Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Steve Garvey (Page 1 of 2)

Who’s in the mood for a good laugher?

garvey

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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Hitting history for Dodger All-Stars

Andre Ethier is introduced before the 2011 All-Star Game. ()Barry Gossage/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Andre Ethier before the 2011 All-Star Game. (Barry Gossage/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

By Jon Weisman

No Dodger has had a hit in an All-Star Game in five years, and so it’s up to Corey Seager to change that tonight — unless you’re looking for Kenley Jansen to grab a bat and come through.

Yasiel Puig, Dee Gordon, Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal and Adrian Gonzalez have combined to go 0 for 8 since Ethier’s pinch-hit, RBI single in fifth inning of the July 12, 2011 All-Star Game. Gordon did come around to score as a pinch-runner in the 2014 contest.

The greatest single All-Star batting performances by a Dodger belong to Duke Snider (two singles, a double and a walk in 1954) and Mike Piazza (double and home run in 1996).

Here are some firsts and lasts among all Dodger All-Star batters since 1933, when Tony Cuccinello became the franchise’s first All-Star hitter — striking out to end the 1933 All-Star Game …

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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.

 

Old-Timers Game: The 1970s infield reunited

The Infield

By Jon Weisman

Cey. Russell. Lopes. Garvey.

Not since the final game of the 1981 World Series has the legendary infield been in the same lineup together. That changes at Saturday’s Old-Timers Game at Dodger Stadium, when Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey reunite on the Orel Hershiser-managed home team.

There’s going to be a great turnout for the Old-Timers festivities, which begin at 4 p.m. with introductions honoring the 50th anniversary of the 1965 World Series championship team and the 60th anniversary of the 1955 World Series titlists. Among those scheduled for salutes are Sandy Koufax, Tommy Lasorda, Don Newcombe, Tommy Davis, “Sweet” Lou Johnson, Al Ferrara, Wes Parker, Ron Fairly, Wally Moon, Roger Craig, Ron Perranoski, Ed Roebuck, Jeff Torborg and Dick Traceweski, along with Manny Mota and Charlie Hough.

Though there could be some trades before gametime, here are the current rosters for the two teams playing in the game itself, which also welcomes back MLB Ambassador of Inclusion and onetime Dodger Billy Bean:

LAD 2015 1965 World Series Replica Ring (side)Team Orel
Infielders/catchers: Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Steve Sax, Steve Yeager
Outfielders: Pedro Guerrero, Mickey Hatcher, Jerry Hairston, Mike Marshall, Billy Bean
Pitchers: Orel Hershiser, Darren Dreifort, Chan Ho Park

Team Nomar
Infielders/catchers: Maury Wills, Eric Karros, Nomar Garciaparra, Tim Wallach, Derrel Thomas, Todd Zeile
Outfielders: Shawn Green, Ken Landreaux, Rick Monday, Steve Finley
Pitchers: Fernando Valenzuela, Tommy John, Rick Honeycutt

After the Old-Timers Game, the Dodgers play the Rockies at 6:10 p.m. (with a 1965 World Series replica ring being given to the first 40,000 fans in attendance.) Don’t miss this great day of baseball.

Matt Kemp’s Opening Day visit to Dodger Stadium is unprecedented

Matt Kemp first faced the Dodgers in a March 12 exhibition game. A week from today, it counts.

Matt Kemp first faced the Dodgers in a March 12 exhibition game. A week from today, it counts. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

For photos from Sunday, visit LA Photog Blog.

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 1:10 p.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Joc Pederson, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Brett Anderson, P

By Jon Weisman

If you’re like Vin Scully, and you think it’s going to be weird to see Matt Kemp suit up for the Padres against the Dodgers on Opening Day in his first official career game for another team, you’re right.

Nothing like it has ever happened.

In the history of Dodger Stadium Opening Days, no other former Dodger — let alone one of Kemp’s current magnitude — has made his debut for an opponent before Scully and friends.

There have been a few former Dodgers to play for the opposition at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day, most recently Dave Roberts for the Giants in 2008 and Ismael Valdez for the Padres in 2004, but not very many, and they were always years removed from their last appearance in Dodger blue. (If you want to include road openers, former Dodger knuckleballer Charlie Hough pitched the Marlins’ first MLB game ever, against the Dodgers in 1993.)

Steve Garvey — the biggest name to go directly from Los Angeles to San Diego before Kemp — was at first base for the Padres at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day 1986, but Garvey was already in his fourth season with San Diego.

WelcomeThe highest-profile Dodger ever to play his next game for an opponent on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium was Reggie Smith, who started at first base for the Giants on April 6, 1982 — Los Angeles’ first official game since winning the World Series. Even this couldn’t be considered a big a deal as Kemp. Though revered by this author, Smith was not a career Dodger, and he had already ceased to be an integral part of the team by 1981, collecting seven hits and seven walks the entire year.

To find a Dodger regular who played an Opening Day for an opponent in Los Angeles the very next year, you have to go all the way back to a different venue and the very first Game No. 1 played in Los Angeles: April 12, 1960. (The Dodgers opened on the road for their first two seasons after moving from Brooklyn.) That player was Don Zimmer, who had been pushed to the bench by shortstop Maury Wills midway through the 1959 season.

That’s not to say there wasn’t some shock for local fans: Zimmer was traded to the Cubs on April 8, only four days before the start of the season, which found him at third base for Chicago at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Still, Don Zimmer playing for the Cubs at a Dodger home opener is nothing compared with what it’s going to be like to see Matt Kemp playing right field for the Padres a week from today. Surreal is a word that comes to mind. As Scully put it, the idea of Clayton Kershaw facing Kemp with the game on the line is, for now at least, mind-blowing.

That being said, time marches on, and so eventually will our sensibilities. If we could get used to Garvey in a Padre uniform, anything’s possible. (Well, almost anything.)

Clayton Kershaw nominated for second Roberto Clemente Award

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By Jon Weisman

Clayton Kershaw, winner of the 2012 Roberto Clemente Award, is the Dodgers’ nominee for the honor in 2014.

The award recognizes the MLB player “who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.”

“When you think about the Roberto Clemente award, you think about the man first and to be associated with him is an amazing thing,” Kershaw said. “To be nominated again for such an award and to be mentioned in the same breath as Roberto Clemente is very special and something I don’t take for granted. I’m truly humbled and honored to be nominated again.”

Fans may participate in the voting Wednesday through October 6 at ChevyBaseball.com. The fan vote winner will count as one vote alongside a voting body that includes Clemente’s widow Vera, Dodger broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, outgoing MLB commissioner Bud Selig and commissioner-elect Rob Manfred.

Steve Garvey is the only other Dodger to win the Clemente Award, in 1981. Adrian Gonzalez was the Dodgers’ 2013 nominee.

In the 43-year history of the award, established in 1971 and renamed for Clemente after his death on New Year’s Eve 1972, there have been no repeat winners.

“Clayton is one of the most dedicated and hardest working athletes on and off the field I’ve been associated with,” said Dodger president and CEO Stan Kasten. “If anyone is deserving of the Clemente Award a second time, Clayton is certainly the one.”

Who played first when Garvey didn’t?

garvey_anthem

Dodgers at Reds, 4:10 p.m.
Chone Figgins, 2B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Yasiel Puig, RF
Matt Kemp, LF
Scott Van Slyke, CF
Justin Turner, 3B
Jamie Romak, 1B
Tim Federowicz, C
Dan Haren, P

By Jon Weisman
Jamie Romak gets a surprising start at first base today at Cincinnati, as the Dodgers rest slumping Adrian Gonzalez, while keeping Scott Van Slyke in center field ahead of Andre Ethier.

Gonzalez has been such a mainstay at first base since coming over from Boston, and Van Slyke such a logical understudy, that you just don’t expect to see someone like Romak there. It got me wondering about other rare cameos at first base for the Dodgers — in particular, when Steve Garvey was around.

Garvey played nearly every game at first base for the Dodgers from 1974-82, but not every inning. Here’s who backed him up.

  • 1974: Bill Buckner went 7 for 21 in six games at first base, while Gail Hopkins went 0 for 4 in two games and Tom Paciorek added two innings.
  • 1975: Ken McMullen went 4 for 10 with a triple in three games, including starts on September 1 and 2.
  • 1976: Garvey played all but six innings this year. On May 7, he was hit by a pitch in the eighth inning, and John Hale pinch-ran. Buckner moved over from left field to play first, and grounded out in the top of the ninth. Ed Goodson also played four defensive innings across three games.
  • 1977: Four different subsitutes — Boog Powell (2 for 5 with a walk in four games), Ed Goodson (1 for 8 with a walk in five games), Rick Monday (0 for 5 in five games) and Joe Simpson (0 for 1). Goodson started on May 28, Powell on August 15.
  • 1978: Garvey started alll 162 games, but it was a nice year for the backups. Pedro Guerrero went 4 for 7 with a triple in three games, Monday 1 for 3 and Vic Davalillo 1 for 1.
  • 1979: Guerrero went 3 for 14 in eight games and became the first first baseman besides Garvey to homer since 1973. It was a late-September game that Garvey departed after two innings. Derrel Thomas and Gary Thomasson each got an inning at first base; Thomas went 0 for 1 at the plate.
  • 1980: Guerrero sizzled at first base, going 3 for 4, while Thomasson struck out in his only at-bat as a first baseman. The 43-year-old Davalillo also picked up an inning in the last defensive appearance of his career.
  • 1981: The Dodgers’ title year saw Mike Marshall, Jay Johnstone and Reggie Smith each go 1 for 4 at first base, while Guerrero went 0 for 1.
  • 1982: In the final season before Garvey departed for San Diego, Marshall got the most playing time of anyone else at the position since 1973, going 8 for 28 with two homers and five walks. Monday went 2 for 10, and Garvey’s initial successor, Greg Brock, 0 for 4.

Innings by Dodger first basemen, 1974-82
Steve Garvey: 12,346 1/3 out of 12,724 1/3 (97.0 percent)
Mike Marshall: 90
Pedro Guerrero: 66
Bill Buckner: 49
Rick Monday: 44
Ed Goodson: 35
Ken McMullen: 19
Boog Powell: 15
Jay Johnstone: 13
Reggie Smith: 13
Gail Hopkins: 12
Greg Brock: 8 2/3
Vic Davalillo: 5 1/3
Gary Thomasson: 3
Tom Paciorek: 2
Joe Simpson: 2
Derrel Thomas: 1

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Some trivia from Sunday’s game:

Video: ‘Dodgers Roadshow’ highlights rare goodies

Dodgers Roadshow

By Jon Weisman

The centerpiece of the May issue of Dodger Insider magazine is our Dodgers Roadshow (excerpted above, click to enlarge). Team historian Mark Langill discussed the history behind 20 pieces of Dodger memorabilia, few if any of which you’ve ever seen before.

In the videos that follow, Langill devotes even more time to these strange and wonderful artifacts. Enjoy!

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Flash Gordon chases Flash Garvey

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKSSB leadersBy Jon Weisman

The Dodgers all-time stolen base leaders in Los Angeles are a funny mix. Once you get past the truly great thieves, like Maury Wills and Davey Lopes, you encounter a combination that includes short-term speedsters and team legends known more for their longevity than their legs.

Brett Butler, for example, is No. 5 on the list despite not becoming a Dodger until he was 33 years old. He’s one spot ahead of Bill Russell, whose Dodger career ran from ages 20 to 37.

Dee Gordon, who moved into 20th place with his four steals Sunday, is now only two steals behind Steve Garvey. Gordon has played 192 games as a Dodger; Garvey played 1,727.

With only 45 more steals sometime in his Dodger career, in 2014 or beyond (he has nine this year in 13 games), Gordon will zoom all the way up to the 10 spot.

For added fun, we’ll present the all-time caught stealing leaders in Los Angeles. You’ll see that players like Garvey and John Roseboro barely broke even, and Mike Marshall was underwater. Then there are some whose lack of effectiveness on the basepaths might surprise you, such as Willie Crawford and Cesar Izturis.

Neither Kirk Gibson nor Eric Davis make this second list. In their Dodger careers, the pair combined for 121 steals and were caught only 15 times.

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In case you missed it: Stick and move

By Jon Weisman
The first full-squad Dodgers workout at Camelback Ranch is three weeks from today. Three weeks.

  • Using a point system for its top 100 prospects where teams received 100 points for the No. 1 spot and 1 point for being No. 100, the Dodgers ranked seventh in the majors by MLB.com and first in the National League West. Individually, Corey Seager was 34th, Joc Pederson 36th, Zach Lee 63rd and Julio Urias 64th. Considering the promising Urias might be underrated on this chart (and that Alexander Guerrero was ineligible for consideration), this is a strong showing. More details here from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • As Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. points out, MLB.com (Seager), Baseball America (Pederson) and Baseball Prospectus (Urias) have each put different players atop the Dodger prospect list.
  • Dustin Nosler takes his Dodger prospect rundown to Nos. 31-40 at Dodgers Digest.
  • Oh, hey — occasionally, major-league talent gets ranked as well. USA Today looks at starting pitchers, with Clayton Kershaw first and Zack Greinke 13th. Madison Bumgarner was the only NL West pitcher above Greinke.
  • Another Cuban contender for the majors is 28-year-old catcher Yenier Bello. Jesse Sanchez at the Park has details (via J.P Hoornstra of the Daily News).
  • Coming up from Orange County for Saturday’s NHL Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium? Emma Amaya has public transportation details at Dodger Blue World.
  • Steve Garvey will have his Michigan State Spartan jersey retired at a ceremony in East Lansing on Sunday.
  • Willie Crawford gets a career retrospective from Bruce Marksen at the Hardball Times. An excerpt:

    … In 1964, the 17-year-old Crawford drew the interest of every one of the 20 major league teams in existence. With his combination of five-tool talents, clubs like the Dodgers, Yankees, and Kansas City A’s envisioned him as the centerpiece to their outfield futures.

    Dodgers executive Al Campanis simply raved about Crawford’s ability. He filed a scouting report with his superiors that indicated Crawford “hits with the power of Roberto Clemente and Tommy Davis at a similar age.” A’s owner Charlie Finley offered an even higher opinion of Crawford, calling the teenaged flychaser “a Willie Mays with the speed of Willie Davis.” In the context of early 1960s baseball, it was hard to get much better than a combination of Clemente, Mays, and the two Davises.

    Finley liked Crawford so much that he gave the youngster a large, framed, signed portrait of himself, which eventually hung in the Crawford living room. Even more pertinently, Finley offered Crawford a bonus of $200,000 to play center field for his A’s; it was a staggering amount of money in the mid-1960s scheme of things. Crawford seemed genuinely intrigued by the advances of Finley, referring to him as “one of the nicest millionaires I know.”

    Crawford gave serious consideration to Finley’s offer. At the same time, he also received warm overtures from the Dodgers, who sent a young scout named Tommy Lasorda to Crawford’s home. Only two days after he graduated from Fremont, Lasorda reached an agreement with Crawford. The youngster signed a contract giving him a bonus of $100,000. While it was only half of Finley’s offer, it was the largest bonus ever secured by an African-American player, exceeding the previous amounts given to Richie Allen and Tommie Agee.

    So why did Crawford take the lesser sum of money? As a native and resident of the Watts section of Los Angeles, Crawford simply did not feel comfortable moving far away from the California coast. He also found himself swayed by Lasorda, a Dodgers scout at the time and a man who had taken the time to attend the funeral of Crawford’s grandfather. …

  • I’ve addressed this issue before, but Brad Johnson at the Hardball Times revisits the implicit reasons why teams agree to player opt-outs.
  • I mentioned “The Battered Bastards of Baseball” the other day, but here’s more on the project: Jeff Labrecque of EW.com interviews Todd Field, the director of “Little Children” who was a 13-year-old batboy for the subjects of the documentary, the Portland Mavericks. And also comes the news from Justin Kroll of Variety that the doc will be adapted into a feature film, with Field writing and directing.

In case you missed it: Gary Burghoff strikes out Steve Garvey

BurghoffBy Jon Weisman

Radar don’t need no radar gun …

We’re talking about what now?

Dodgers at Angels, 1:05 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
Jerry Hairston Jr, 3B
Cory Sullvian, DH
A.J. Ellis, C
Josh Fields, 1B
(Aaron Harang, P)

More than once already this morning, I’ve seen pieces making arguments that I didn’t think needed to be made.

First: No disrespect to Buster Olney, but I can’t imagine the Dodgers are going to hit Opening Day with a 13-man pitching staff, as he suggests is possible, especially with Chris Capuano in the bullpen because of the day off April 9.

David Schoenfeld of ESPN.com and Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness were compelled to analyze the pros and cons of this — they’re correct in concluding that the 13-man staff would be a mistake, but this was one of those things that wasn’t really worth worrying about.

Barring anything out of the ordinary this spring, the Dodgers have six bullpen locks and an opening for a seventh reliever. After Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier, Todd Coffey and Mike MacDougal, the Dodgers are going to be deciding whether they think it’s worth hanging on to a non-roster invitee like Jamey Wright or keep Josh Lindblom from going to the minors. That’s it. Going with a nine-man bullpen and a four-man bench for the first four games of the season makes so little sense, I just don’t believe it’s a consideration. That 25th roster spot will go to Jerry Sands or an infielder.

* * *

This was the second of two topics today whose origin confused me. The first was Eric Seidman’s piece on Fangraphs, “Will A.J. Ellis develop any power?” I don’t mean to be critical at all — the piece is completely well-argued (spoiler alert: answer is probably not) — but I’m not understanding why the question is being asked.

There’s no reason to suspect that Ellis will suddenly become a slugger … but so what?  While it’d be nice if Ellis suddenly blasted balls out of the park, I think the Dodgers and their fans will all be quite happy if Ellis maintains his on-base skills over the long haul. How likely is it that he’ll do that? That’s a question worth exploring.

Seidman replied in the comments of his piece:

All good points, guys. Intention wasn’t to argue anything, really, just to take a historical look at a somewhat rare player. I think his OBP and defense make for a solid backup, but his slugging inability will hurt his effectiveness over 450+ PAs. Thought it was interesting that nobody has really had a similar OBP/SLG disconnect like his while also making it in the majors at a relatively older age.

* * *

Interesting tidbit from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Although the Dodgers are off to a sizzling start in the Cactus League with a 5-1-2 record — something that in reality means absolutely nothing — Mattingly is growing impatient with the unusual number of fundamental miscues.

“For me, we have gotten a little lazy lately,” he said. “We have missed some cutoffs and missed some signs. I think it’s just that part of the spring where we have to push ourselves to be a little better.”

* * *

The famous 1980 Pat Jordan piece for Inside Sports on Steve and Cyndi Garvey has been rerun in full by Alex Belth at Bronx Banter.

* * *

Jay Jaffe analyzes National League starting rotations at Baseball Prospectus.

The 1980s Dodgers play an intramural ownership game

Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser were never teammates, except perhaps in Spring Training. Garvey’s last game with the Dodgers was October 3, 1982, while Hershiser’s debut came on September 1, 1983.

As a San Diego Padre, Garvey came up to the plate against Hershiser 24 times from 1983-1987 and had a single, a double, a walk and 21 outs. Garvey’s .087 batting average against Hershiser was his worst against any major-league pitcher he faced at least 20 times.

I bring this up only because I’m struck by the peculiarity of 1980s Dodgers being in competition with each other for post-McCourt ownership of the team. Garvey and Hershiser are united in their pursuit (though they never played together), yet at least for now, united against a potential ownership group that features former Dodger owner and president Peter O’Malley and still another that features former Dodger general manager Fred Claire, who worked under O’Malley for nearly 30 years. All of them played significant roles in at least one of the Dodgers’ last two World Series titles.

Just feels kind of weird. But as far as Claire is concerned, the more the merrier.

“From my standpoint, I think it’s great that Peter is involved in seeking the team — as well as Steve and Orel,” Claire said in an e-mail. “The reason for this is that my goal is the see the Dodgers end up in the best hands as possible, and I have great respect for Peter, Steve and Orel.

“I have been involved with our group headed by (biotech executive) Ben Hwang for four months because I share Ben’s views as to how the Dodgers need to regain their place in the community and in Major League Baseball. As far as competition, the only group I want to see win are the Dodger fans.”

Claire was also interviewed by Max and Marcellus on ESPN AM 710 today.

“I’m not going to mislead anybody,” Claire told them. “We have a lot of work to do as far as raising the capital. This is an enormous amount of money.

“The leader of the group, (who) is really going to be there at the owners’ table when it comes down to one representative per club, is going to be a very significant person, and we’re hopeful of identifying such a person and having the capital to be prepared to make our case.”

* * *

Former Times sportswriter Ross Newhan offers his latest take on the Dodger ownership situation at Newhan on Baseball.

October 4, 1980: Saturday showdown at the Stadium


Getty ImagesJerry Reuss pitched 10 complete games in 29 starts for the Dodgers in 1980.

When the Dodgers were attempting to rally from three games behind Houston with three games to play on the final weekend of the 1980 regular season, I was on my school’s eighth-grade retreat at world-famous Camp Ta Ta Pochon.

I listened to the final innings of the Friday comeback victory with my transistor radio and an earphone while we were watching the rather odd youth movie, “Bless the Beasts and the Children.” And I listened to the final innings of Sunday’s dramatic triumph surrounded by classmates on the bus ride home.

But I had never heard a moment of the Saturday game until this week, when I was granted the privilege thanks to a cassette package mailed to me by longtime Dodger Thoughts friend and commenter Stan from Tacoma.  The Saturday game is the least discussed of the four games the Dodgers played against Houston to end the season, but it was a minor gem in its own right – an utterly taut affair from start to finish.

Jerry Reuss started for the Dodgers against future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan of the Astros. A high-profile free-agent signing, Ryan was in his first season in the NL since being traded from the Mets to Angels in December 1971. At age 33, Ryan had gotten his 3,000th career strikeout midway through 1980. His ERA in 1980 was a stylish 3.35, though given the advantages of pitching in the Astrodome, this was arguably a down year for the Express.

Reuss had come to the Dodgers before the 1979 season and been something of a disappointment, though his 7-14 record belied his 3.54 ERA. In any case, he began the 1980 season in the bullpen, before emerging as one of the team’s top starters: a 2.51 ERA and an National League-leading six shutouts, including his June 27 no-hitter at San Francisco.

Even with those credentials, Reuss was under the microscope of Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda. Just two batters into the game, after Reuss walked Houston leadoff hitter Joe Morgan on a 3-2 pitch and then gave up a single to Enos Cabell, Dodger radio announcer Jerry Doggett saw that Rick Sutcliffe – banished to relief after winning NL Rookie of the Year honors in 1979 – had gotten up in the bullpen.

But Reuss bounced back. He got Dodger nemesis Jose Cruz to pop to shortstop Derrel Thomas, and then Cesar Cedeno hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. Sutcliffe sat down and never rose again, as Reuss went on to retire nine batters in a row.

The Dodgers struck first in the bottom of the second inning. Steve Garvey, who entered the game needing four hits for 200 on the season, notched a single on a blooper that Morgan normally would have caught. (Both second basemen were ailing: Morgan had strained his knee in Friday’s game, while Davey Lopes had a severely strained neck. Neither finished the Friday or Saturday games.)  One out later, Pedro Guerrero, the Dodgers’ center fielder, singled Garvey to second base.  Ryan struck out Joe Ferguson, but facing Thomas, the Dodger utilityman who had become the team’s starting shortstop in place of an injured Bill Russell, dropped a single the opposite way into left field to score Garvey for a 1-0 Dodger lead.

The Dodgers caught a break to score their first run; the Astros caught one to score theirs. With one out in the top of the fourth, Cruz hit one to center that Guerrero lost in the smoggy sky (Doggett and Vin Scully both commented on how ugly the air was this day). Cruz stole second, went to third on a Cedeno grounder and then scored on a single to center by Art Howe to tie the game.

Getty Images
With three hits against Nolan Ryan, Steve Garvey was on a .412/.452/.647 hot streak over his past 17 games.

The next run of the game was no gift.  Garvey started the bottom of the fourth with a no-doubter blast, his 26th homer of the season – giving him, as Scully noted, at least one home run against every NL team this season.  Garvey would later single in the sixth inning for his 199th hit of the season and ninth in 18 at-bats against Ryan. “If you can go 9 for 18 against a million-dollar pitcher, that’s like owning a condominium, isn’t it?” said an admiring Scully. “Garvey is undoubtedly one of the greatest hitters to wear a Dodger uniform,” added Doggett when he returned to the mic for the final three innings. “Undoubtedly.”

The score remained 2-1 entering the seventh inning, thanks in large part to huge defensive plays by Los Angeles. In the fifth, the aching Lopes managed to snag a line drive off Morgan’s bat and turn it into an inning-ending double play. And with one on and none out in the sixth, Thomas took a carom off Reuss’ glove and converted it into a 1-6-3 twin killing.  Then Guerrero, still struggling with the October sky, struggled with a Cedeno fly but managed to catch up to it to end the top of the sixth.

Like Garvey, Ryan was also on a quest for 200 – in fact, both of them entered the seventh inning at 199. In Ryan’s case, it was strikeouts, and he got his 200th on the second-to-last batter he faced.  The victim was Reuss, who went down after failing to sacrifice Joe Ferguson to second base.

Both teams went down in order in the eighth, Reuss easily navigating pinch-hitters Terry Puhl (the Astros’ leading home-run hitter in 1980 with the grand total of 13) and Jeffrey Leonard, while reliever Frank LaCorte held off Garvey’s final Saturday bid for his 200th hit. Reuss’ strikeout of Puhl was his seventh of the game, a season high.

That brought us to the ninth, with the crowd audibly willing the Dodgers to hold on.  By this time, the Dodgers had made three defensive replacements: Jack Perconte for Lopes at second base, Rudy Law for Dusty Baker (also hurting) in left field and Mickey Hatcher for Rick Monday in right field.  Those replacements proved meaningful both for what they didn’t and didn’t do.

First, Perconte made a nice play on a Cabell grounder to get the first out.

Then, Guerrero, again getting a late read, put the crowd in suspense before making yet another last-instant catch. The Dodgers were one out away from victory, but under 24 hours before, the same had been true of the Astros.

Up came Cedeno, who had been having a most unlucky day. This time, the luck turned – he hit a blooper that Perconte couldn’t reach, keeping the Astros alive. Art Howe then hit another blooper to center that Guerrero, playing deep to prevent an extra-base hit, had no chance at. Suddenly, the tying run was at third base for Houston.

With soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Steve Howe warming up in the bullpen, Dodger pitching coach Red Adams visited Reuss at the mound.  But there was no hook.  According to Reuss on the postgame show, Adams simply told him, “Just relax.”

Doggett, I should say at this point, was about the best I have ever heard him – totally on his game in describing the game and setting the scene.  “What excitement – what a series!” he said over the roaring crowd. The batter was Gary Woods, who had gotten the start over Puhl against the left-handed Reuss but had struck out three times. Finally making contact, he hit one to Perconte, in the thick of the fray in this, only his 14th major-league game. Perconte tossed to Garvey, and the Dodgers had stayed alive for one more day.

Reuss thanked the fans on the postgame show with Ross Porter. “I’ve heard it in other places, but not this many, this loud,” Reuss said. Porter asked Reuss about the fact that he was starting on three days’ rest. “I never gave it a thought until someone said something about it, and then I said, ‘What the heck.’ ”

Garvey also thanked the fans, and said how much he enjoyed the pressure situations. And then, as Porter thanked him for the interview, Garvey said, “Hi to Cyndy and the girls.”

Those fans listening on the radio who were geared up for hearing Scully do Sunday’s big game were in for a surprise. Here are his closing words for the day:

“Well, friends, it has been a magnificent day, a great weekend and a most exciting season, and of course  tomorrow the Dodgers and the Astros this time put it all on the line. All of the pressure had been on the Dodgers, but now it will be equally shared amongst the Astros, because they suddenly find themselves in a must-win situation. It’s Burt Hooton and Vern Ruhle. And I have a confession to make – I won’t be here, unfortunately, as my schedule has me doing a football game down in Anaheim. And my mind, and my eyes and all of my senses will be in Anaheim, but boy, will my heart ever be here at Dodger Stadium. Hope you’ll be here. Hope you’ll find out about tomorrow, and then if it be so, why it’ll be my pleasure to be talking to you again on Monday. So we’ll see. But right now, that’ll do it for today, from Dodger Stadium, as the Dodgers nip the Astros, 2-1.

The Rams would beat the 49ers, 48-26, and then we’d see Vin on Monday. I’d have that transistor radio with me at school.

Love for sale?

Love of the Dodgers, that is.

  • Steve Garvey is trying to gather investors to help him buy the Dodgers, Bill Shaikin of the Times reported. Something tells me that lots of folks are going to have this notion, but whether they can follow through is another matter. The Dodgers, of course, are not for sale at this point.
  • After succeeding with Carlos Monasterios last year, the Dodgers didn’t draft or trade for anyone in this year’s Rule 5 draft party. (Ain’t no party like a Rule 5 party). Baseball America has the full draft list. The Dodgers did lose minor leaguers Jaime Ortiz, Jessie Mier (aka Fausto Mier or Fausto Meyer, depending on what website you visit) and Matthew Sartor.
  • Former Dodger scout Jerry Stephenson was honored posthumously with the Directors Award at this year’s Scout of the Year honors, reports Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.
  • The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. Enough said.

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