Fair warning: the posts on this blog for the next two or three days are going to be extremely Dodger-centric.
With stakes very high and the first World Series title in 32 years on the line, I need to distribute as many positive Dodger vibes that I can in the the foolhardy belief that it will help. Consider it a blog's version of an athlete wearing the same clothes every day in hopes of bringing some luck.
And if the Dodgers win, I'll need to celebrate with cards as well.
So with that in mind, I started thinking last night about Dodgers World Series heroes of the past. It's no surprise to Dodgers fans that there have been more than a few trials and tribulations for the team during the World Series. The Dodgers have lost more World Series than anyone, their record is 6-14. In total World Series games (including 2020, so far), they are 52-70.
But with that subpar record, they have made enough World Series to produce a good share of Series heroes. They have been around a lot longer than most teams, you know.
Many of the team's World Series heroes are familiar to fans. But I thought I'd rank them in order of greatness. Who were the greatest Dodgers on the World Series stage?
There are two ways you can go with this: you can either treat it cumulatively -- the players with the best WS totals for their career -- or you can focus on memorable moments, what sticks in fans' minds. I decided to combine the two and honor both.
There is nothing scientific here. No numbers or formulas to explain the rankings. This is just feel, from a Dodger fan, with a fondness for history, who knows that the Dodgers are more than "a bazillion-dollar team that buys all their championships," which is a complaint I have to bat down any time the Dodgers get even close to a title.
Here we go:
Dodgers fans will always remember Bob Welch as a 21-year-old rookie who struck out Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, with two on and two out in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the 1978 World Series in an epic confrontation. Welch helped preserve a 4-3 victory and a 2-0 lead in the series for the Dodgers. It all went south for L.A. after that as the Yankees won the next four games and Jackson even homered off of Welch in Game 6. But in that moment, Welch and the Dodgers were on top of the world.
Until the 1981 World Series, The Penguin's postseason exploits were confined to the League Championship Series. That changed in Game 3 against the Yankees when Cey hit a three-run home run off of Dave Righetti and then late in the game dove over the foul line in front of third base to corral Bobby Murcer's pop bunt and then throw to first to double up Larry Milbourne in the eighth inning of a 5-4 game. His performance that game helped spark the Dodgers' comeback from an 0-2 deficit to a World Series title.
Cey was beaned by Goose Gossage in Game 5 and had to be helped off the field, but he returned in Game 6 to drive in a run and was named one of three MVPs. He hit .350 that series.
Essegian hit a pinch-hit home run for the Dodgers, not once, but twice in the 1959 World Series victory over the White Sox. He hit a two-run home run to tie the game in the seventh inning in a Game 2 victory, evening the series at one game apiece. In the deciding Game 6, he hit a pinch homer in the ninth to set a record, although the Dodgers were ahead 8-3 at that point.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I know Cookie Lavagetto only for his no-hitter-busting double in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1947 World Series. The hit not only broke up Bill Bevens' attempt to throw the first no-hitter in World Series history but it won the game for the Dodgers, who had trailed 2-1 entering the inning. This was the final hit of Lavagetto's career. Quite a way to go out.
11. Max Muncy
The only current player on this list, Max Muncy is here for his 18th-inning home run in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series that ended the most epic Series game I have ever witnessed. My belief that the Dodgers could actually beat the way-too-talented Red Sox was never higher than immediately after Muncy's shot (not that it was ever very high). I still have that game recorded and I should watch it again this offseason.
Muncy is batting .389 this World Series, so if I update this post in a few years, maybe he'll move even higher on the list.
10. Sandy Amoros
Sandy Amoros' claim to fame is one of the most noted World Series events in history. Inserted as a defensive replacement in left field in the ninth inning of a 2-0 Dodgers lead in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series, the Dodgers were trying to win their first championship ever. But the Yankees put their first two batters on base and then Yogi Berra came to the plate. Berra slashed an opposite-field drive to left that appeared to be a sure double as the Dodgers' outfield had shifted to the right. But Amoros covered a tremendous amount of ground and stuck out his glove to nab the ball just before hitting the fence in the left field corner. He threw to the infield and the Dodgers doubled up Gil McDougald for the second out, ending the threat.
Amoros also hit quite well in the '55 World Series, going 4-for-17 with a home run.
9. Pedro Guerrero
Pedro Guerrero wasn't very well known to fans outside of Los Angeles when the 1981 postseason began. But by the end of the postseason, hardly a fan didn't know him.
Guerrero hit a home run in Game 5 of the World Series against the Yankees, then was all over the Dodgers' offensive explosion in Game 6. He hit a two-run triple, then hit a two-run single, then a solo home run in the game for five runs batted in, sharing MVP honors with Ron Cey and Steve Yeager. A star was born. He would soon become my favorite player.
By the way, that's an old photo on that 1982 Fleer card. Guerrero is wearing the 1980 All-Star Game patch.
8. Mickey Hatcher
Surprise, surprise, the Dodgers can be scrappy with the best of them. The 1988 World Series was expected to pit the A's hitting stars against the Dodgers' pitching prowess. But the Dodgers kept throwing out unexpected contributions from offense from the unlikeliest players.
Mickey Hatcher led them all, hitting two home runs in the World Series, each time giving the Dodgers the lead that it wouldn't surrender. Hatcher had hit one home run the entire regular season.
7. Lou Johnson
Another surprising showing. The recently departed Lou Johnson joined the Dodgers after star outfielder Tommy Davis was lost for the season in May of 1965 due to a broken ankle. Johnson hit two home runs in the 1965 World Series against the Twins. His home run in Game 7 proved to be the game-winner.
While the Yankees were beating up on the Dodgers all those World Series in the 1950s, Duke Snider kept slugging away. He hit above .300 in the 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956 World Series. And he hit four home runs each in the 1952 and 1955 World Series. The Dodgers finally produced a title for him in 1955.
The Dodgers have a few players during their current run of World Series who seem to rise to the occasion during the postseason, guys like Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernandez. But no Dodger in my viewing experience has put on a consistent show in the Series like Steve Garvey.
Garvey flat-out hit in his World Series appearances. He batted .375 in the 1977 World Series and .417 in the '81 World Series. Before I knew what a clutch-hitter was, it was Garvey in the World Series. He always seemed to produce when it mattered. He hit .319 for his career in the Series.
4. Kirk Gibson
In terms of cumulative performance, Gibson did better for the Tigers in 1984. But nobody outside of Detroit is talking about Gibson's Tigers World Series performance anymore. Gibson had one at-bat for the Dodgers in the World Series. One. And it was the most memorable one World Series at-bat of all-time, starting the Dodgers on its way to upsetting the A's in the 1988 World Series with a pinch-hit winning home run in the ninth on two bad legs.
3. Orel Hershiser
Coming off a record-setting September in 1988 when he set the consecutive scoreless inning streak, Orel Hershiser just kept the fire burning through the rest of the postseason. He won the NLCS MVP award for his performance against the Mets. Then, in the World Series, he threw a complete-game shutout in Game 2 and tossed a complete-game, four-hitter in the decisive Game 5.
The formerly geeky, will-he-ever-make-the-rotation question mark of the Dodgers solidified his legendary status with that one postseason.
2. Sandy Koufax
There is a period in the Dodgers' history when they were winning more World Series than they were losing. That period is from 1955-65 when they won four and lost just one. A big reason for that streak is Sandy Koufax.
Koufax was the main reason why the Yankees endured their first-ever sweep in the Series. He began the 1963 World Series by striking out 15 batters, a record at the time, in his first victory. He then won the decisive Game 4 with another strong performance. In 1965, Koufax famously did not start Game 1 to observe Yom Kippur. He returned for Game 2, but lost. No matter, he threw complete-game shutouts in Game 5 and Game 7 to give the Dodgers the title.
1. Johnny Podres
It must have been tough being a Dodgers fan during the first 52 years that they didn't win a World Series. Seven attempts. No wins.
This is why Johnny Podres is first among the greatest Dodgers World Series heroes. The Yankees won Game 1 and then Game 2 of the 1955 World Series and, oh, here we go. But Podres pitched a complete-game victory on his 23rd birthday in Game 3. He followed that by throwing a complete-game shutout in the Game 7 finale, finally bringing a championship to Brooklyn. He was the consensus top athlete of any sport that year.
People forget that Podres continued to do well in the World Series. He won a game in the 1959 Series and pitched a marvelous game in a victory in the 1963 Series. Who knows how things would have been different in the 1956 Series if Podres didn't miss the entire season due to military service.
So, that's my look at the top World Series heroes for the Dodgers. Apologies to Steve Yeager, Charlie Neal, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Al Gionfriddo, Fernando Valenzuela, Joe Ferguson and Preacher Roe, who all had their notable World Series moments.
Now, with the Dodgers suitably inspired, I expect some results!