Saturday, August 7, 2010

Remember when the Dodgers were good?


Hello, everyone. It's Night Owl.

This incredible likeness of me, featured on my favorite card design, was created by Doc T of Baseball Card Recollections. Whoooo-boy, what a great card! It will be taking a spot on the sidebar soon, as all great works of art must.

But first, I'd like you to harken back, back to the days when the Dodgers were good. Remember those days? Remember when the bullpen wasn't a misused disaster? Remember when the left fielder wasn't falling apart? Remember when the owner wasn't a narcissistic fool?

I do. But what I am starting to forget is true Dodger greatness. World Series greatness. Championship greatness. Hell, I was still in college in 1988. You know what happened in 1988, right? The right team won. Won it all.

Ever since then it's been the wrong team. There have been the usual suspects. And then there have been the Diamondbacks and the Angels and the Marlins (twice). That really makes a proud Dodger fan weary.

So I thought I'd spend a brief amount of time the next couple of days reviewing Dodger greatness. It'll only take a couple of posts. But it will reinvigorate the fan side of me, so when we're getting crushed by the Nationals, I will laugh smugly to myself and think, "Jackie never played for your team."

OK, the first post will focus on the Dodgers' first championship, the World Series title in 1955. You might have heard that this year marks "55 since 55," or 55 years since Brooklyn won. The Dodgers celebrated that feat a couple of weeks ago.

I'm a little behind, I guess. Or rather, the Dodgers jumped the gun, because the actually anniversary is Oct. 4.

What I'm going to do is review the feats of the Dodgers who played in the clinching Game 7 against the Yankees. Everyone knows two things about that game, Johnny Podres' shutout and Sandy Amoros' catch. But there were a few others who contributed, you know. So here is what everyone did on that day (yes, it really was during the day).


Jim Gilliam, LF: You thought Sandy Amoros played left field, didn't you? Amoros was a late-inning replacement, moving Gilliam moved from left to second base. Gilliam hit leadoff in every game in the Series. In Game 7, he went 1-for-4. He walked in the third inning. Then he singled to right with one out in the sixth and was promptly caught stealing with Pee Wee Reese at the plate.


Pee Wee Reese, SS: Out of all the Dodgers, I am happiest for Pee Wee that he won a World Series. He had been waiting a long time. But he stuck it out -- he didn't jump to the Yankees "because they have the best chance of winning a World Series." Of course, he couldn't have, because of that whole reserve clause thing, but I prefer to think that he would never think of such a thing. They raised players right back then. (It's funny how the reserve clause makes us think more highly of players back then, isn't it?)

Anyway, Reese was 1-for-4 and scored one of the Dodgers' two runs in the game. He sparked Brooklyn's sixth-inning rally with a lead-off single to center field off of Yankees starter Tommy Byrne. That rally was quite interesting by today's standards, which I'll get into with the next guy.


Duke Snider, CF: Snider had a hell of a 1955 World Series and probably would have received MVP honors if it wasn't for Podres. But Game 7 was completely different for Snider than the rest of the Series, in which he hit four home runs.

First, Snider was 0-for-3 and struck out twice in the game. But he also played a part in the Dodgers' sixth inning, when they scored their second run. Here is the surprising scenario:

Reese singles to center field. Snider, up next, bunts. That's right, the No. 3 hitter with 4 homers in the Series already, lays down a sacrifice bunt. The Yankees -- perhaps in shock -- botch the play. First baseman Moose Skowron does not catch the ball. So Reese is on second and Snider is on first. The next batter, Roy Campanella, also bunts. Campanella is the clean-up hitter. He homered twice in the Series. But in sacrifice mode, he bunts to the pitcher. Reese moves to third, Snider to second and Campanella is the first out. The next batter, Carl Furillo, is intentionally walked to load the bases. Then Gil Hodges hits a sacrifice fly to score Reese.

You would never see a rally like that today -- even in the "Year of the Pitcher."


Roy Campanella, C: Aside from Campy's sacrifice bunt, he was 1-for-3 and scored the game's first run. The game was scoreless going into the fourth inning. But with one out, Campanella doubled down the left field line. He scored two batters later on Hodges' single.


Carl Furillo, RF: Furillo was 0-for-3 with the intentional walk. He flew out twice and grounded out. But his ground out in the fourth got Campanella over to third base, allowing Hodges to score Campy on the single.


Gil Hodges, 1B: The hitting hero of Game 7. It's funny that all the defensive exploits in Game 7 overshadowed the hitting feats. Usually, it's the opposite. Hodges was 1-for-2 with a walk and knocked in both runs in the game, with a single in the fourth and a sacrifice fly in the sixth.


Don Hoak, 3B: Perhaps you have noticed that I haven't mentioned Jackie Robinson yet. That's because Robinson famously didn't play in Game 7 of the '55 World Series, the only World Series game that the Dodgers participated in during his career in which he did not play. Robinson stole home in Game 1 of the Series, but his skills were diminishing at this point in his career and he was batting just .184 in the Series. Manager Walter Alston decided to go with Hoak at third base, after Robinson had started at third base in the first six games.

Hoak was 1-for-3 with a walk. He singled in the ninth inning for the Dodgers' last hit of the Series. It was also Hoak's last performance in a Dodger uniform. He was traded to the Cubs in the offseason.


Don Zimmer, 2B: Zimmer received his third start of the Series in Game 7. He also started at second base in Game 1 and Game 2. All of those games were in Yankee Stadium. Perhaps Zim played well at Yankee Stadium?

Zimmer went 0-for-2 in Game 7, and was pinch-hit for in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two outs after the Dodgers had scored their second run.


George "Shot Gun" Shuba, PH: Shuba pinch-hit for Zimmer, but did not continue the rally. He grounded out to first base for the third out. That would be the final at-bat of a seven-year career.


Sandy Amoros, LF: Amoros topped off a very nice 1955 World Series for himself by making the outstretched running grab of Yogi Berra's liner in the left field corner in the bottom of the sixth inning, then throwing to the infield for the double play.

Amoros came in at the start of the inning, replacing Gilliam, who moved to second after Zimmer was pinch-hit for by Shuba. In his only at-bat of the game, Amoros walked in the ninth inning. He was 4-for-12 in the Series with a homer and three RBIs.


Johnny Podres, P: Podres gained his second victory of the Series, pitching his second complete-game win. (He also won Game 3). Podres allowed eight hits and was in some situations that he would never have been allowed to pitch through today.

In the sixth inning, Podres walked the first batter, Billy Martin. The next batter, Gil McDougald, bunted for a single. Podres got a double play on the next batter but would he have gotten the chance 55 years later?

In the eighth inning, Podres allowed a single to the first batter, Phil Rizzuto. With one out, McDougald singled Rizzuto to third. Runners at the corners, one out, winning run comes to the plate, Podres stayed in. He got Berra to pop out to right and struck out Hank Bauer.

After a one-two-three ninth, the Dodgers won the Series.

Yep, it was a long time ago.

But I'm doing what it takes.

The Dodgers were good once, I'm telling ya.

3 comments:

  1. I've always liked those Brooklyn Dodger teams--probably because of reading The Boys of Summer and It's Good to be Alive early in life.

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  2. Beautiful post. I am so sickened by the state of the current Dodgers. It doesn't seem like things are gonna get better any time soon. It's depressing.

    Anyway, I just want to say this was a great read. I can't wait for more.

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  3. Beautiful post!!! My Dad was not a baseball fan, but the Dodgers were the one he cared about and I heard all about Pee Wee, Sandy, Junior, Jackie and the Duke as a kid... Great post!

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