Please excuse the long absence; the Lugnuts just completed their longest homestand of the year which required me to work rather than write (real bummer) so I have been depriving my fans of some Billpen. But wait no longer, I am back with my Franchise Four for the LA Dodgers.
Being raised on American League baseball, I never really knew much about the Dodgers until I started working at the Hall of Fame a few summers ago. I learned of the rich traditions of Brooklyn and Ebbets Field, of the three-headed Big Apple Rivalry between the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers. The 50s were as great of a time for baseball as they were for America, and part of that was because the Dodgers were in the height of their power against the Yankees at the height of theirs. They traded the City that Never Sleeps for the City of Angels and one of my favorite stadiums ever (Ebbets Field) for a stadium that I honestly don’t know much about other than it has the largest parking lot in the MLB (Dodger Stadium).
Because the Dodgers go so far back and have had their hand in so many different yet incredible aspects of progressive baseball (integration, westward expansion, suburban experimentation), picking four people that define the franchise is incredibly difficult. Here are the honorable mentions; non-player personnel that molded the Dodgers into the larger-than-life organization they are today.
1. Vin Scully
Vin Scully is the radio broadcaster for the Dodgers, and has been since Jackie Robinson was still playing. With a golden voice and rich descriptions of the scenes around the game, Scully is a dying breed of broadcasters in that he works alone in the booth. Rather than having a play-by-play and a color commentator like both teams, Scully instead fills the airwaves with stories of baseball history (he’s seen almost everything there is to see), player backgrounds, and more than anything else, vivid illustrations of what he is seeing.
2. Branch Rickey
Branch Rickey is most known for signing Jackie Robinson and being the GM to break to break the color barrier, but he also took the team over in 1943 and brought them two pennants in his seven short seasons, even in the face of the hated Yankees only a few miles away. Unrelated, he also signed Roberto Clemente to the Pirates. You can say he had an eye for talent, regardless of color.
3. Tommy LaSorda
If I had opened this four to non-players, he would be in it. Under LaSorda’s 21-year tenure as manager, the Dodgers won 2 World Series titles and another 2 pennants. He also won 2 Manager of the Year awards.
4. Ebbets Field
Okay, this isn’t even a person, but this is arguably my favorite stadium in history. It was just your average city block; businesses, restaurants, shops, 47,000 person stadium. You know, the usual that see walking around. The home plate rotunda is such a classic and timeless piece of architecture, something that I wish more teams used, but also something that the Mets include in their new Citi Field. Double decker seats that halt at right field to let the borough of Brooklyn breathe in the history that the field witnessed. I’ve always felt that I was born in the wrong decade, and never seeing Ebbets Field is part of that.
On to the real franchise four, the players. These are presented in no particular order.
Drysdale was one of the last to play in Brooklyn before the team headed west for the 1958 season. A lifetime Dodger regardless of time zone, Drysdale won three World Series titles with the team as well as 8 All-Star games, 2 top 5 MVP finishes, and a Cy Young Award. Considering he pitched in the same era as (spoiler alert) Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Warren Spahn, and Juan Marichal (to name a few), to win a Cy Young is a huge accomplishment.
The Left Arm of God. His nickname says it all. Like Drysdale, Koufax was with the Brooklyn club as a young pitcher in 1955 and also went west with the franchise. The final four years of his career might be the best four year run a pitcher has ever made, and again, like Drysdale, it was amidst some of the best pitchers ever. Led the MLB in wins 3 of the 4 years, ERA 3 of the 4 (led the NL the 4th year), strikeouts 3 of the 4, and WHIP 3 of the 4. He also threw 27 complete games in back-to-back seasons (both league leading seasons in innings pitched as well), and is the youngest player ever inducted in the Hall of Fame.
Hear me out. Even though Kershaw is only 27, still playing, has never won a ring, and is our 3rd pitcher on this list, he deserves it. Remember when I said Koufax’s final four years were some of the best we’ve ever seen? Kershaw’s last 4 are right up there too. He’s led the entire MLB in ERA and WHIP the last 4 years, led the NL in strikeouts 2 of the 4, and wins in 2 of the 4 as well. He collected 4 All-Star appearances, 3 Cy Young Awards (and a runner up), and an MVP award. Don’t come in here talking about postseason numbers because if you try deny that Kershaw hasn’t been the best all around pitcher the last 4 years, I’ll hit you with my keyboard.
He was the inaugural Rookie of the Year winner, won the MVP and a batting title two years later, and retired with career numbers of .311/.409/.474. The name Jackie Robinson means so much more to baseball, though. It means fearlessness, respect, and love for the game all the while playing excellent baseball. Without Jackie Robinson, I’m not really sure where baseball would be, and I don’t really want to think about it. He wasn’t only a tremendous middle infielder, but he was the right man for the world’s toughest job.
The Dodgers really have never been a bad team; they’ve had dips of mediocrity like any team is bound to do, but they’ve won 6 World Series and 22 pennants – an impressive resume for a team that’s been around since 1884. I’m surprised that there weren’t more easy offensive choices to be included, but every time the Dodgers won a title (half of which came with Drysdale and Koufax in the rotation), the pitching was what pushed them through.
Thanks for reading.