Los Angeles Dodgers
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All-Time Team – Brooklyn/L.A. Dodgers
Best Team: 1955
The 1963 squad disposed of the Yankees in four straight games in the World Series, while it took the 1955 team seven games to finally prevail over New York in the Fall Classic. But, it was the 1955 Dodgers that exorcised the demons of the past, defeating a team that had beaten them in five previous World Series.
This was a toss-up between Duke Snider and Jackie Robinson. Snider typically led the team in home runs, runs batted in, and runs scored during the 1950s, and he also did a fine job of patrolling center field. Robinson, though, usually hit for a slightly higher batting average, stole many more bases, and was the club’s fiercest competitor. Although I wouldn’t disagree too much with anyone who wished to present an argument on Snider’s behalf, Robinson is the selection here. He served as the driving force behind Brooklyn’s domination of the National League from 1947 to 1956, introduced the Negro Leagues’ aggressive style of play to the majors, and played exceptionally well despite facing a torrent of verbal abuse throughout the early stages of his career with the Dodgers.
Sandy Koufax’s six-year performance from 1961 to 1966 made him not only the greatest pitcher in Dodger history, but, for a short period of time, the most dominant hurler ever to grace a pitcher’s mound.
First Base – Gil Hodges
I could have opted for Steve Garvey here instead, but I elected to go with Hodges for his superior power numbers, run production, and fielding ability. A force in the middle of Brooklyn’s batting order throughout the 1950s, Hodges hit 370 career home runs, surpassing 30 homers on six separate occasions. He also knocked in at least 100 runs seven times, knocking in a career-high 130 runs in 1954.
Second Base – Jackie Robinson
Perhaps the greatest all-around athlete to ever wear Dodger blue, Robinson made the National League All-Star Team at four different positions over the course of his career. He had his finest seasons, though, as a second baseman, winning N.L. MVP honors in 1949, when he topped the senior circuit with a .342 batting average and 37 steals, while also placing among the leaders with 124 runs batted in, 122 runs scored, 203 hits, and a .528 slugging percentage. Robinson’s skills on the ball field and fierce competitive spirit helped lead the Dodgers to six pennants and one world championship in his 10 years with the team. However, Robinson made his greatest contribution by altering the history of the sport, and the nation as a whole, by raising the social consciousness of the entire country. By breaking the long-standing racial barrier that previously prevented blacks from competing on the same playing field as whites, Robinson truly made baseball the “national pastime.”
Third Base – Ron Cey
Although Adrian Beltre had the greatest single season of any Dodger third baseman, Ron Cey had more quality seasons than any other third sacker in team history. One of four Dodgers to surpass 30 home runs in 1977, Cey hit at least 20 homers seven times during his time in Los Angeles, compiling a total of 228 home runs in his 10 full seasons in Los Angeles. He also knocked in 842 runs for the Dodgers, surpassing the 100-RBI mark on two separate occasions.
Shortstop – Pee Wee Reese
Maury Wills established a new single-season stolen base record en route to capturing N.L. MVP honors in 1962. Nevertheless, Pee Wee Reese is the clear-cut choice here for the starting shortstop job. The Dodger captain during the most successful run in franchise history, Reese stole more than 20 bases five times and scored more than 100 runs twice for Brooklyn, earning in the process 10 All-Star selections and eight top-ten finishes in the league MVP voting.
Left Field – Zack Wheat
Hardly a household name among recent generations of Dodger fans, Zack Wheat is surpassed only by Duke Snider among Dodger outfielders in terms of career accomplishments. One of the National League’s top sluggers during the Dead-ball Era, Wheat hit 131 home runs, knocked in 1,210 runs, scored 1,255 others, accumulated 2,804 hits, and batted .317 for Brooklyn between 1909 and 1926. Although he surpassed 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored just once each, Wheat amassed more than 200 hits three times and batted over .330 on five separate occasions, winning the N.L. batting title with a mark of .335 in 1918 and placing second to Rogers Hornsby in the batting race twice with identical marks of .375. Tommy Davis, Dusty Baker, and Gary Sheffield all deserve honorable mentions for the two or three impactful seasons they put together for the team.
Center Field – Duke Snider
No question here…Duke Snider is the greatest center fielder in Dodger history. The Duke of Flatbush hit more home runs during the 1950s (334) than any other player in the major leagues, surpassing the 40-mark five straight times at one point. Snider also topped 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored six times each, batted over .300 seven times, and compiled an on-base percentage in excess of .400 on five separate occasions. Snider led the National League in home runs, RBIs, and on-base percentage once each, topped the circuit in slugging percentage twice, and led the league in runs scored three times.
Right Field – Carl Furillo
This was a tough choice. Babe Herman was an exceptional hitter, posting two of the greatest offensive seasons in club history. Herman batted .381 in 1929, with 21 homers, 113 RBIs, and 217 hits. He followed that up by batting .393 in 1930, with 35 home runs, 130 RBIs, 143 runs scored, and 241 hits. Herman’s .393 batting average and 241 hits are both franchise records. However, Herman spent only six full seasons in Brooklyn, and he had a reputation for being a liability in the field. Meanwhile, Carl Furillo was among the finest defensive right fielders of his time, blessed with one of the strongest throwing arms of any outfielder in baseball history. Nicknamed the Reading Rifle for his cannon-like arm, Furillo was also a pretty fair hitter, compiling 192 lifetime homers, 1,058 runs batted in, and a .299 batting average in his 15 years with the team. Furillo won the 1953 N.L. batting title with a mark of .344, and he also surpassed 20 homers three times and knocked in more than 100 runs twice for the Dodgers. In the end, Furillo’s longevity with the team and superior defense earned him the starting right field job over Herman, who would have made an excellent DH.
Catcher - Roy Campanella
Campanella gets the nod here over Mike Piazza. Piazza was a better hitter than Campy, but he was something of a liability in the field, and he had many of his peak seasons playing in New York, spending only five full years with the Dodgers. Meanwhile, Campanella gained general recognition during his time in Brooklyn as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history. After experiencing a considerable amount of success in the Negro Leagues earlier in his playing career, Campanella went on to win three N.L. MVP Awards with the Dodgers, capturing the honor in 1951, 1953, and 1955. He had his best year in 1953, when he hit 41 home runs, knocked in 142 runs, scored 103 others, and batted .312. Campy was also an excellent defensive receiver and a superb handler of pitchers.
Starting Pitcher – Sandy Koufax
After struggling with his control during the early stages of his career, Sandy Koufax gained better command of his pitches, subsequently developing into arguably the most dominant pitcher the game has ever seen. Koufax won three Cy Young Awards and one MVP trophy between 1963 and 1966, finishing second in the league MVP balloting another two times. From 1962 to 1966, he posted a record of 111-34, for a winning percentage of .766. During that period, he also compiled a 1.95 ERA, threw 100 complete games and 33 shutouts, and struck out 1,444 batters.
Starting Pitcher – Dazzy Vance
The National League’s finest pitcher for much of the 1920s, Dazzy Vance led N.L. hurlers in wins and complete games twice each, ERA three times, shutouts four times, and strikeouts seven times during his time in Brooklyn. The hard-throwing right-hander captured league MVP honors in 1924, when he won the Triple Crown by compiling a record of 28-6, a 2.16 ERA, and 262 strikeouts, while also topping the senior circuit with 30 complete games. Vance performed brilliantly again in 1928, when he won 22 games and led the league with a 2.09 ERA and 200 strikeouts. Vance compiled an overall record of 190-131 in his 12 years with the Dodgers.
Starting Pitcher – Don Drysdale
A truly intimidating pitcher, Don Drysdale developed a reputation second to none in terms of nastiness on the mound. The big right-hander also pitched quite effectively for the Dodgers during his 14 years with the team, winning a total of 209 games, while posting an ERA of 2.95. Drysdale surpassed 20 victories twice, leading the National League with 25 wins in 1962, en route to earning the Cy Young Award. Drysdale also won at least 17 games four other times, struck out more than 200 batters on six separate occasions, and threw more than 300 innings four times.
Starting Pitcher – Don Sutton
Nobody won more games in a Dodger uniform than Don Sutton. One of the most consistent pitchers of his era, Sutton posted at least 14 victories for Los Angeles in 10 straight seasons at one point, en route to compiling a record of 233-181 in his 16 years with the team. Although Sutton won as many as 20 games only once, he surpassed 17 victories five other times. The right-hander had perhaps his best year in 1972 when he posted a record of 19-9, along with a 2.08 ERA, 18 complete games, 273 innings pitched, 207 strikeouts, and a league-leading nine shutouts.
Starting Pitcher – Don Newcombe
Although he spent only eight years with the Dodgers, Don Newcombe earned a spot in the starting rotation by compiling an overall record of 123-66 with the team from 1949 to 1958 (he missed all of 1952 and 1953 while serving in the military). Newcombe won at least 17 games in five of his six full seasons as a starter, surpassing 20 victories on three separate occasions. He had his best year in 1956, when he captured N.L. MVP honors by compiling a record of 27-7, a 3.06 ERA, 268 innings pitched, and 18 complete games. Carl Erskine, Ralph Branca, Claude Osteen, Fernando Valenzuela, and Orel Hershiser all deserve honorable mentions.
Closer – Eric Gagne
Although his period of dominance lasted only three years, Eric Gagne was, for that brief period of time, as dominant a closer as the game has ever seen. From 2002 to 2004 the hard-throwing right-hander saved a total of 152 games, at one point going almost two full seasons without blowing a save. He also struck out 365 batters in 247 innings of work, for an average of 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Tom Niedenfuer and Ron Perranoski will ably assist Gagne in the Dodger bullpen.
Manager – Walter Alston
Tommy Lasorda had a great deal of charisma, and he managed the Dodgers to four pennants and two world championships. Nevertheless, Walter Alston is the choice here for Dodger manager. The somewhat reserved Alston won 2,040 games as Dodger skipper, leading the team to seven pennants and four world titles, including the first in franchise history (1955). Alston’s teams, which were usually predicated primarily on pitching, defense, and speed, won almost 56 percent of their games.
- Los Angeles Dodgers
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