Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Dodgers' Hall of Very Good


I am continuing my recollection of when the Dodgers were good by focusing on the large number of exceptional players that the Dodgers have had in their history.

This was brought on by two things that happened over the weekend. One was the Diamondbacks retiring Luis Gonzalez's number.

I'm a stickler on things like that, and I don't think Gonzalez warranted having his number retired. These are the things that 12-year-old organizations do, I suppose, but I believe that you basically should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame or have played virtually your whole career for an organization to get a retired number. The Dodgers have retired 10 numbers. Nine are of people in the Hall of Fame. The other is Jim Gilliam, who died at age 49.

The second thing was the Indians and Orioles inducting former members into their respective team Halls of Fame. This is a pretty standard practice for a lot of teams. Several have a "team Hall of Fame," which I consider the junior varsity of Halls of Fame. I don't have a problem with establishing a museum in which a team recognizes the area's baseball heritage and the players who contributed mightily to that heritage. That's cool. I just cringe when I hear people like Charles Nagy and Greg Gagne being called "Hall of Famers." Ack. Trust me, I had both of them on my fantasy teams. Neither of them did anything on my team worthy of induction.

The Dodgers don't have a team Hall of Fame, as far as I know. For them, and several others teams, you are a Hall of Famer only when Cooperstown says so. That's fine by me.

So, even though I admire my team's "high standards," that leaves an awful lot of players who haven't been recognized in the traditional sense. I mean, the Dodgers' history goes back to 1890, and it's featured some darn good players, once the first 40 or 50 years went by, that is.

Fifty Dodgers players and managers have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Some of them played only a year or two for the Dodgers. But that doesn't matter, because I'm not even going to recognize Snider or Koufax or Robinson or Vance today. Instead, I'm recognizing the Dodgers' non-Hall players. These are the best of those who have not made the Hall. They are the Dodgers' own Hall of Very Good. They are the most famous of those who didn't make the Hall of Fame.

I came up with a top 30 list. But I skipped some notable players, like Darryl Strawberry and Pedro Martinez, because I don't think most people think of them as Dodgers.

I also didn't go too far back into history with these guys, because, let's face it -- "famous" for a lot of people means they remember them. Not many people remember Freddie Fitzsimmons or Jake Daubert, as good as they might have been.

Even with a top 30, several notable players were left out, including Ron Perranoski, featured up top, as well as Mike Scioscia, Charlie Hough, Shawn Green, Brett Butler, Ramon Martinez, Phil Regan, Bill Buckner and Preacher Roe. All great Dodgers. But this ain't the Diamondbacks here.

I did this very quickly, because "fame" isn't really something you can quantify specifically, and, by that I mean I'm too lazy to come up with a way to quantify it.

OK, the top 30:


30. Dixie Walker: A hero to Brooklyn fans in the 1940s for his tremendous hitting, especially when he faced the Giants. He's known more now for his initial refusal to play with Jackie Robinson when Robinson came into the league in 1947. Walker, born in the South, felt shame for his decision years later and became a longtime coach in the Dodgers organization.


29. Manny Mota: Once the greatest pinch-hitter ever known, Mota is mostly known now for his longevity in the Dodgers organization as a coach. But I don't think Dodger fans will ever forget all the big hits he came up with during his career with L.A.


28. Tommy Davis: 1962 stats: 120 runs, 230 hits, 27 HRs, 153 RBIs, .18 SBs, 346 AVG, .374 OBP, .910 OPS. The 1963 season was pretty good, too, especially the winning the World Series part. By Diamondbacks standards, Davis should have had his uniform number retired. I don't know. Maybe he should have.


27. Bill Russell: If you're a Dodger fan, you rank Russell a lot higher. But even though he spent all that time in the Dodger organization, I just don't think he received a lot of recognition outside of the team and the team's fans. Unfortunately, when you're quiet, your fame-quotient suffers.


26. Steve Sax: Sax's career with the Dodgers wasn't as long as Russell's, but I bet more people know about him. Part of that is because he had a more recent career, part is because he played for the Yankees, and part is because a lot of young fans seemed attached to him when he was playing. I know I thought he was cool. Until he couldn't figure out how to throw.


25. Bob Welch: As hyper as they come, but he sure could pitch. Welch is on here for striking out Reggie Jackson in the 1978 World Series, and for overcoming alcoholism, and for winning 27 games for some other team. He's not on here for not returning my TTM request.


24. Jerry Reuss: Here's a guy who's ability to stay in the public spotlight, through broadcasting and connecting with fans, etc., has kept his fame alive. Reuss was probably the most consistent starter for the Dodgers in the 1980s, and a fun-loving guy, who appeared on Solid Gold, yet somehow maintained his credibility.


23. Frank Howard: The first pure slugger for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Howard was a 6-foot-8 Rookie of the Year in 1960 and helped L.A. sweep the Yankees in the 1963 World Series.


22. Reggie Smith: One of my favorite players during the late 1970s, I always thought Smith didn't get enough credit for the Dodgers' success of that time.


21: Jim Gilliam: The Dodgers' top lead-off hitter during the 1950s. Gilliam won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1953 and replaced Jackie Robinson at second base. Dodger fans of the 1970s know Gilliam more as a coach and for his abrupt death in 1978.


20. Eric Karros: Some younger Dodger fans might place Karros higher -- he is L.A.'s all-time leader in career home runs, after all. But, for me, Karros was never anyone I got excited over. He was good. He was steady. And I probably should have respected him more.


19. Dusty Baker: (I'm having scanner issues, by the way). A tremendously clutch hitter for the Dodgers. Now known as a manager who has done pretty well for himself even though he's endured his share of criticism.


18. Carl Furillo: One of the best arms the Dodgers have ever had. He had a huge following in Brooklyn and was a Boy of Summer.


17. Tommy John: John's 20-win season after undergoing revolutionary surgery was one of the most triumphant moments that I have experienced as a Dodger fan. It was truly amazing at the time.


16. Carl Erskine: Yet another Dodger that makes me proud to be a Dodger fan. A great humanitarian. He just cares about people. And he once held the World Series record for most strikeouts in a game. That's something, too.


15. Raul Mondesi: A beast. We all thought he was going to be the greatest player the Dodgers ever had. He was pretty damn good for awhile, but expectations are a bitch. Probably higher on here than he should be, but he's got a lot of fans.


14. Pedro Guerrero: Another guy who could hit like crazy and came with a lot of expectations (and some baggage). I immediately adopted him as my favorite player after Ron Cey's departure. He didn't disappoint, for the most part.


13. Davey Lopes: A serious mustache, a serious baseball man. Another big favorite of mine as a kid. He was the best base-stealer in baseball for a period in the late 1970s, and I was very proud. That 1976 Topps record-breaker card of Lopes is one of my all-time favorites.


12. Don Newcombe: The first guy to ever win a Cy Young Award. His achievements as the Brooklyn Dodgers' ace -- like that 27-7 season in 1956 -- are so burned into my brain that it took me decades to realize he pitched for other teams. The Indians? Really?


11. Kirk Gibson: Gibby spent exactly three years with the Dodgers. Normally, not enough to be known as "a Dodger." But I'm fairly certain that if you asked 100 random people to name 10 Dodgers in history, three-quarters would name Gibson. That's what fame can do.


10. Ron Cey: Yes, Cey's uniform number was No. 10. Did I do that on purpose? Maybe. Still one of the most famous and beloved Dodgers ever.


9. Willie Davis: For a significant period of time, Willie Davis WAS the Dodgers' offense. Until his passing this year, he hadn't received much attention recently for his baseball ability, but the guy was Mr. Hollywood for awhile.


8. Johnny Podres: His Dodger accomplishment was so huge, so famous, that no one even pays attention to what he did for the rest of his career, even though it lasted into the late 1960s. But that's what happens when you clinch the first World Series a team has won in 60 years.


7. Hideo Nomo: I do understand Nomo-mania to a degree. After all, I collect Nomo cards. But the almost hysteria over his cards even after his retirement is very strange to me. His career was never as impressive as his popularity. But he was very, very good at times.


6. Maury Wills: We're getting into "should be in the Hall of Fame" territory here.Wills has had an interesting history and was one of the most prolific base stealers ever.


5. Gil Hodges: Another one. I think it's only a matter of time before he gets into the Hall.


4. Orel Hershiser: He has a lot of fans, too, including me. His broadcasting gigs (and poker gigs) have kept him in the public eye, and he's generally a likeable guy. That helps. So does his performance in 1988.


3. Fernando Valenzuela: Would baseball be what it is today if Fernando didn't come along? Probably, but it's worth considering. The Latino explosion was helped along by Fernandomania. Another guy who sealed his spot in history with a brief moment in time.


2. Mike Piazza: A few more years and this guy would be first on the list. In fact, I considered placing him first. But he's going to be in the Hall of Fame in a few years anyway, and won't qualify for this list anymore. The best hitting catcher ever. EVER. EV-ER!!! Your worthless protesting is folly.


1. Steve Garvey: For a decade, Garvey was the face of the Dodgers. As much as I didn't want it to be that way, it was true. Garvey had a huge following. He had his detractors, too, some with legitimate reasons, some who were merely jealous. But he was the first guy you thought of when you thought of the Dodgers. He might still be the first guy some people think of when someone says "Dodger blue." Garvey was the persona of the team, especially in the media's eyes. He was also a great clutch hitter who had some great performances during big events.

So for me, he's the best of the "Very Good."

Should Garvey be a "Hall of Famer"? Well, I don't think he's quite good enough to make the Baseball Hall of Fame. But if the Dodgers want to create their own Hall of Fame, I think Garvey should be a first balloter. But I hope L.A. doesn't start calling people like Tom Candiotti and Ken Landreaux "Hall of Famers." We don't need that.

OK, I'm done with wallowing in the Dodger past, for now. Back to reality. How much are the Dodgers losing by?

2 comments:

  1. Great list (though I disagree with you on Garvey not being good enough to be a Hall of Famer).

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  2. of all of the players listed, i find it hardest to believe that willie davis hasn't had his number retired. forget the hof thing, he was hands down the best la dodger. fernando and garvey would be two others that i would argue number retirement for. garvey's actually was kept out of circulation for almost 20 years in anticipation of his hof election and fernando's is still in mothballs. why not just go ahead and retire it? same with hodges. nice to see you rank garvey #1, by the way. i concur.

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