Author Archive

Rookies of the Year

Hanley Ramirez is the 14th former Rookie of the Year acquired by the Dodgers. The others are: Wally Moon (1954 Cardinals), Frank Robinson (1956 Reds), Dick Allen (1964 Phillies), Pat Zachry (1976 Reds), Eddie Murray (1977 Orioles), Alfredo Griffin (1979 Blue Jays), Darryl Strawberry (1983 Mets), Todd Worrell (1986 Cardinals), Gregg Olson (1989 Orioles), Sandy Alomar Jr. (1990 Indians), Nomar Garciaparra (1997 Red Sox), Rafael Furcal (2000 Braves), Angel Berroa (2003 Royals). Tommie Agee (1966 White Sox) was a non-roster player during spring training in 1974 but didn’t make the team.

The Dodgers have won the award a record 16 times: Jackie Robinson (1947), Don Newcombe (1949), Joe Black (1952), Jim Gilliam (1953), Frank Howard (1960), Jim Lefebvre (1965), Ted Sizemore (1969), Rick Sutcliffe (1979), Steve Howe (1980), Fernando Valenzuela (1981), Steve Sax (1982), Eric Karros (1992), Mike Piazza (1993), Raul Mondesi (1994), Hideo Nomo (1995) and Todd Hollandsworth (1996).

Center fielder Sam Jethroe was a member of the Dodgers’ Triple-A Montreal team when traded after the 1949 season to the Boston Braves. Jethroe won top rookie honors with the Braves in 1950.

Gil Hodges and the Hall of Fame

“I can’t understand why Gil Hodges isn’t in the Hall of Fame.”

Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully doesn’t stand on a soapbox when discussing the merits of longtime Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman who later won a World Series as manager of the 1969 New York “Miracle” Mets. He doesn’t cite Hodges’ 370 career home runs, which by 1962 ranked second all-time for right-handed hitters behind Jimmie Foxx. The case of Hodges and the Hall of Fame is an example of “out of sight, out of mind.” Hodges passed away on April 2, 1972, two days shy of his 48th birthday. His death due to a massive heart attack occurred at the end of a round of golf with his Mets coaching staff in spring training.

For election to the Hall of Fame, a candidate must receive at least 75 percent of the ballots cast that particular year. The panel during Hodges’ candidacy from 1969-83. A player could remain on the ballot for 15 years. Anyone receiving less than five percent was removed from the following year’s ballot. The voting in Hodges’ era was exclusively conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

From 1970-83, every player who finished ahead of Hodges in the balloting eventually was elected to the Hall of Fame. Those elected to the Hall from 1970-83 were: Lou Boudreau, Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Early Wynn, Warren Spahn, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Ralph Kiner, Robin Roberts, Bob Lemon, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Al Kaline, Duke Snider, Bob Gibson, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Juan Marichal. Johnny Mize and Enos Slaughter, who finished behind Hodges in the 1970 and 1971 HOF elections when Hodges was still alive, were lated added to Cooperstown by the Veteran’s Committee.

At the time of his of his death, Hodges had appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot four times – 1969 (14th place, 24.1 percent); 1970 (third, 48.3); 1971 (fourth, 50.0), and 1972 (fifth, 40.7). He gained 17 percent in 1973, but finished fourth behind Spahn (83.2), Ford (67.1) and Kiner (61.8).

Although Hodges was always among the leaders in votes received, his percentage never came close to the required 75 percent. He twice hit 60.1 percent when finishing third in 1976 and third in 1981. His biggest percentage during his final year of eligibility (63.4) in 1983 produced only a seventh-place finish behind Brooks Robinson (92.0), Marichal (83.7), Harmon Killebrew (71.9), Luis Aparacio (67.4), Hoyt Wilhelm (65.0) and Don Drysdale (64.7).

Hodges and Snider were teammates on Dodger pennant-winning seasons in 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1959. Hodges’ final year as a player was 1963; Snider’s was 1964. Players must be retired at least five years before appearing on a HOF ballot, so Hodges was one year ahead of Snider. From 1970-76, Hodges finished ahead of Snider in the balloting. The 1973 results for Hodges (57.4 percent) and Snider (21.2) changed dramatically by 1978, the first year Snider (67.0) finished ahead of Hodges (59.6). Snider’s 86.5 percent was enough for election in 1980, while Hodges (59.7) finished fourth behind Kaline (88.3), Snider, and Drysdale (53.9).

If there is a hurdle for the Hodges’ cause, it might be voters might believe there is “enough” representation from the fabled Boys of Summer era from Ebbets Field – Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Duke Snider, owner Walter O’Malley, broadcasters Red Barber and Vin Scully. And the passage of time means dwindling numbers of those voters who actually saw Hodges as a player or a manager. But Hodges remains a worthy candidate, and his uniform No. 14 was retired by the Mets in 1973.

Dodger All-Stars

Random Dodger All-Star notes from Brooklyn and Los Angeles:

— The first Major League All-Star Game was played at Chicago’s Comiskey Park on July 6, 1933. The lone Brooklyn Dodger player representative was infielder Tony Cuccinello. Dodger manager Max Carey served as a coach.

— The last hurrah of the Larry MacPhail Era occurred during the 1942 All-Star Game when Dodger manager Leo Durocher’s N.L. roster included seven Brooklyn players: Billy Herman, Joe Medwick, Mickey Owen, Pee Wee Reese, Pete Reiser, Arky Vaughan and Whit Wyatt. MacPhail, as Dodger team president, rescued the franchise from bankruptcy during his tenure beginning in 1938 when he borrowed money to purchase players and make improvements to Ebbets Field. The Dodgers were National League champs in 1941, but World War II eventually depleted the roster and the St. Louis Cardinals would win titles in 1942, 1944 and 1946.

— Jackie Robinson became a N.L. Al-Star for the first time during his MVP season in 1949. The 1949 game was the only ASG played at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. Robinson was joined by catcher Roy Campanella and rookie pitcher Don Newcombe.

— There were two All-Star Games played each season from 1959-62. The expanded ASG schedule in 1959 gave the Majors a chance to host the Mid-Summer Classic in the cavernous Los Angeles Coliseum on August 3. A crowd of 55,105 watched the American League win, 5-3. Pitcher Don Drysdale and left fielder Wally Moon were in the N.L. starting lineup.

— In 1974, Steve Garvey became only the second player to be elected to the All-Star team as a “write-in” candidate, joining Atlanta’s Rico Carty in 1970. Garvey was named MVP of the 1974 ASG. In 1975, Garvey and Jimmy Wynn became the first teammates in ASG history to hit back-to-back home runs.

— In 1998, reliever Jeff Shaw became the first player to make his debut for a new team at the All-Star Game. Shaw had been traded by the Cincinnati Reds to Los Angeles during the final weekend before the All-Star break. Shaw reported to the All-Star Game and wore a Dodgers jersey, even though he had not yet played for Los Angeles.

Photo: Brooklyn representatives on the 1934 N.L. All-Star team included catcher Al Lopez, pitcher Van Mungo and manager Casey Stengel, who was a coach on manager Bill Terry’s staff.

Big Red Machine

The phrase “National League West” rivals fades with each passing decade, but in the 1970s the Cincinnati Reds and Dodgers dominated the competition after Major League Baseball adopted division play in 1969. The Reds won the division six times (1970, 72-73, 75-76, 79) while the Dodgers won three times (1974, 77, 78). The lone exception was the 1971 San Francisco Giants, which edged the Dodgers by one game.

Los Angeles sportswriter Bob Hunter coined the nickname “Big Red Machine” in 1969 and the next season the Reds were rolling to the N.L. pennant under rookie manager Sparky Anderson. When Tommy Lasorda was hired as Dodgers manager at the end of the 1976 season, the Reds were on their way to a second consecutive World Series title. Lasorda’s “bleeding Dodger blue” speeches were used for motivation within the organization, but the Reds represented his biggest challenge.

Prior to the 1977 season, Lasorda announced the days of Cincinnati’s dynasty were over. General manager Al Campanis was surprised to hear such bold talk from a rookie manager, but Lasorda was convinced he had to lead by example and challenge Anderson, who was a teammate with the 1957 Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. “We were friends before, but that had to end because of the Dodgers-Reds rivalry,” Lasorda said. “My job was to win.”

The Reds fired Anderson after the 1978 season, but he enjoyed a second career in the American League with the Detroit Tigers from 1979-1995, including a championship in 1984. Lasorda and Anderson remained friendly over the years until Sparky’s passing at age 76 in 2010.

Eric Karros

Early in 1986, Dodger area scout Bob Bishop drove to the campus of UCLA to watch the Bruins begin their baseball season with an intrasquad game. Bishop noticed a freshman third baseman, a “walk-on” player without an athletic scholarship.

“He was 6-foot-4 and I liked his build,” Bishop said. “He was all business on the field and I liked the way he carried himself. He hit the ball on a line, he didn’t loft the ball. He just looked like he was going to turn into something.”

Two years later, the Dodgers selected Eric Karros in the sixth round of the June 1988 First-Year Player Draft. Karros switched to first base during his UCLA career and with the Dodgers his stock gradually rose within the minor league organization.

Karros made his Major League debut as a September call-up in 1991. His first assignment was pinch-running for Mike Sharperson during a game at Dodger Stadium against the Chicago Cubs. He notched his first hit against Cincinnati’s Ted Power on September 16.

Karros reported to spring training in 1992 as a third-string first baseman behind free-agent acquisition Todd Benzinger and Kal Daniels, an outfielder looking to switch positions after the Dodgers traded for outfielder Eric Davis. In his first at-bat of the 1992 season on April 9, Karros hit his first home run, a two-run shot off left-hander Craig Lefferts. Karros was stuck in a three-player platoon until he won the job on May 23 with a walk-off, three-run home run as a pinch-hitter against the Pirates at Dodger Stadium. Karros started the final 124 games of the season and won N.L. Rookie of the Year honors with 20 home runs and 88 RBI in 149 games.

During his tenure through 2002, Karros became the L.A. all-time franchise leader with 270 home runs.

Rolls Reuss

The date June 27 in Dodger history belongs to Jerry Reuss, who pitched his only career no-hitter on that date in 1980 during an 8-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. Reuss retired 27 of 28 batters he faced, the only San Francisco baserunner was Jack Clark, who reached on shortstop Bill Russell’s two-out throwing error in the first inning.

Reuss was one of the most unnderated pitchers in Dodger history, changing his career fortunes after a trade with Pittsburgh in April 1979. Acquired for pitcher Rick Rhoden, Reuss struggled to a 7-14 record with the Dodgers in 1979. During the offseason, he adopted a weight-lifting program and an exercise program recommended by team physician Dr. Frank Jobe. Reuss won 46 games between 1980-82, including a 10-4 mark during the strike-shortened season in 1981.

Fernando Valenzuela won 111 regular-season games between 1981-87, including 52 victories during a three-year span from 1985-87. After Valenzuela, it became rare for a Dodger left-hander to enjoy sustained success in the starting rotation. Two Dodger left-handers won at least 30 games during a three-year period – teammates Kaz Ishii (36 wins) and Odalis Perez (34 wins) from 2002-2004.

Current Dodger Clayton Kershaw is the latest lefty to join the group, having won 42 games between 2009-2011.

Koufax’s First No-No

With the approaching 50th anniversary of Sandy Koufax’s first career no-hitter against the New York Mets on June 30, 1962 at Dodger Stadium, I thought it might be interesting to check out the radio broadcast from that evening.

Those who didn’t actually watch Koufax pitch in person hear the stories about the “wild” left-hander whose bonus contract with Brooklyn after the 1954 season meant he couldn’t start his career in the minor leagues. After flashes of brilliance, Koufax found his control in 1961 with spring-training advice from catcher Norm Sherry and eventually became the most dominant pitcher of his era. Koufax pitched no-hitters in 1962, 1963 and 1964. His fourth career no-hitter in 1965 was the perfect game against the Chicago Cubs in which Vin Scully called the KFI Radio studio after the eighth inning and suggested the ninth inning be recorded.

But how much buildup did Koufax receive on the radio back in 1962? He entered the June 30 game with a 10-4 record, a 2.48 ERA and a league-leading 170 strikeouts in 141.1 innings. At that point, his strikeout-to-innings ratio (10.83) was the best in Major League history. Earlier in the 1962 season, Koufax recorded his second career 18-strikeout game in a 10-2 victory at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on April 24.

The complete Dodger radio broadcast doesn’t exist, but the Mets’ version (courtesy The Miley Collection) features Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy describing the action during New York’s inaugural season in the National League. Casey Stengel’s Mets entered with a 20-52 record, already 27 games behind the first-place Giants. The Dodgers were one-half game back at 50-29. Those expecting a modest buildup for Koufax would be surprised to hear Kiner’s pregame show preview before Nelson took over the play-by-play. “… On the mound, taking his warmup pitches, one of the oustanding pitchers in baseball,” Kiner said. “He’ll probably go down as one of the greatest pitchers of all time … Sandy Koufax.”

In the second inning, Frank Thomas hit a grounder toward left field. But shortstop Maury Wills backhanded the ball and his throw beat Thomas. “That ball was labeled base hit when the ball left the bat …” Nelson said. “Maury actually went back a step on the grass to backhand it.” The other close call occurred in the sixth inning when Richie Ashburn slapped an opposite-field line drive toward left, but Tommy Davis charged the play and caught the ball.

Koufax struck out 13 batters in the first eight innings. He walked five, including veteran Gene Woodling leading off the ninth inning. New York hit into three consecutive fielder’s choices in the ninth, the final out Felix Mantilla’s grounder to Wills, who flipped to second baseman Larry Burright to complete the no-hitter.

(Photo: After Sandy Koufax’s first career no-hitter, Dodger infielder Andy Carey took this photo of the left-hander posing in front of the clubhouse chalkboard. This was part of the “Camera in a Clubhouse” collection of 20 photos taken by Carey during the 1962 season and later sold at the Dodger Stadium souvenir stands.)

“It’s Time for Dodger Football …”

When Bob Chappuis passed away last week at age 89, he was remembered as one of the most famous football players at the University of Michigan and the runner-up in the 1947 Heisman Trophy balloting behind Notre Dame’s Johnny Lujack.

But Chappuis also was a former Brooklyn Dodger who performed at Ebbets Field. His sport wasn’t baseball, though. There was a time when Brooklyn’s baseball executives took a crack at operating a professional football team in the All-American Football Conference after World War II. The Dodgers went 3-10-1 in each of their first two seasons in the AAFC in 1946 and 1947. Chappuis was the headline attraction in 1948 for Brooklyn and signed was by Branch Rickey for a reported $17,000. The quarterback led the Dodgers in total offense, but the Dodgers went 2-12 and folded after the season.

Another “Brooklyn Dodgers” football team surfaced in 1966 and Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson was named general manager on May 2. But the team didn’t play at Ebbets Field, as it had been demolished in 1960. In its only season, the 1966 Dodgers football team played its “home” games at Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island. Small crowds early in the season forced the Dodgers to play the balance of its schedule on the road.

 The first “Brooklyn Dodgers” football team was a member of the NFL from 1930-43 and played in 1944 under the name “Brooklyn Tigers.” In 1945, the team merged with the Boston Yanks. It wasn’t affiliated with the baseball team.

(PHOTO: Borrowing a marketing tool from its from the baseball team, the Dodgers front office produced a 1948 football newsletter touting football at Ebbets Field. The cover features former University of Michigan star Bob Chappuis posing with Dodger president Branch Rickey, Brooklyn borough president John Cashmore, and Peter O’Malley, son of Dodger vice president Walter O’Malley.) 

The “Go-Go” Chicago White Sox

In 17 of their 18 World Series appearances, Dodger home games were played either at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field or Dodger Stadium. The lone exception was in 1959 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum when the Dodgers and Chicago White Sox drew crowds of more than 92,000 for each of the Games 3, 4 and 5.

Between 1941 and 1956, the Dodgers appeared in seven World Series, and in each case, the opponent was the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers dominated the era during manager Casey Stengel’s tenure as manager from 1949-60, winning 10 pennants in 12 seasons. The two exceptions were teams managed by Hall of Famer – and former Dodger catcher – Al Lopez, who guided both the 1954 Cleveland Indians and the 1959 White Sox into the World Series.

The 1959 White Sox went 94-60 during the regular season to finish five games ahead of Cleveland and 15 games ahead of the third-place Yankees. The White Sox roster featured three future Hall of Famers – second baseman Nellie Fox, shortstop Luis Aparacio and pitcher Early Wynn. A fight song was written during the season titled, “Let’s Go, Go-Go White Sox”. The 1959 pennant was the first for the White Sox since 1919 and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley celebrated by ordering his fire chief to sound the city’s air-raid sirens.

Chicago bombed the Dodgers, 11-0, in Game 1 at Comiskey Park. After the game, pitcher Don Drysdale walked onto the team bus and wondered aloud, “Is that all they got?”, which broke the tension from an embarrassing loss. The Dodgers rebounded with wins in the next three games and had a chance to close out the Series in Game 5 at the Coliseum, but Bob Shaw edged Sandy Koufax, 1-0, and the teams returned to Chicago.

In Game 6, left-hander Johnny Podres was staked to an 8-0 lead in the fourth inning, but he lasted only 3 1/3 innings. Series MVP Larry Sherry (two wins, two saves) pitched the final 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and the Dodgers won, 9-3.

Reserve outfielder Chuck Essegian became the first player to hit two pinch-hit home runs in a Fall Classic and the first Dodger to participate in both a baseball World Series and a football Rose Bowl (1952 Stanford University linebacker-halfback vs. Illinois). Essegian’s second home run occurred in the ninth inning of Game 6 when he pinch-hit for Duke Snider, who had 11 lifetime World Series home runs and wasn’t happy with manager Walter Alston’s strategy.

Essegian, a right-handed batter, was supposed to face lefty Billy Pierce, who hurt himself during his warmup pitches prior to the ninth, prompting Lopez to insert right-handed pitcher Ray Moore. Already out of the game because of the announced substitution, Snider told Essegian, “Nobody has ever pinch-hit for me in a World Series before, so you’d better hit another home run.” Essegian obliged, putting the finishing touches on a Dodger championship in just their second season on the West Coast.

Decades later, Essegian’s wife Holly asked Snider if he would sign a baseball for her husband. The message on the ball read: “Chuck – You can pinch-hit for me any time! – Duke”.

(Photo: The Chicago White Sox played Games 3, 4 and 5 of the 1959 World Series against the Dodgers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The three games drew a total of 277,750 fans and remain the three largest postseason crowds in MLB history.)

Ticket Please …

When Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, general admission patrons in the Left and Right Field Pavilions were supposed to use a “coin” system, similar to a subway token. The concept made sense in terms of saving costs of printing tickets. But the pennant race in 1962 produced “coin horders,” which meant enterprising fans would purchase extra coins to ensure seating for a Dodgers-Giants game in late July. When overflow crowds appeared around the Pavilion box offices, the coin concept was scrapped in favor of the paper tickets.

Each side of the coin featured the “LA” logos of both the Dodgers and American League Angels. During their time at Dodger Stadium from 1962-65 the Angels referred to their home games as being played at “Chavez Ravine.” The coins remained in storage at Dodger Stadium until the 30th anniversary of the ballpark in 1992 when some of the inventory was made into a three-coin gift set for season-ticket customers.

PHOTO: General admission coins from Dodger Stadium in 1962; the Dodgers Yearbook that season touted the roads to the new ballpark. The American League Angels played at “Chavez Ravine” from 1962-65.