January 17, 1977 – The Kansas City Royals release designated hitter Tommy Davis, ending his 17-year Major League career. A New York prep star in 1956, Davis was courted by the Yankees and Dodgers and he signed with Brooklyn after a phone call from Jackie Robinson. Davis made his MLB debut with Los Angeles in 1959 and he won consecutive batting titles in 1962 (.346) and 1963 (.326). He also holds the L.A. single-season mark for most hits (230) and RBI (153), both set in 1962.
January 16, 1996 – The MLB executive council approves interleague play, beginning with the 1997 season, opening the door for such regional matchups like the Yankees and Mets in New York; the White Sox and Cubs in Chicago; and the Dodgers and Angels in Southern California. The Los Angeles Angels joined the American League in 1961 and spent their inaugural season at the former minor league ballpark of the Pacific Coast League L.A. Angels, Wrigley Field. The Angels played at Dodger Stadium from 1962-65, but called the ballpark “Chavez Ravine” on its ticket stock and publications. The first spring game between the Dodgers and Angels was held in Palm Springs in 1962 and the teams began playing exhibition series at Dodger Stadium beginning in 1963.
January 15, 1957 – The Brooklyn Dodgers extend their five-year lease on Ebbets Field by signing a new three-year lease with real estate developer Marvin Kratter, who bought the field in 1953. But the lease didn’t keep the Dodgers in town. After acquiring the territorial rights to the Southern California area from Chicago Cubs owner Phil Wrigley, who also owned the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels and its Wrigley Field ballpark, the Brooklyn franchise relocated to the West Coast after the 1957 season. Instead of playing at the 22,000-seat Wrigley Field, the Dodgers moved into a larger temporary home – the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Former Dodger teammates Derrel Thomas (1951) and Terry Forster (1952) were born on this date. Forster and Thomas were among the early veterans signed from other organizations at the dawn of the free-agency era, each signing a five-year contract with the Dodgers. Forster (1978-82) was a relief pitcher who with L.A. went 11-13 in 150 games with 27 saves. Thomas (1979-83) played every position except pitcher with the Dodgers and in 522 games compiled a .257 batting average with 12 home runs, 100 RBI and 43 stolen bases.
January 11, 1977 – The Dodgers acquire outfielder Rick Monday and pitcher Mike Garman in a five-player deal with the Chicago Cubs. L.A. sent outfielder Bill Buckner and infielder Ivan DeJesus to the Cubs. Monday already was a hero in Los Angeles for saving the American flag from burning during a Dodgers-Cubs game on 4/25/76. Monday, who attended Santa Monica High School and Arizona State University, was the first player selected in the inaugural amateur draft in 1965 (picked by Athletics). Monday would play on three Dodger pennant-winners, including the 1981 World Champions. Monday joined the Dodger broadcasting booth in 1993.
January 9, 1976 – The San Francisco Giants announce the franchise has been sold to a group of investors in Toronto for $13.3 million. San Francisco mayor George Moscone obtains a preliminary injunction to prevent the impending move and behind the scenes the Dodgers and other MLB owners discuss how to keep the Giants in San Francisco. The team eventually is purchased by real estate developer Bob Lurie and a group of investors for $8 million on March 2, 1976. The American League later awarded expansion teams to Toronto and Seattle. In October 1992, Lurie announced he was going to sell the Giants to a group in St. Petersburg, FL, but the N.L. nixed the deal and Lurie sold the Giants to S.F. investors, preserving a Dodgers-Giants geographical rivalry dating back to the 1880s.
January 7, 1985 – Knuckleball pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Wilhelm broke into the Majors with the New York Giants in 1952 and he appeared in a then-record 1,070 games. He finished his career with the Dodgers (1971-72), joining Los Angeles two weeks shy of his 49th birthday. The eight-time All-Star posted a lifetime 143-122 record and 2.52 ERA. In the Billy Crystal movie “61”, Wilhelm’s character is portrayed by fellow knuckleball pitcher Tom Candiotti.
January 4, 1957 – The Dodgers become the first team to own their own aircraft when the team buys a 44-passenger two-engine airplane for $775,000. Walter O’Malley added to the order of Eastern Air Lines to purchase the plane directly the Convair factory, with the assistance of his friend, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, president of Eastern Airlines. Eastern had ordered 20 planes from the Convair factory in San Diego. The Dodger plane was equipped with automatic pilot, the only difference from the other 20 planes, along with “Brooklyn Dodgers” in script on the side. The Dodgers took delivery of the plane in March 1957.
On this date in 1910, future Dodger outfielder Stanley “Frenchy” Bordagaray was born in Coalinga, CA. Bordagaray was best known for arriving at the team’s 1936 spring training camp with a mustache, which he grew for a bit role in the film “The Prisoner of Shark Island.” Ballplayers at the time were expected to be clean shaven and no player since 1914 had worn a mustache. Brooklyn sportswriters encouraged Bordagaray to grow out the mustache and goatee, but manager Casey Stengel months later made the player shave. Stengel told Bordagaray, “If anyone’s going to be a clown on this team, it’s going to be me.” Mustaches were not seen in the Majors again until the early 1970s when Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley paid his players to grow facial hair. Finley hosted a “mustache day” at the Oakland ballpark and he invited Bordagaray to serve as master of ceremonies. Bordagaray passed away in Ventura in 2000 at the age of 90. He compiled a lifetime .283 average with five teams from 1934-41.