On this date in 1895, George Herman “Babe” Ruth was born in Baltimore. Ruth started his career as a pitcher and as a member of the Boston Red Sox he recorded a 14-inning complete-game 2-1 victory over Brooklyn in Game 2 of the 1916 World Series. After his playing career ended in 1935, Ruth was out of baseball until the summer of 1938 when Dodgers President Larry MacPhail hired Ruth to coach first base for the balance of the season. Ruth wore No. 35 with the Dodgers and it was his last job in professional baseball. He passed away at age 53 in 1948.
February 5, 1956 – Hoping to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn, New York City Mayor Robert Wagner and Brooklyn Borough President Frank Cashmore sponsor a bill to create a Brooklyn Sports Center Authority, which proposes building a $30 million downtown sports center. The Dodgers will play 15 regular-season games in 1956 and 1957 during negotiations with city officials. The clock starts ticking when the Dodgers sell their home ballpark, Ebbets Field, to a real estate developer. Los Angeles political officials make contact with the Dodgers after the 1956 World Series and the team eventually moves to the West Coast after the 1957 season.
February 4, 1976 – A federal judge upholds a ruling by arbitrator Peter Seitz, who granted free agency to pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally after the 1975 season. Messersmith, coming off a 19-win season with the Dodgers in 1975, will sign with the Atlanta Braves. McNally will stay retired. Messersmith returned to the Dodgers as a free agent in 1979. During his 12-year career, Messersmith compiled a 130-99 record and 2.86 ERA with the Angels, Dodgers, Braves and Yankees.
On this date in 1919, Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, GA. Robinson grew up in Southern California and he attended Muir High School, Pasadena Junior College and UCLA. He was a four-sport letterman with the Bruins (football, track, baseball, basketball) and he played professional football prior to World War II with the Honolulu Bears and Los Angeles Bulldogs. He was scouted in the Negro Leagues by former Brooklyn catcher Clyde Sukeforth and Dodgers president Branch Rickey and he signed a pro contract with Brooklyn in October 1945. He played with the Dodgers from 1947-56 and was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962.
January 30, 1962 – The New York Mets signed former longtime Dodger first baseman Gil Hodges to a $33,000 contract for the 1962 season. The Mets selected Hodges in the expansion draft in December 1961 after Hodges had been a reserve for Los Angeles in 1960 and 1961. Hodges ranked second behind teammate Duke Snider for most home runs and RBI by a Major Leaguer during the 1950s. He later managed the Mets to a World Series title in 1969.
January 29, 1958 – Just weeks away from spring training, Dodger catcher Roy Campanella is paralyzed in an auto accident on Long Island. The three-time MVP returned to the Dodgers in 1959 after a year of physical rehabilitation. A benefit game in his honor on 5/7/59 at the Coliseum drew more than 93,000 fans. He wrote a best-selling book “It’s Good to Be Alive” and eventually outlived his original doctors. Campy, a longtime spring training instructor and frequent Dodger Stadium visitor with his wife Roxie, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 and his uniform No. 39 was retired by the Dodgers in 1972. Campanella passed away in 1993 at the age of 71.
January 25, 1945 – Former Dodger president Larry MacPhail, along with Del Webb and Dan Topping, purchase the New York Yankees for $2.8 million from the heirs of previous owner Jacob Ruppert. MacPhail as Dodger president from 1938-42 changed the fortunes of the Brooklyn franchise and then enterered World War II at age 52, accepting a commission in the United States Army and ultimately becoming a Colonel. The Yankees announced Ed Barrow would remain as the team’s general manager, but MacPhail took over his dutues a month later. MacPhail resigned from the Yankees after the 1947 World Series. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1978; his son Lee was elected to the HOF in 1998, becoming the first father-son duo at Cooperstown.
January 24, 1950 – The Brooklyn Dodgers sign Jackie Robinson to a $35,000 contract for the 1950 season, making him the highest-paid player in team history. Robinson was coming off a N.L. MVP season in 1949, winning the batting crown (.342) with 16 home runs, 124 RBI and 37 stolen bases in leading the Dodgers into the World Series.
January 22, 1988 – As a result of the Players Association’s 1985 collusion suit against the Major League owners, an arbitrator rules seven players “no risk” free agents until 3/1/88, giving them a chance to sign with other clubs even though they have existing contracts. The seven players are Juan Beniquez, Tom Brookens, Kirk Gibson, Carlton Fisk, Donnie Moore, Joe Niekro and Butch Wynegar. The Dodgers sign Gibson and he wins N.L. MVP honors in 1988 and hits a memorable pinch-hit home run coming off the bench against the Oakland Athletics in the World Series.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of entertainer Danny Kaye in Brooklyn, NY. Kaye is known by Los Angeles baseball fans for his famous 1962 “D-O-D-G-E-R-S Song” in which he sings about a mythical game between the Dodgers and Giants. Kaye later became one of the original owners of the American League expansion Seattle Mariners in 1977. When Kaye was to be honored at the Kennedy Center in 1984, he asked his good friend, Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully, to introduce him at the awards ceremony.