Scioscia vs. Mattingly

During the 11 seasons their respective careers overlapped from 1982-92, Mike Scioscia and Don Mattingly lived separate lives in the baseball universe. Each played more than 1,400 regular-season games and wore only one Major League uniform as a player. But because interleague play didn’t arrive until 1997, and Mattingly’s rookie season was one year after the 1981 Dodgers-Yankees World Series, Scioscia and Mattingly appeared in only one game together.

The 1989 All-Star Game in Anaheim was the first of Scioscia’s two All-Star selections. He was named to the 1989 National League squad as a reserve by Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. In 1990, Scioscia became the first Dodger catcher to start an All-Star Game since Hall of Famer Roy Campanella in 1954. Mattingly was a six-time All-Star first baseman in consecutive seasons from 1984-89.

The 1989 All-Star rosters featured Tony Gwynn (Padres), Tim Wallach (Expos), Pedro Guerrero (Cardinals), Barry Larkin (Reds) and Eric Davis (Reds). The Dodgers were represented by Scioscia, second baseman Willie Randolph, starting pitcher Orel Hershiser and reliever Jay Howell. The American League squad included Wade Boggs (Red Sox), Bo Jackson (Royals), Mark McGwire (Athletics), Steve Sax (Yankees), Jeffrey Leonard (Brewers), Kirby Puckett (Twins) and Nolan Ryan (Rangers). Jackson and Boggs opened the American League’s first inning with home runs off San Francisco’s Rick Reuschel and the A.L. scored five runs in the first three innings en route to a 5-3 victory.

The Scioscia-Mattingly showdown? Unfortunately, there is no photo of the future Dodger manager at the plate with Scioscia giving signs to the pitcher. They were in the game at the same time for just one inning. Scioscia replaced starting catcher Benito Santiago (Padres) in the fourth inning. He flied to left field in the fifth inning in his only at-bat against Mike Moore (Athletics). Tony Pena (Cardinals) pinch-hit for  Scioscia in the top of the seventh. Mattingly entered the game on defense in the sixth and his only at-bat occurred in seventh and he doubled off Howell.

Scioscia and Mattingly were actually “teammates” three years later during the February 20, 1992 episode of The Simpsons. The animated television show used the voices of Major League players as part of a storyline in which Homer Simpson’s boss, Mr. Burns, hires players for his Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team: Mattingly, Scioscia, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey Jr., Roger Clemens, Steve Sax, Ozzie Smith, Jose Canseco and Darryl Strawberry.

But eight of the nine ringers end up missing the game for various reasons. Scioscia’s character gets radiation poisoning from working at the power plant. Mattingly’s character is fired by Mr. Burns for refusing to shave his nonexistent sideburns. Many assume Mattingly’s storyline was a parody of the real-life incident in which the Yankees insisted their star player get a haircut or be benched. But the Simpsons episode was written a year before the haircut controversy.

Photo: If anyone had a crystal ball, the 1989 All-Star Game could’ve touted the only meeting between two future Southern California baseball managers …

Jaime Jarrin

The Dodgers celebrate the career of broadcaster Jaime Jarrin on Monday with a commemorative T-shirt and pregame ceremony. He started in 1959 and covered the home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and went to a studio in Pasadena to recreate the road games on radio. Jarrin took center stage in 1981 as the interpreter for rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela and eventually was named to the broadcaster’s wing of the Hall of Fame in 1998.

But sometimes overlooked in the Jarrin story is the near-fatal car accident during spring training in 1990 and his courageous recovery. On March 24, Jarrin drove from the team’s spring training headquarters to a mall in Vero Beach in search of a blank audio tape for a 15-second radio commercial. While making a left-hand turn on a green light, Jarrin’s car was struck by a large pickup truck and was thrown 100 feet.

Jarrin would spend the next four months at the Indian River Hospital with serious internal injuries. He lost his spleen and gallbladder. His left lung had collapsed and fluids leaking from his liver went undetected for the first three weeks and nearly killed him. He needed a second surgery and was given only an eight-percent chance of survival. His weight plunged from 165 to 120 pounds.

Jarrin’s wife Blanca stayed behind in Vero Beach after the team left for Los Angeles. She was allowed in his room for five minutes every hour during the seven weeks of intensive care, so for 55 minutes she would return to the lobby. “She paid such a huge price,” Jarrin said of Blanca. “It was really unbelievable.”

After his accident, Jarrin didn’t know if he would again broadcast games because of his collapsed lung. He tried watching baseball games on television early in his rehabilitation and turned it off after 15 seconds because he was so tired. Jarrin was also frustrated because he couldn’t be moved to a larger facility because of his condition. In mid-June, doctors predicted three more weeks in the hospital and Jarrin called Blanca and said he was going to die in the hospital. Blanca called Dodgers team physician Dr. Frank Jobe and asked him to tell her husband it would only be 10 more days. That changed Jarrin’s mood and 10 days later he was on his way home.

As the 1990 All-Star Game approached, Jarrin remembered his commitment to CBS Radio to broadcast the Mid-Summer Classic from Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Slowly but surely, Jarrin made enough progress and reached his goal of walking into the Wrigley Field press box on July 10. The first person he saw was longtime friend Vin Scully, who was broadcasting the English version for CBS Radio.

“Someone took a photo of Vin and me in the broadcast booth at the All-Star Game,” Jarrin said. “That picture tells me I was probably reborn on that day. That picture tells me so much, and I cherish it like no other one. That’s when my life in baseball started again.”

(Photo: Jaime Jarrin poses with street sign named in his honor at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL after his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998)

No-Hit? No Way!

During a Dodger Adult Camp in Vero Beach, FL, Duke Snider looked back at the Dodgers-Yankees rivalry in the World Series and pondered the odds of a perfect game. “I guess if you played enough times, there was a chance someone might do it,” Snider said. “But of all the people in baseball … and it’s Don Larsen.”

The journeyman retired all 27 batters he faced in a 2-0 victory in Game 5 of the 1956 Fall Classic at Yankee Stadium. Larsen in his career posted an 81-91 regular-season record, including a 3-21 mark in 1954.

Which makes Friday’s no-hitter by six Seattle pitchers against the Dodgers the most surprising by an opponent in Los Angeles history. The others (John Candelaria, 1975 Pirates; Nolan Ryan, 1981 Astros; Tom Browning, 1988 Reds; Dennis Martinez, 1991 Expos; Kent Mercker, 1994 Braves) were complete games of at least nine innings by one pitcher. Browning and Martinez were perfect.

(PHOTO: Dennis Martinez’s 1991 perfect game jersey vs. Dodgers on display at Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY) Image

Maury’s Spokane Experiment

The Dodgers playing in Seattle this weekend brings to mind the career minor-league shortstop who at age 25 tried switch-hitting at the suggestion of his manager at Triple-A Spokane. Maury Wills was in his eighth year of professional baseball and seemingly forgotten in the Dodger organization, playing behind veteran Pee Wee Reese and touted prospects Don Zimmer and Bobby Lillis.

Spokane manager Bobby Bragan noticed one day Wills took his swings from the left side during his final round of batting practice to save time. “Sometimes you just notice things,” Bragan said. “He just looked natural doing it.” The pair worked on Wills batting left-handed after a long homestand, figuring there would be less pressure on the road.

The Dodgers sold Wills’ contract to the Detroit Tigers during spring training in 1959 on a “trial” basis, but the Tigers were unimpressed and returned him. Wills was returned to Spokane and promoted to Los Angeles during the summer of 1959 because Zimmer was nursing a broken toe.

Wills would steal 586 bases during his Major League career from 1959-72, including 104 during his N.L. MVP campaign in 1962.

“I wanted to quit 100 times, but I couldn’t go through with it because I love the game too much,” says Wills, who serves as a Dodger baserunning instructor. “I like encouraging young players because God blessed me with meeting Bobby Bragan and he turned me around, so one person can make a difference.”

Remembering Tim Crews

After a 20-year absence, Tricia Crews-Prine wasn’t sure what to expect when driving to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday morning. She grew up at the ballpark watching her father, Tim Crews, a relief pitcher with Los Angeles from 1987-92. The following spring, Crews was a member of the Cleveland Indians and he passed away in a tragic boating accident that claimed the life of Cleveland reliever Steve Olin and seriously injured former Dodger pitcher Bob Ojeda.

“Driving to the stadium, there were times I got teary-eyed, thinking about going back,” said Crews-Prine, who was eight years old at the time of the accident. “I had a lot of flashbacks about all the things we used to do when we lived here. It was almost overwhelming to think I hadn’t been back in 20 years. It was hard for me to remember when was there before and what was new. My mom would tell me where we’d sit for the games.”

Crews-Prine, today a veterinarian in Florida, toured Dodger Stadium with one of her father’s former teammates, Jim Gott, who was on a break this week as a minor league pitching instructor in the Angels organization. They traded stories while visiting the suite level, press box, Stadium Club restaurant, Dodger clubhouse, bullpen area and Dugout Club. She posed for photos next to her father’s name on the history wall.

Gott fondly recalled the parties and other social functions with the Dodger families and remembered Tim’s subtle sense of humor. As the subject of trade rumors, Gott spent the spring of 1992 wondering if he would stay with the Dodgers. Crews would always greet Gott with the same question, “You still here?”

During spring training 1992, the O’Malley family staged “The Santa-Express at Dodgertown,” a party for the Dodger family members that included train rides, cookie frosting, hat making and face painting. The back of the invitation featured Tricia’s drawing of Santa Claus and a reindeer wearing an “LA” cap.

“My fondest memories are the family games on the field and the fashion shows that included the player and the kids,” she said. “At Dodgertown, I remember winning a Hula Hoop contest. Today, it was pretty cool to see everything at the ballpark and seeing people who used to know my dad and hear their stories. My mom and dad appreciated those other players and their families a lot, so it’s always nice to see or hear from them.”

Letters to Home

ImageSeveral years ago, Steve Garvey made a surprising discovery when helping his parents move into an assisted living facility. His mother, Millie, had saved every letter Steve had written from Michigan State University and later from his early days as a Dodger minor leaguer. Among the letters was the one from the Dodgers via registered mail, informing Garvey he had been selected in the 1968 Free Agent Draft. Also among the paperwork saved by Millie Garvey was a brochure for the “Third Annual Michigan State University Baseball Coaches Clinic – Feb. 24, 1968.” Among the instructors was Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Marshall, who also was a MSU Doctoral Candidate. In 1974, Steve Garvey (N.L. MVP) and Mike Marshall (Cy Young Award) would key the Dodgers to the team’s first pennant since 1966.

Introduction by Mark Langill

Image

“How does one become a team historian?”

That is the most common question asked when introduced as a member of the Dodger front office. The answer? In my case, don’t hit the ball in Little League and you’re well on your way to a life filled with reference books, trading cards and anything else related to the sport and the hometown franchise.

When I was in first grade, the local library staged a Saturday book fair and a classmate excitedly announced she had spotted a book that I probably would enjoy. Several minutes later, she returned with the prize: “The Los Angeles Dodgers, by Paul Zimmerman.” The book, published in 1960 on the heels of the Dodgers winning the 1959 World Series, featured biographical sketches of the players of the time (Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, John Roseboro, Don Drysdale) along with a section tracing the franchise roots in Brooklyn.

The back of the book listed the linescores of every postseason game in Brooklyn. So while others in elementary school might remember such historic dates as 1492 and 1776, a young Dodger fan learned 1916, 1920, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956 were known as the “World Series years.”

I attended my first Dodger game at age seven on July 15, 1972. The Dodgers lost to the Montreal Expos, 3-2, and I watched with my family from the Field Box section – Aisle 44, Row M, Seat 1. That was nearly 40 years ago, and I still remember like it was yesterday, noticing the numbers change on the third-base auxiliary scoreboard and wondering why the persons in the next row were making pencil notations in the middle of their magazine.

The goal for this Dodger History blog is to offer a variety of stories, mementos and other artifacts relating to the franchise history. The wins and losses run in cycles, but the memories remain for the fans and players, especially those alumni who were lucky enough to reach the Majors. The modern-day Dodgers wear blinders and can’t worry yet about their place in history. A big leaguer’s career can consist of 15 at-bats or 15 years, and trying to guess when it will end makes someone suddenly feel vulnerable in a sport that requires confidence for the moment at hand. There will be plenty of time later to reflect.