Wednesday, January 19, 2011

10


The Dodgers have been very busy this offseason, adding just about anyone that will fit into their budget, which is to say they haven't added a single player who I think can help them win a World Series.

In fact, it would be more inspiring seeing Bo Derek out there in the outfield, riding her horse after fly balls, than Jay Gibbons, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames or Gabe Kapeler. Inspiring in a different kind of way, perhaps.

But this isn't a post about Derek or Dudley Moore or the movie I really, really, really wanted to see when I was 14 years old.

This is only a post about the number 10.

There are a lot of new additions to the team and I'm curious to know which Dodger will land the coveted uniform number 10. It has always been my favorite uniform number, not because of Derek's cinematic breakout but because of a player who worked for the Dodgers from the early 1970s to early 1980s.

Before and since that time, the No. 10 has been worn by Dodgers low and high. In the history of the L.A. franchise, only three players have really distinguished the No. 10. But since the most recent one departed, the number has fallen into disrepair. It was most recently worn by this man:


Now, I have nothing against Larry Bowa, other than that he sure seems to enjoy airing disputes with players in public. But Bowa was a coach with the Dodgers when he wore the No. 10. I'm sorry. That number is just too good for a coach.

Bowa is gone now and the number is up for grabs. To help me determine who will receive the honor of wearing No. 10 next, I thought I'd go through the past Dodgers who have worn it.


At the dawn of the L.A. Dodgers, the No. 10 was a catcher's number. Al "Rube" Walker, the backup to Roy Campanella, brought it over from Brooklyn.

He played only one season in L.A.; it was his last in the big leagues. With Walker's retirement, the uniform number disappeared from the big league Dodgers, too. I couldn't find any roster player to wear the No. 10 until the mid-1960s.


In 1964, a new catcher arrived and donned the number. Jeff Torborg backed up John Roseboro, so the number seemed satisfied with taking a supporting role behind the plate. Torborg never emerged from his second-string role, but he became better known as a catcher of no-hitters, a manager of teams and a broadcaster.

In 1970, Torborg departed for the Angels and the No. 10 was free again. The Dodgers were in a period of transition, about to embark on one of the most successful periods of their existence, and the No. 10 would play a crucial role.

Instead of giving the number to a backup catcher, the Dodgers presented it to a powerful, stocky infielder out of the Northwest.


Ron "The Penguin" Cey became the reason why I liked the number so much. Cey and the No. 10 participated in four World Series and six All-Star Games. Both the man and the number graced a poster on my bedroom wall. It seemed as if no one would ever wear the number again. He was as close to the perfect 10 in a baseball uniform as you could get.


But Cey was unceremoniously dumped to the Cubs and the No. 10 began to show up on players who I didn't think were deserving.

The number stayed in the infield, but the Dodgers had lots of problems in the infield after Cey left. The first player to get the number was Dave Anderson. He could barely hit .250 and had one horrific 1985 when he batted .199 in way too many at-bats.

Yet, Anderson was the sole owner of the number until he signed with (*gag*) the Giants in 1989. The Dodgers then gave the No. 10 to this man:


I think every Dodger fan had high hopes for Juan Samuel when he was acquired from the Mets for Mike Marshall and Alejandro Pena. Samuel brought the No. 10 to second base and they actually didn't do too badly together. Just not as well as everyone expected.

Samuel was released by the Dodgers in the middle of the 1992 season. The No. 10 took a hiatus until 1994.


For the first time, an outfielder wore the number. Chris Gwynn, brother to Tony, took on the number after wearing the always classy No. 69, as well as No. 15.

But Gwynn didn't wear No. 10 for long because he wasn't with the Dodgers for much longer.


The number then went to another supporting outfielder, Chad Curtis, better known for his crew-cut days with the Yankees. Chad was, shall we say, an excitable boy. He had just the one season for the Dodgers.


The No. 10 was inherited by Otis "My Man" Nixon, and it was also getting typecast as a backup, one-and-done outfielder. Nixon played a single season with the Dodgers in 1997. Just 191 plate-appearances.


The following year, the number ended up on Jose Vizcaino, who had returned to the Dodgers from the Giants. The No. 10 was back in the infield, but Vizcaino was just a backup for L.A. and I was getting concerned that the number would never enjoy the greatness that Cey brought to it in the '70s.

But then there was a trade. A uniform number trade. Vizcaino swapped his number with a teammate. The teammate, who had been wearing No. 5, would now wear No. 10.


That teammate was Gary Sheffield, who had wore No. 10 with the Marlins and Padres. He no doubt bribed Vizcaino to get the number back, and I was thrilled. If the Dodgers weren't going to retire Cey's number, it should at least be worn by a star.

Sheffield was certainly in star mode with the Dodgers, and I was back to watching No. 10 hit home runs on a regular basis. I was happy.

Of course, Sheffield and happiness can never last. I think "disenchanted" is Sheffield's primary character description. The Dodgers shipped the sour one to the Braves in a deal for Brian Jordan and Odalis Perez. And they presented the No. 10 to a player who had rejoined the Dodgers.


I was pleased about this as well. Nomo is one of my all-time favorite Dodgers, which meant two of my all-time favorites -- Cey and Nomo -- had worn No. 10. Nomo wore No. 16 during his first tour with L.A., but I remember him as wearing No. 10.

Nomo had a lousy 2004 and was allowed to sign with Tampa Bay for the 2005 season.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers went back to their old ways, and the No. 10 became the domain of transient infielders.


First it was strikeout machine Jose Valentin.


Then it was Wilson "shame on the Braves for getting our hopes up" Betemit.

In a way, I was glad when Larry Bowa took the number because it took No. 10 away from all the disappointment for awhile.

But with the beginning of the 2011 season not far off, I'm hoping that No. 10 doesn't remain in the coaches box and goes back out on the field again.

I'm realistic though. The Dodgers new acquisitions are not inspiring, and I really don't think L.A. is going to do all that well this season, unless a couple players have monster seasons. That means if the No. 10 goes to a player, it's not going to anyone awesome.

My guess is that Juan Uribe might get the No. 10, just to keep it with random, recently acquired infielders. Or, more probably, Tony Gwynn Jr. would get the number to honor his uncle, Chris. 

Neither are a perfect 10.

But then again, in the film, Dudley Moore's character rated Bo Derek's character as an "11."



(In case you care: Manny Mota currently wears 11 for the Dodgers).

10 comments:

  1. Wow! Very informative. You're probably right about Gwynn

    ReplyDelete
  2. My Top Ten of All Time

    1. Angelina Jolie
    2. Bo Derek
    3. Jenny McCarthy
    4. Sophia Loren
    5. Kate Hudson
    6. Ursula Andress
    7. Fergie
    8. Jennifer Lopez
    9. Susan Hendricks (HLN)
    10. Kelly Ripa

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love that I keep reading your blog, even though I never cared about the dodgers before or after the 88 series (6th grade temp. A's fan) nice post.
    a 10.

    Peterson

    ReplyDelete
  4. You are going to get allot of hits to this post. Would be even more if the bikini pic was the one at the top.

    Way to pad the stats.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Night Owl,
    I don't have the Dodger cards myself to do this (or the dedication to write as you do) but if you turned this post into a series (by starting with the number 1 and then counting up) it would make for some very entertaining reading.
    Just my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is hands-down one of the best posts I've ever read on a card blog. Your creativity continues to amaze, Greg.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I could write this exact post except #10=Guy Lafleur.
    And the fact Montreal had the sense to retire the number.
    But other than that I could....

    ReplyDelete
  8. The top picture caught my eye, I read the post, came up with some insightful and witty comment and then lost my train of thought at the end for some reason.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I never want to get that mental image I've formed of Bo galloping across centre field at full tilt especially in that bikini at the end.
    I can now honestly say I subscribe to the Owl for the pictures!

    ReplyDelete
  10. My favorite Jeff Torborg fact: His son Dale used to be an MLB trainer (for the Marlins, Expos, and White Sox), and also wrestled in WCW as "the KISS Demon" (yes, it was a crossover with the shamelessly self-promoting rock band).

    Your feelings about the Dodgers' recent treatment of #10 are similar to my thoughts about the Orioles and #26. It's not my favorite number, but Boog Powell's digits deserve better than to be worn by the likes of Scott Moore and Fernando Cabrera.

    ReplyDelete