The families of former Dodger catcher John Roseboro and Giants pitcher Juan Marichal are expected to be in attendance on December 5 for the performance of “Juan and John,” a one-man stage production at New York Public Theater by actor Roger Smith, who witnessed the incident on television when he was six years old. A horrified Smith burned his Marichal baseball card after the pitcher struck Roseboro over the head with a bat during the famous incident at Candlestick Park during the pennant race on August 22, 1965. The play traces the events after the game, including the eventually friendship between the two men and Marichal ultimately delivering the eulogy at Roseboro’s funeral in 2002. The play runs through December 20 and Smith hopes to bring the production to the Los Angeles area in 2010. Here is a recent interview with Smith and Playbill Magazine.
— Mark Langill
Still imagining a Yankees-Dodgers World Series matchup?
This is the “phantom” 1962 World Series program cover, produced before Los Angeles lost a best-of-three format National League tiebreaker against San Francisco at the end of the regular season. In the final game at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers took a 4-2 lead into the top of the ninth inning, but San Francisco rallied for four runs and won the pennant.
For older fans, there was a Dodgers-Yankees program cover made for the 1951 World Series, which instead became a collector’s item when Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” three-run home run for the New York Giants in the bottom of the ninth inning beat the Dodgers, 5-4, in the third and deciding playoff game.
Another late-season heartbreak for the Dodgers led to the previous World Series matchup between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees in 1950. The Phillies held a seven-game lead on September 23, but the Dodgers eventually cut the deficit to one with one game remaining on October 1. Needing a victory against the Phillies at Ebbets Field to force a playoff, the Dodgers wasted a bases-loaded opportunity in the bottom of the ninth against Robin Roberts and lost, 4-1, in 10 innings on Dick Sisler’s three-run home run.
Sisler was the son of George Sisler, the Hall of Fame infielder who in 1950 was working for the Dodgers as a scout and sitting behind the Brooklyn dugout. Asked after the game about watching his son beat the Dodgers, George Sisler replied, “I feel awful and terrific at the same time.”
The Phillies advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1915, but lost in four straight against Casey Stengel’s Yankees.
— Mark Langill
In the afterglow of Thursday’s comeback in Game 2 of the Division Series, a guest in the Dodger offices posed this unique question: “What were you thinking when Mark Loretta was in the batter’s box?” Standing on the top deck and taking photos of a towel-waving crowd at sunset, the obvious hope was for Loretta to drive in a run, which he did with a single to cap a 3-2 victory.
But during his at-bat, I remembered the afternoon of February 28 in Arizona when Loretta introduced himself to broadcaster Vin Scully in the lunch room of the Camelback Ranch spring training facility. Scully arrived a day early to prepare for the telecast of the team’s first exhibition game. Individual players and coaches stopped by with their greetings.
When Loretta approached, Scully stood and offered a welcoming handshake. Loretta said, “My aunt met you …” and Scully happily picked up the story from an offseason charity event in which Scully was being honored. While escorting the award recipient to the stage to a backdrop of applause, the hostess whispered to Scully, “My nephew is Mark Loretta, the new Dodger.”
For a local product who grew up in Arcadia and attended St. Francis High School in La Canada, the 15th season of his Major League career was a chance to play for the hometown Dodgers. He batted .232 in 107 games as a reserve, but with one swing of the bat in October, Loretta suddenly took his place alongside other Dodgers whose hits have won playoff games, including Cookie Lavagetto (1947), Carl Furillo (1959), Bill Russell (1978) and Kirk Gibson (1988).
— Mark Langill
With the All-Star Game in St. Louis now behind us, the history of the Mid-Summer Classic includes a couple unlikely Dodger selections, one as a write-in candidate and the other amazing story of a Dodger All-Star who never played for the Dodgers.
In 1974, first baseman Steve Garvey earned National League MVP honors while helping the Dodgers make their first World Series appearance since 1966. But Garvey wasn’t a household name at the beginning of the season and he did not appear on the All-Star ballot. Garvey, though, would join Rico Carty (1970 Braves) as the only write-in candidates to be elected to the N.L. starting lineup. Garvey became a 10-time All-Star with the Dodgers and Padres and he earned All-Star Game MVP honors in 1974 and 1978.
The other surprising Los Angeles All-Star is relief pitcher Jeff Shaw, whom the Dodgers acquired from the Cincinnati Reds on the weekend before the 1998 All-Star Game. Instead of reporting to Los Angeles, which was playing in San Francisco, Shaw traveled from Cincinnati to Denver, site of the All-Star Game. Shaw hadn’t yet pitched for his new team, but nevertheless donned a Dodger uniform.
— Mark Langill
Former longtime Dodger executive Dick Walsh visited Dodger Stadium on Friday with his son and grandson. The former Los Angeles High baseball standout joined the Dodgers’ Double-A Ft. Worth Cats of the Texas League in 1948 after his military service. Walsh worked his way up the ladder and returned to Los Angeles in 1957 when the Dodgers purchased the L.A. Angels of the Pacific Coast League. As assistant general manager, Walsh served as Walter O’Malley’s representative during the construction of Dodger Stadium. Walsh became the first director of stadium operations in 1962.
During Friday’s visit, Walsh spent time with Dodger owner Frank McCourt and ran into some familiar faces, including broadcasters Vin Scully, Jaime Jarrin, and longtime Dodger employee Bill DeLury.
Near the entrance to the Top of the Park Gift Store, there is a plaque from the stadium dedication ceremonies on April 12, 1962, two days after the home opener against Cincinnati. The plaque includes the names of O’Malley, architect Emil Praeger, chief field engineer Ira Hoyt, Vinnell Constructors and “Dick Walsh, V. Pres. Stadium Coordinator.”
Walsh, 84, was asked to pose next to the plaque and he eventually pointed to his name at the bottom of the plaque, which caught the attention of a Dodger fan about to walk into the store.
“Is that you?” he asked, prompting a modest nod from Walsh. The fan shook Walsh’s hand and said, “I just want to thank you for building such a beautiful stadium.”
— Mark Langill
A team winning its first 13 games at home will bring inevitable comparisons to its success on the road. And keeping the 13-0 start at Dodger Stadium in perspective is easy when considering the 1911 Detroit Tigers won their first 12 home games en route to a second-place finish in the American League, 13 ½ games behind the Philadelphia Athletics.
So what does a road record mean for a team hoping to make the playoffs? In the case of the Dodgers, Los Angeles has posted four consecutive losing records on the road, but two of those seasons resulted in trips to the playoffs.
Here are the Dodger road records during the past 10 seasons: 2008 (36-45), 2007 (39-42), 2006 (39-42), 2005 (31-50), 2004 (44-37), 2003 (39-42), 2002 (46-35), 2001 (42-39), 2000 (42-39), 1999 (40-41).
Now check out the regular-season road records for the past 10 World Series winning teams: 2008 Phillies (44-37), 2007 Red Sox (45-36), 2006 Cardinals (34-47), 2005 White Sox (52-29), 2004 Red Sox (43-38), 2003 Marlins (38-43), 2002 Angels (45-36), 2001 Diamondbacks (44-37), 2000 Yankees (43-38), 1999 Yankees (50-31).
– Mark Langill
Speaking of being on the road, “On the Road” author Jack Kerouac, a favorite of mine, apparently was a fantasy baseball player. Sort of. Check out this story in today’s NY Times. Makes me even more proud of the Kerouac bobblehead that sits on my desk back at Dodger Stadium.
Here’s tonight’s lineup:
Mark Langill points out the following:
The return of outfielder Manny Ramirez in 2009 gives the Dodgers their most prolific slugger to begin a season in terms of his 527 lifetime home runs. The previous Opening Day record was the 503 career home runs that Hall of Fame outfielder Frank Robinson brought into his only season with the Dodgers after being acquired from the Baltimore Orioles. Robinson, who was 36 on Opening Day 1972, hit 19 home runs in 103 games with Los Angeles. He played through 1976 and finished with 586 home runs.
Free agent first baseman Fred McGriff joined the Dodgers in 2003 at age 39 with 478 home runs, but hit just 13 in 86 games and the Los Angeles marketing department’s “500” logo anticipating McGriff’s milestone remained in permanent storage. McGriff played one more season in 2004 with Tampa Bay, but hit only two and retired at 493.
When Eddie Murray returned to Los Angeles in September 1997 for his second stint as a Dodger, he had 504 home runs. That number didn’t change as Murray had two singles in seven at-bats and he retired after the season.
The chase for 600 home runs puts Ramirez in uncharted waters as no player has ever hit career home run No. 400 or 500 in a Dodger uniform. The franchise career home run record is held by Hall of Famer Duke Snider, who hit 389 with Brooklyn (316) and Los Angeles (73) from 1947 to 1962. First baseman Gil Hodges holds the Brooklyn franchise record for most home runs with 317 from 1947 to 1957 (and hit 361 overall as a Dodger through 1961 to rank No.2 behind Snider). The record for Los Angeles home runs is held by Eric Karros, who hit 270 from 1992 to 2002.
So who holds the record for owning the most career home runs while wearing a Dodger uniform? Alas, it’s a trick question. Babe Ruth, at the time baseball’s home run king at 714, coached first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1938 season.
Here’s today’s lineup against the Rangers (who actually have Andruw Jones hitting fourth)
As you all know by now, Andre Ethier and the Dodgers settled, which is always a best-case scenario. I know that there are a ton of Ethier fans on Inside the Dodgers and you have been very vocal about wanting to avoid arbitration, which we all did. It looks like our favorite food critic will be making a great salary this year while still finding a way to find a middle ground with the club. Hopefully, he can send in a new review for Dining with Dre soon.
The rest of the day here was filled with more workouts, including some bunting practice for the pitchers. Team historian Mark Langill weighs in regarding one of the best bunters in baseball history, Maury Wills:
Fifty years ago, Maury Wills spent spring training in 1959 with the Detroit Tigers, which selected the journeyman infielder in the previous winter’s minor league draft. But the Tigers opted not to keep Wills for the $40,000 fee, so he returned to Triple-A Spokane to begin the regular season.
Wills received a surprise promotion to Los Angeles in June after general manager Buzzie Bavasi noticed a hole on the top of Don Zimmer’s baseball shoe while standing near the batting cage. Zimmer was hiding a broken toe. Wills batted .260 in 83 games for Los Angeles to help the Dodgers win their first championship on the West Coast.
Zimmer was long considered by Bavasi and other Dodger brass as the eventual replacement for longtime shortstop Pee Wee Reese, who retired after the 1958 season. But Spokane manager Bobby Bragan, who suggested Wills learn to switch-hit in 1958, thought the speedy Wills had the potential to be a star.
“(Wills) did a fairly good job wherever he was sent, but he was never spectacular,” Bavasi wrote of Wills’ first eight seasons in the Dodger minor league system from 1951 to 1958. “Nor did he figure in the Dodger plans. I once made the statement if I had someone offered me $11 and a bag of potato chips for Maury’s contract, I’d have sold him.”
Wills, the 1962 National League MVP, stole 586 bases during his 14-year career.