1959 that the fans out West caught their best glimpse of the future Hall of Famer.
The team fell both times in the World Series to the Yankees. In 1978, the Dodgers lost their final four games in a row, and were wiped out by a combined 19-4 score in the final two.
The 1979 Dodgers were a disaster — in last place at the All-Star break before rallying to finish third in the division, but still with their worst record in more than a decade.
The 1980 Dodgers were a competitive team in a thrilling division race, but on the brink of completing an historic comeback, dissolved in a 7-1 defeat that makes Game 7 of the 2017 World Series look ultra-close.
So after four years at the helm, the 53-year-old Lasorda averaged 91 wins per season, with two division titles, while extending the Dodgers’ drought without winning a World Series to 15 years, the longest gap in Los Angeles history.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to suggest that if social media had existed back in October 1980, the cries for Lasorda’s head would have been deafening. I can still hear faint echoes from talk radio.
So — and this is a sincere question — should Lasorda have been fired before the 1981 season?
If you have any sense of Los Angeles Dodger history (and if you don’t, click here!), you know about the iron man.
Steve Garvey played in every game the Dodgers had from 1976 through 1982 — 1,083 in all, and except for eight pinch-hitting appearances, all at his favored position of first base. At his durability peak in 1976, Garvey played in 1,464 2/3 innings, or all but six innings the Dodgers played that year.
Surprisingly, that 1976 season didn’t make Garvey the Dodgers’ all-time single-season innings leader. In a largely forgotten but rather astonishing 1973 season, Bill Russell was on the field at shortstop for every single out the Dodgers made except for four of them.
Playing at fair territory’s most challenging defensive position, Russell logged 1,489 2/3 innings and 160 complete games, both franchise records. He left only two games early:
- On April 7, in the Dodgers’ second game of the season, Russell gave way in the top of the ninth inning to pinch-hitter Von Joshua, who hit a game-tying RBI single. Davey Lopes, who scored the tying run as a pinch-runner, went to shortstop for the first time in his MLB career in the bottom of the ninth, which lasted only two batters before Jerry Morales hit a walkoff homer against Dodger reliever Jim Brewer.
- On July 21, Russell took a breather in the bottom of the eighth inning of an 8-1 loss at St. Louis, missing the Cardinals’ final three outs in what I expect was a steamy summer’s evening on the Busch Stadium astroturf.
That was it. Russell, who racked up 163 hits but only had a .301 on-base percentage in 1973, played in 99.9 percent of the Dodgers’ innings at short that year.
If those are the iron men, let me introduce you to (pause to Google most flexible metals in the world) the graphene men.
This year, the Dodgers are heading for a couple of unprecedented fielding events that underscores the team’s unusual versatility. For the first time in a 162-game season, there might not be a single Dodger to play even 1,000 innings at a single position — remarkable considering that the team will play close to 1,500. And, their leader in innings at one position — also for the first time since at least 1962 — might be a catcher.
They are the touchstone for Dodger failure in the 21st century.
They are the team of Oscar Robles, Jason Repko and Norihiro Nakamura, of D.J. Houlton, Scott Erickson and Steve Schmoll. They are the team that inspired “The Losers (apostrophe optional) Dividend.”
They are also the team that stumbled so badly but with enough good timing to give the Dodgers a draft pick to use on an 18-year-old lefty from Highland Park High School in Texas named Clayton Kershaw.
They are, of course, the 2005 Dodgers, and 13 years after they shook out the bandwagoneers from the fan base, separating the weak from the chafed, they are surprisingly, almost shockingly relevant again today.
Tonight was the annual FamFest outdoor movie at 10-year-old Youngest Master Weisman’s school. That meant I could not be in front of the television during tonight’s Dodger game. I could not be in front of the television.
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.
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.
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.