By Jon Weisman
Dodger fans anxious about their first-place team? It’s a time-honored tradition.
By Jon Weisman
Next to the World Series title, 1965 will always be remembered most by Dodger fans for Sandy Koufax’s perfect game. In fact, Los Angeles came within a hair of having four no-hitters that season — including two one-hitters that took place 50 years ago this week.
By Jon Weisman
Frank Finch, the Dodger beat writer for the Times 50 years ago, would frequently report in the summer of 1965 that Maury Wills was ahead of the pace of his record-setting season of 104 stolen bases in 1962. That year, Wills had 27 steals at the end of May and 42 by the end of June. In 1965, Wills had 30 steals at the end of May and 47 by the end of June.
But the thing about 1962 for Wills was his enormous finishing kick: 53 steals (in 59 attempts) after July 31. Wills didn’t come close to matching that, producing 22 stolen bases from August 1 on, to finish with 94 — still the second-best total in National League history.
Here are many more interesting Dodger tidbits from the first two weeks of June 1965. There’s a lot, but really great stuff if you’re a Dodger fan …
By Jon Weisman
One day in May, this little item appeared deep in the game notes of the Times’ Frank Finch:
Maury Wills and Willie Davis cut records with Stubby Kaye Friday afternoon as well as doing single platters. During the session Jimmy Durante made a record called ‘Dandy Sandy,’ singing the praises of Prof. Koufax. Wills said it would be a smash.
You didn’t think I would leave you hanging, did you?
By Jon Weisman
The 1965 Dodgers spent the last 28 days of May in first place — including Memorial Day, May 31, when 50,997 at Dodger Stadium saw the Dodgers and Reds split a doubleheader — but it was hardly an uneventful month. Here’s a word album of what was happening 50 years ago …
Nearly three months before his fateful encounter with Dodger catcher Johnny Roseboro, Giants righty Juan Marichal of the Giants “declared war on Don Drysdale.”
According to Frank Finch of the Times, the challenge came following a “knockdown” pitch Drysdale allegedly threw at Willie Mays in a series-opening game against San Francisco.
After Mays flied out to end the top of the eighth inning of that April 29 game, Drysdale then led off the bottom of the eighth inning and was plunked by Giants reliever Bobby Bolin, but that didn’t satisfy Marichal.
“For five years I’ve been here (in the NL) I’ve seen too much of this,” said Marichal.
“Drysdale has hit Felipe Alou, Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda. I’m not saying he tried deliberately to hit them, but he has too good control to be so far off the plate.
“Next time, if he’s pitching against me and he comes close — we’ll see what happens. He’ll get it. And real good, too.
“I don’t say Willie is putting on an act when he goes down, it’s just his way of getting out of the way,” Drysdale told Times columnist Sid Ziff. “John Roseboro, for instance, will stand there and move his chin. But in the same situation, Willie will go down. I’d say, he is the hardest in the world to hit.”
Added Ziff: “I wouldn’t say Drysdale was exactly upset by the threat, but when he blew on his bubble gum, the bubbles came out the size of beach balls.”
For what it’s worth, in 46 innings against the Giants in 1965, Drysdale didn’t hit a single batter with a pitch. And after April 29, the Giants didn’t hit Drysdale either.
In 243 career plate appearances against Drysdale, Mays was hit by two pitches.
The Marichal-Roseboro incident would take place August 22, though the players eventually made peace.
By Jon Weisman
By May 1965, the Dodgers had already survived one major injury scare with Sandy Koufax, who came back to pitch 29 innings in the first month of the season with a 2.17 ERA and 29 strikeouts.
With outfielder Tommy Davis, they would not be nearly so fortunate.
Davis, who had 574 hits and a 132 OPS+ over the previous three seasons, started slowly in ’65 — 9 for 49 with one double and two walks through April 28 — but he had begun to come out of it by going 6 for 10 with a triple and a steal in his next three games.
Then came May 1. May Day.
Wrote Frank Finch in the Times:
The Dodgers beat the Giants for the third straight time Saturday night, 4-2, but they may have lost the pennant.
Cleanup hitter Tommy Davis, major league batting champion in 1962-63, broke and dislocated his right ankle on an ill-fated slide into second base in the fourth inning.
Dr. Robert Kerlan said the big bopper will be out of action for at least three months and, possibly, the rest of the season.
Tommy, who’d made six safeties in his last nine trips, beat out an infield hit and on Ron Fairly’s bouncer to Orlando Cepeda he took off for second base.
Davis hit the ground prematurely, his spikes caught in the dirt, and he never reached the bag. … Trainer Wayne Anderson sprinted over to take care of Tommy.
“When I got there, the bone was sticking out at a right angle, and I popped it back into place,” said Andy.
Carted off the field on a stretcher, the 26-year-old slugger said ruefully, “I don’t know what happened. I thought there was going to be a play on me and I came in with a new kind of slide. When I looked down, I thought my ankle was in rightfield.”
Three days later, the Dodgers brought up Lou Johnson from Spokane. Johnson was 30 but hadn’t been in the Majors since 1962 and in his entire big-league career had played only 96 games with 47 hits.
Said Pete Reiser, who began the season as Spokane’s manager: “Lou’s a good hitter and outfielder, but you’ve got to play him day in and day out.”
In fact, Johnson came off the bench in five games before making his first Dodger start on May 10, singling and scoring the winning run in the 10th inning of a 3-2 victory over Houston. By May 19, when he went 4 for 6 with two doubles and a game-tying eighth-inning single in what would be a 14-inning Dodger victory over the Astros, “Sweet Lou” was a fixture in the Dodger lineup — and of course, a future World Series hero.
Coincidentally, the Dodgers moved into a tie for first place in the National League the day Johnson arrived, took over sole possession the night of his first game and didn’t give up the lead for more than two months.
By Jon Weisman
Moving past their big preseason scare regarding Sandy Koufax’s elbow, the Dodgers’ found some rhythm in April. Los Angeles spent most of the month in first place, going 10-5.
Here are some tidbits of the times — a really fun time capsule, if you ask me.
By Jon Weisman
Imagine a world without the Internet, without social media, without wall-to-wall sports coverage, and you pick up your morning paper from the driveway to find this:
“VERO BEACH — Sandy Koufax, greatest left hander in the game, flew back to Los Angeles Thursday for examination of his stiff and swollen elbow — the one on his million dollar pitching arm which he injured last season,” wrote Frank Finch of the Times.
This April 2, 1965 story showed that things were different 50 years ago in more ways than one. As we noted last week, Koufax’s 1964 season ended in mid-August. Nevertheless, on March 30, in the middle of Spring Training — nearly two weeks before Opening Day — Koufax pitched his second straight complete game for the Dodgers, striking out 10 in a 2-0 loss.
Two days later, the 29-year-old was on a plane to see Dr. Robert Kerlan.
By Jon Weisman
Periodically this year at Dodger Insider, we’ll flash back to 1965 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that World Series title for the Dodgers. You all know how it ended, but do you remember how we got there?
Today, we’ll check in on how things were sounding from Dodgertown in Vero Beach. Opening Day 1965 on April 12 was still about two weeks away, so while the Dodgers were coming off an 80-82, sixth-place finish in 1964, Spring Training’s power of positive thinking was in full swing. This was particularly the case with the pitching staff, as evidenced by two pieces that ran in the Times’ editions on March 28, 1965.
Dodger catcher John Roseboro, entering his ninth season, told beat writer Frank Finch of the Times that the 1965 pitching staff was the best he’s handled.
“We have an overabundance of left-handers,” Roseboro said, implicitly acknowledging the offseason trade of Frank Howard for Claude Osteen, who joined Sandy Koufax and Johnny Podres in the four-man rotation, “but we have more depth now and won’t have to depend on two starters (Don Drysdale and Koufax) like we did most of last year.”
Drysdale threw 321 1/3 innings across 40 starts in 1964. Koufax averaged 7.9 innings per start with a 1.76 ERA, but his 1964 season after a 13-strikeout shutout August 16.
Assessing those top two pitchers in the midst of exhibition play, Roseboro was upbeat even if his glasses weren’t entirely rose-colored.
“Sandy’s just about ready to go nine strong innings. He’s throwing well, but his control is off a bit,” Roseboro said. “The last time I caught Don he looked ready for nine. Then he hit the ‘dead arm’ stage against the A’s. His control is good.”
Times columnist Sid Ziff reported even more positivity about the pitching, with a Dodger spokesman telling him it was “by far” the best it had ever been in Los Angeles. Of bigger concern was addressing 1964’s defensive shortcomings. The spokesman didn’t mince words.
“Our defense was horrible last year, but John Kennedy and Jim Lefebvre will help to correct that situation,” he said. “If Lefebvre doesn’t stay with the club, shame on us. There was a rumor he might be farmed out for another year of experience.”
Lefebvre made his Major League debut on Opening Day and went on to play 157 games and win the National League Rookie of the Year award. (Coincidentally, 50 years ago today, it was reported Lefebvre had escaped injury after being beaned in the helmet during an exhibition game against Detroit by former Dodger pitcher Larry Sherry.)
“We aren’t set in right field yet,” the spokesman continued, “but no matter who plays there, he’ll be a defensive improvement over Frank Howard. The way it looks now, Wes Parker has the best shot at it. He looks like a real hitter.”
Parker ended up settled at first base, with Ron Fairly taking the bulk of right-field action.
Also of concern was the clubhouse atmosphere and perceived undermining of manager Walter Alston. Leo Durocher, in particular, was famous for challenging Alston’s authority.
“Alston is finally on his own as a manager,” said the spokesman (who Ziff said wanted “to remain unidentified because it wouldn’t do for him to show so much confidence.”) “Now he doesn’t have to defer, subconsciously or otherwise, to any of his coaches. … The Bragans, Dressens and Durochers are all gone. There’ll be no other ‘managers’ in the dugout this season. We think it has taken a load off Alston’s shoulders. He has already assumed more authority.”
The idea that Alston, only one season removed from his third World Series title, was so under the gun shows you that it never really gets easy for a manager. But 1965 would indeed prove rewarding for Smokey.
Page 2 of 2
NEWLY REVISED EDITION: 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die — new for 2021 — is on sale now
May 12, 2021
Longest Dodger hitless streaks include All-Stars and heroes
May 1, 2021
Previewing the 2021 Dodgers: Pitchers
April 1, 2021
Previewing the 2021 Dodgers: Position players
March 31, 2021
In defense of baseball in 2021
March 29, 2021
Thank You For Not ...
1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
8) making the same point over and over again
9) typing "no-hitter" or "perfect game" to describe either in progress
10) being annoyed by the existence of this list
11) commenting under the obvious influence
12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with
Dodgers at home: 1,028-812 (.558695)
When Jon attended: 338-267 (.558677)*
When Jon didn’t: 695-554 (.556)
* includes road games attended
Dodgers at home: 51-35 (.593)
When Jon attended: 5-2 (.714)
When Jon didn’t: 46-33 (.582)
Note: I got so busy working for the Dodgers that in 2014, I stopped keeping track, much to my regret.