The Dodgers have operated continuously since their founding in 1884 as the Brooklyn Atlantics of the American Association. Brooklyn transferred to the National League in 1890, adopting the nickname Dodgers in 1911 and 1912, and returning to that moniker for good in 1932.
The Dodgers are the seventh of the original NL clubs in our Mount Rushmore series. Your task is to choose the four players who best represent this franchise. Have fun!
While the Dodger nickname has persisted since 1932, it was a long and circuitous route to get there, starting with the franchise’s second season when the Atlantics were rechristened as the Grays. Next came the Bridegrooms in 1888, shortened to just Grooms in 1891, back to Bridegrooms in 1896, then to Superbas in 1899, Dodgers in 1911, back to Superbas in 1913, then to Robins in 1914 and finally the Dodgers again in 1932.
Brooklyn’s first success came as AA champions in 1889, followed by an NL championship the next season. Ten years later came another pair of back-to-back championships, in 1899 and 1900, their first two seasons as the Superbas. Brooklyn remained competitive for a few more seasons after that, before an extended down period of 9 seasons (1905-13) below 70 wins. Notable players of Brooklyn’s first 30 seasons include outfielders Mike Griffin, Jimmy Sheckard and Willie Keeler, infielders Tom Daly, George Pinkney and Bill Dahlen, and pitchers Nap Rucker, Bob Caruthers and Brickyard Kennedy.
Brooklyn’s switch to the Robins nickname in 1914 yielded immediate results with these red Birds moving swiftly up the standings to an NL pennant in 1916, and another four years after that. Brooklyn lost its first World Series 4 games to 1 but came close to leading that set 2-0 instead of trailing by that count. In the opener, the AL champion Red Sox took a 6-1 lead into the 9th, but the Robins loaded the bases with one out when Boston second baseman Hal Janvrin booted what could have been a game-ending double-play ball. Two runs scored and two more followed on two singles and a walk. Now with two out and the bases again loaded, the Robins’ star first baseman Jake Daubert, who had started the uprising with a lead-off walk, grounded to short to end the threat. In game 2, the teams were knotted at 1-1 early before Sherry Smith and Boston’s young southpaw George Ruth matched goose-eggs for 10 frames before a lead-off walk, sacrifice and RBI single by pinch-hitter Del Gainer sent the Red Sox home with a 14-inning walk-off win. The game might have ended sooner if not for Ruth working out of a 1st and 3rd one-out jamb in the 8th, and Brooklyn center-fielder Hi Myers throwing out Janvrin at the plate in the 9th. The Robins’ game 3 victory that could have provided a 3-0 series stranglehold was instead just a pause before Dutch Leonard and Ernie Shore quieted Robin bats in the last two games for Boston’s second consecutive world title and third in five years.
After losing the 1920 World Series by a 5-2 count to Tris Speaker‘s Indians, the Robins/Dodgers descended into eighteen mostly forgettable seasons, including a streak of seven 6th place finishes in eight years (1922-29). The lone season out of 6th place was a second-place finish in 1924 in a tight pennant duel with the Giants. Thirteen games back on August 9th, the Robins reeled off 13 straight wins (including 10 on the road) from August 25th to September 4th to tie the G-men. The teams were tied again on Sep 22nd with four games to play, but Brooklyn managed only a split of those contests against the Braves and Cubs, while New York took four of five from the Pirates and Phils. It was only the schedule-maker who didn’t cooperate as the two front-runners faced each other just twice in 28 September games (29 for New York). Principal players of the 1914-1938 period include outfielders Zack Wheat and Babe Herman, infielders Jack Fournier and Jake Daubert, catcher Babe Phelps and pitchers Dazzy Vance, Jeff Pfeffer, Burleigh Grimes and Watty Clark.
Brooklyn’s return to respectability started with shortstop Leo Durocher also assuming the role of manager for the 1939 season. After six seasons finishing no higher than 5th, the Dodgers finished 3rd in 1939, 2nd in 1940 and claimed the NL pennant in 1941. After a tension-packed season (Brooklyn was never more than 3 games behind or 4 games ahead, for the entire season) the 1941 World Series, as in 1916, would prove to be a case of “what might have been” for the Dodgers. After splitting the first two games with the Yanks, the teams appeared to have done the same for the next two contests after Hugh Casey struck out Tommy Henrich to seemingly preserve a 4-3 Dodger win in what would have been the series’ fourth consecutive one-run victory. Instead, a passed ball by Dodger catcher Mickey Owen allowed Henrich to reach and gave the Bombers new life as they staged a furious two-out rally for four quick runs and a 3-1 series bulge. The next day, Tiny Bonham retired 13 of the last 14 Dodgers for a 3-1 win and New York’s fifth world title in six years.
Brooklyn posted 104 wins in 1942, then the franchise record, but it wasn’t enough to catch the high-flying Cardinals in their first of three successive pennants. But, aside from a 90-loss season in 1944 (with a severely depleted wartime roster that featured no fewer than eight teenagers and four forty-somethings), Brooklyn remained competitive, returning to the Fall Classic in 1947, again against the Yanks, and starting a golden decade in New York that would see the cross-town rivals meet in the Fall Classic on no fewer than six occasions (not to mention two post-season appearances for the Giants).
The Yankees took the ’47 series despite a walk-off loss in game 4 decided on a pinch-hit double by Cookie Lavagetto to break up Bill Bevens‘ no-hit bid, and a game 6 loss memorable for Al Gionfriddo‘s spectacular 6th inning catch in Yankee Stadium’s deep left-center field that robbed Joe DiMaggio of what could have been a game-tying 3-run homer. World Series losses to New York followed in 1949 (walk-off HR by Tommy Henrich in game 1, 9th-inning, tie-breaking 2-RBI pinch-hit by Johnny Mize in game 3), 1952 (alternating wins until 7th game loss on singleton runs by Yankees in four successive innings) and 1953 (105 wins, but walk-off series loss in game 6 after Dodgers scored twice to tie in top of the 9th). As disappointing as those post-season results were, failing to win pennants in 1950 and 1951 may have been even more painful.
In 1950, Brooklyn looked to be out of the running at 9 games back on Sep 18th, but a 12-3 run while the front-running Phillies went 3-9 brought the Dodgers to within one game as they hosted the Phils in the season finale. In the 9th inning of a 1-1 tie, the Dodgers got the first two men aboard with star center-fielder Duke Snider coming up. The Silver Fox delivered a line shot to center but Cal Abrams was thrown out at the plate trying to score. Jackie Robinson was then walked to load the bases with sluggers Carl Furillo and Gil Hodges following. But, Phillie ace Robin Roberts induced a pop up and a fly out, setting the stage for Dick Sisler‘s pennant-winning 3-run homer in the 10th. In 1951, the Dodgers were in the driver’s seat, but a 4-6 finish while the Giants ran the table 8-0 left the teams in a dead heat. A pennant playoff ensued, won by the Giants in the deciding 3rd game on Bobby Thomson‘s famous walk-off homer to complete the comeback from a 9th inning 4-1 deficit.
Fortune finally shone on Brooklyn in 1955, with home teams winning each game of the series until the Dodgers broke that pattern with a 2-0 game 7 shutout by Johnny Podres. The same two clubs met in the Fall Classic the next season, the last for legendary pioneer Jackie Robinson. As in 1955, home teams won the first 6 contests until the Yankees broke that trend with a 9-0 whitewash in game 7 behind Johnny Kucks‘ 3-hitter. That series is famous for Don Larsen‘s perfect game 5 that earned the right-hander the series MVP award (despite being pounded in his game 2 start in which he failed to last two innings). Principal Dodgers of the 1939 to 1957 period include Robinson, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese and pitchers Don Newcombe, Preacher Roe, Carl Erskine and Ralph Branca.
The Dodgers and cross-town rival Giants took the 1950s westward franchise migration to another level, moving from one coast to the other in 1958. The Dodger machine kept right on rolling in LA with 4 pennants in their first 9 seasons on the West Coast, including three World Series titles. Those Dodger teams were anchored by their pitching, led by the lefty-righty combo of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Those two dominated the NL over that period, placing 1st and 2nd in Wins, Strikeouts and Shutouts, 1st and 3rd in IP, and 2nd and 3rd in CGs. That period saw the last of the Yankee-Dodger World Series matchups of that era with the Dodgers holding the Bombers to just four runs in a four game sweep in 1963. The Dodgers, though, suffered that same fate in 1966, a series in which the new AL powerhouse Orioles scored more runs in the first inning of game 1 than LA would score in the series as Baltimore shut out the NL champs over the series’ last 33 innings.
After two decades of NL dominance, the Dodgers briefly skidded to the second division in 1967-69 on the heels of Koufax’s retirement and the sudden decline of Drysdale. But, four straight 2nd place finishes followed to start the 1970s before LA finally bested the big Red Machine in Cincinnati with pennants in 1974, 1977 and 1978 (but losses in all three of those World Series to the AL’s next two dynasties in Oakland and, once again, in the Bronx). The Dodgers broke that string of WS defeats by ousting the Yankees in 1981, a strike-shortened season in which LA qualified for the post-season by fortuitously standing a half-game ahead of the Reds as the strike began. After the second-half champion Astros posted walk-off wins in the first two games of the newly christened NLDS, LA rallied for three straight wins at home behind the pitching of Burt Hooton, Fernando Valenzuela and Jerry Reuss who collectively held the visitors to just two runs. More heroics in the NLCS as the Dodgers overcame a 2-1 series deficit to edge Montreal, winning the climax game on a 9th inning home run by Rick Monday. Principal Dodgers of the 1958 to 1981 period include Jim Gilliam, Willie Davis, Maury Wills, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and pitchers Koufax, Drysdale, Johnny Podres, Don Sutton and Claude Osteen.
LA remained competitive through most of the 1980s, taking NL West crowns in 1983 and 1985 before ousting the heavily favored As in the 1988 World Series. That series will forever be remembered for the lone appearance of Kirk Gibson, NL MVP in his first year in the senior circuit, but badly hobbled and ineffective in the Dodgers 7-game NLCS triumph over the Mets. Nevertheless, in the WS opener, with LA down by one with two outs in the home 9th, pinch-hitter Mike Davis worked a walk to bring up the pitcher’s spot and Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, playing a hunch, sent Gibson to the plate. Playing on one good leg, Gibson barely fouled off a pitch to stay alive before going deep against the As dominant closer and CYA runner-up Dennis Eckersley.
That ’88 WS triumph would mark the Dodgers last playoff victory for 16 years. During the drought LA managed post-season appearances only in 1995 and 1996, both times being swept in the divisional round. It would not be until 2008 that LA finally made it past the first playoff round, losing the NLCS that year and the next under new manager Joe Torre (after 42 seasons with only two managers, Torre was LA’s 6th manager in 12 seasons). Most recently, Torre’s successor Don Mattingly has led LA to NL West titles the past two seasons, but the Dodgers have been unable to get past the Cardinals in the post-season. Principal Dodgers since 1982 include Mike Piazza, Pedro Guerrero, Mike Scioscia, Adrian Beltre, Matt Kemp and pitchers Orel Hershiser, Clayton Kershaw and Fernando Valenzuela.
Here are the top 15 Dodger positions players, by WAR.
|1||Pee Wee Reese||66.3||1940||1958||2166||9470||1338||2170||330||80||126||885||1210||890||232||.269||.366||.377||.743||*65/H|
And, the top 15 pitchers.
Now, it’s your turn. Please choose 4 players, or write in your own. Polls are open until midnight Pacific time on Wed, April 1st. You can check on results using the link at the bottom of the ballot. If the ballot does not display on your browser, you can also vote here.