Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Don Newcombe (Page 1 of 2)

Visiting the Hall of Fame
Part 1: Brooklyn memories

It was a Cooperstown Surprise.

Last weekend brought me to the wilds of New York for family reasons, on a trip that had been planned for months but near the last minute unexpectedly left me with a free day. Staying only 90 minutes from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, I rose at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, on four hours sleep after having traveled all Saturday from home, and made the drive to a little slice of baseball heaven. 

At age 51, this was my second trip to the Hall — my first came when I was 14. People have asked me if the Hall seemed different, but so much time has passed that the biggest compare and contrast I can make is doing the trip with my dad vs. doing it solo. 

That said, another major difference was having a cellphone, as opposed to only memories that would fade over time. I took more than 200 photos, and with this year’s annual induction ceremony only days away, there seems to be no better time for me to share some of them with you (with apologies for the quality). I’m going to divide them into multiple posts, starting with this one centered on the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

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Don Newcombe, 1926-2019

Don Newcombe has passed away today at the age of 92. In honor of the inspiration for my book, Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Traditionhere is the entire chapter devoted to Newcombe. 

Don Newcombe

The agony. The terror. The hopelessness. The tears. The pain.

At the climax of his incredible career, these were the feelings that consumed Don Newcombe.

It’s all hard to imagine, hard to reconcile with the image that remains of the burly 6-foot-4 right-hander pitching like the side of a mountain coming at you from 60 feet, 6 inches away, or with his regal presence at Dodger Stadium in the 21st century, floating into the stands during batting practice in a suit and hat past his 90th birthday, with present-day members of the team lining up to spend time.

But Newcombe’s sublime legacy has masked the heartache that came along the way.

Surely it should have been enough, more than enough, just to endure, just to survive, as an African-American pitcher in the opening decade of Major League Baseball’s integration. The attacks and the indignities, big and small, on and off the field, could have broken Newcombe, who wasn’t the first player to sever the color line like Jackie Robinson, nor the first pitcher like Don Bankhead, but who was years younger than either — a mere 23 — when he took the stage for Brooklyn in 1949.

But on top of it all, like a fusillade of fastballs to the gut, Newcombe was repeatedly drilled during his big-league career, by fans, by the media, even by managers and teammates. Some of the damage was self-inflicted, brought on by his own behavior. Much, however, was superfluous, misguided and even cruel, judging Newcombe by his shortcomings – real or imagined – no matter how numerous his successes.

The pressure and expectations crescendoed into a collapse, a breakdown of a vulnerable soul that few understood. That he eventually recovered to give the rest of his life back to the game and its players is as important as the story that preceded.

His journey, as much as that of any pitcher in Dodger history, is profound.

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The Hall of Fame, the Dodgers and the Harold Baines effect

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 …

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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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Previewing Brothers in Arms
Part One: The Kings of Brooklyn

Hi again. Next in this series of teases for the May 1 release of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition (pre-order now!) is a preview of “Part One: The Kings of Brooklyn,” focusing on the beginnings of the Dodger pitching tradition and running through the man who finished off the franchise’s first World Series title.

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Quick game couldn’t slow Scully storytelling, with one day to go

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By Jon Weisman

Hardly standing on the ceremony of Vin Scully’s penultimate broadcast, the Dodgers and Giants raced through their game today in 2:15, the Dodgers’ fifth-shortest game this year.

But that didn’t stop Vin from weaving several stories into his call. One began with him commenting on the beauty of the setting at AT&T Park.

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Happy 90th birthday, Don Newcombe

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers celebrated legendary pitcher Don Newcombe’s 90th birthday at their most recent homestand finale six days ago, but today’s the actual day. We all wish Newk a happy 90th!

— Jon Weisman

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Newk 49

Honors await Kenley Jansen, but his relationship with Don Newcombe is truly something to cherish

2016 HS05 Dodger Insider cover

By Jon Weisman

When I set out to do our latest cover story for Dodger Insider magazine on Kenley Jansen, the initial idea was to talk to the big reliever about his potential first All-Star appearance, or his approach toward the Dodger career save record.

But quickly the story switched to an angle I was only too happy to explore — Jansen’s close relationship with Dodger legend Don Newcombe.

“He’s my father in the United States,” Jansen said. “That’s what it feels like.”

“I think he’s a fine human being, a fine human being,” Newcombe emphasized. “He’s like a son to me, and he wants me to just be a part of his life. That’s all. No big deal, no instructions or anything, just a part of him.”

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jansen is 28 years old. Newcombe turns 90 in one week (his birthday will be celebrated at Dodger Stadium with his bobblehead night this evening). Generations separate them, but their connection runs deep — and it was a joy just to see how much.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Beginning this year, the Dodgers merged their previously separate Playbill and Dodger Insider magazines into one publication (at least 80 pages per issue) with a new edition available each homestand plus one in October, 13 issues total. It is distributed at auto gates (one per vehicle) and via Fan Services for those who use alternate transportation. Dodger Insider magazine includes news, features, analysis, photos, games, stadium information and more. Fans who still wish to subscribe can do so at dodgers.com/magazine

Emotional first-pitch salute to Vin Scully opens 2016 season at Dodger Stadium

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By Jon Weisman

In a breathtaking experience that traversed Dodger history from Don Newcombe to Clayton Kershaw, Vin Scully received an emotional tribute before the first pitch of his final Opening Day at Dodger Stadium as the team’s broadcaster.

Al Michaels, who was considered by some a possible successor to Scully four decades ago, hosted the tribute that mixed video (including messages from Henry Aaron and Kirk Gibson) with live presentations.

The roll call of Dodgers that took the field went as follows: Newcombe, Maury Wills, Sandy Koufax, Al Downing, Rick Monday, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Bill Russell, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, Tommy Lasorda and Kershaw, with Magic Johnson and Peter O’Malley then escorting Scully on to the hallowed stadium grass, before an enormous standing ovation from the crowd.

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Top series by Jon SooHoo, bottom by Juan Ocampo

A baseball autographed by every participant was then passed down the line to Scully, who truly looked moved by the moment and said afterward he was “overwhelmed.”

Watching him from ground level, as the scoreboard camera circled around him for its closeup, I never felt more how much of a living legend we were privileged to know, and to call our own.

 

In case you missed it: Camelback farewell beckons …

Indians at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Trayce Thompson, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Rob Segedin, 3B
Charlie Culberson, SS
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

On the final day of Cactus League play at Camelback Ranch for 2016, here are some Dodger tidbits …

  • Though he remains hopeful that Yasmani Grandal will be on the Opening Day roster Monday, Dave Roberts told reporters today that A.J. Ellis would catch Clayton Kershaw.
  • Roberts didn’t leak his entire Opening Day batting order, but predicted Justin Turner-Adrian Gonzalez would be in the three-four slots, and that Chase Utley (playing second base in place of Howie Kendrick) might lead off. For what it’s worth, Utley has OPSed .892 this spring.
  • Corey Seager remains scheduled to start Thursday in the Dodgers’ Freeway Series opener.
  • Trayce Thompson, Charlie Culberson, Rob Segedin and Austin Barnes should see action in the Freeway Series, but Rico Noel, Elian Herrera and Brandon Beachy won’t.
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu had a full bullpen session scheduled for today and should begin facing hitters at Camelback next week. All players on the disabled list are to be at Dodger Stadium for Opening Day, however.
  • Scott Kazmir provides an interesting touchstone for Julio Urias in this Ken Gurnick MLB.com story. Kazmir was 20 when he made his big-league debut for Tampa Bay, whose director of baseball development at the time was Andrew Friedman.
  • Don Newcombe told Ron Cervenka of Think Blue L.A. that running is the key for a pitcher to stay healthy.
  • MLB players and coaches can now have iPads in the dugout during games. Roberts said his staff might take advantage, but that he was more likely to stick with paper.

Martin Luther King and Jackie Robinson: A collection of connection

mlk jackie

By Jon Weisman

For Martin Luther King Day, here are some tidbits celebrating the civil rights leader’s connection with Jackie Robinson the Dodgers.

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Dodgers, Newcombe welcome vets to Dodger Stadium

Newcombe signs

By Jon Weisman

A cheerful Don Newcombe was among the featured guests at today’s Dodger Stadium gathering for approximately 300 pre-selected Armed Forces veterans and active duty service members and their families.

To my regret, I didn’t have the recorder running as Newcombe shared stories with me about training soldiers during the Korean War, including doctors for the medical units depicted in “M*A*S*H.”

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Remembering ’65: When Koufax hit

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By Jon Weisman

Sandy Koufax wasn’t much of a hitter in his career, but in July 1965, he arguably had the greatest clutch at-bat by a starting pitcher in Los Angeles Dodger history.

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In case you missed it: Dodgers playing baseball

By Jon Weisman

It was fun to see pitching prospects Julio Urias and Grant Holmes side by side this morning at the first full day of the Dodgers’ Winter Development Program. Here’s another video of them in tandem:

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Elsewhere around the Internet …

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Andre Ethier’s acting gig on ‘Lab Rats’ comes with a Don Newcombe connection

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Tony Rivetti/Disney XD

Tony Rivetti/DisneyXD

By Jon Weisman

Andre Ethier, Alien Hunter. Don Newcombe, proud stepfather.

Back in April, we told you that Ethier would be a guest star on the DisneyXD series “Lab Rats.” That episode airs Monday at 6:15 p.m., and Dodger legend Don Newcombe, whose stepson Chris Peterson is the co-creator and executive producer of the show, was on set the day it was filmed.

“Don is an amazing man and he has taught me so much,” Peterson said. “Every time he comes on set, he beams with pride. To think about all the amazing things he has done in his own career, to think of what this legend means to the institution of Major League Baseball — and here he is on the ‘Lab Rats’ set, prouder than ever.

“We’re extremely close, and because of that he feels close to the show. He has known the cast from day one, and he loves interacting with all of them. At home, he never misses an episode of “Lab Rats,” and I often get a call right after we air to hear how much he enjoyed it.

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