Lobby of Numbers: Los Angeles (and Brooklyn!) Dodgers

Wednesday, April 02 2008 @ 04:00 AM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

Do you realize that the Dodgers have played more seasons in Dodger Stadium than they played in Ebbets Field?

They've played and won more games in Dodger Stadium than they did at the old yard in Flatbush. They did have a better home winning percentage in Brooklyn (.576) than they have in California (.571). Ebbets Field was a quirky park, and the home team did seem to have a distinct advantage. The 1953 Dodgers went 60-17 (.779) in their home games. The best home record by any Los Angeles team is 55-27 (.671) - no fewer than seven Brooklyn teams posted better marks than that.

This surprised me a bit. I tend to think of the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers as forty odd years of general ineptitude, capped off by a decade of shining, if invariably frustrated, brilliance. And when in 1955 they finally, finally won a championship in Brooklyn - after just two more seasons they were off to the coast. Where they promptly won three World Series titles in their first eight seasons in Los Angeles.

No wonder there's still some bitterness in the old neighbourhood. No wonder children in Flatbush are taught from the cradle to curse the name "O'Malley."

There's not much I can do to help. The Dodgers started wearing uniform numbers in 1932. They only officially became the "Dodgers" the year after that - for the first fifty years, the franchise had had any number of nicknames, all somewhat informal, many of them a creation of the local media - the Grooms, the Superbas, the Dodgers, the Robins. At any rate, what this means is that our choices below will be drawn from 26 seasons in Brooklyn, and 50 seasons in Los Angeles.

But fear not... you should still meet many of the Boys of Summer here anyway. In fact, we'll be starting the proceedings with one of them.

1. One of the things we remember and honour Pee Wee Reese for is the way he welcomed and supported Jackie Robinson in 1947. In that charged atmosphere, with the team's most popular and visible star (Dixie Walker) vocally protesting the arrival of his new teammate, Harold Reese demonstrated the qualities that truly constitute a Southern gentleman. He was also a terrific ball player, of course. Like his cross-town rival, Phil Rizzuto, Reese was a small, quick player. While the Scooter probably had a better glove, Pee Wee could pick it himself, and he was clearly a better offensive player than Rizzuto - Pee Wee was a fine leadoff hitter who got on base in front of the big bats coming up behind him. He lost three full seasons to the war, but he still managed to score more than 1300 runs. While a couple of players have worn the number since Reese hung it up after the 1958 season, it was eventually retired in his honour. Others of note: Johnny Frederick, Paul Waner.

2. The man who wore this number while managing the Dodgers to a couple of championships began his career in the organization as a pretty terrible left-handed pitcher. Tommy Lasorda walked 56 batters in 58.1 IP in his three cups of coffee with Brooklyn and Kansas City, and never did win a game. He was wearing 27 then. He took over the manager's chair from Walter Alston in 1977, took the team to the World Series in 1978 and won it all in 1981 and 1988. I know we all got pretty tired of his act - all that bleeding Dodger Blue, all that talk about the Big Dodger in the Sky. And while Lasorda doesn't have Billy Martin's reputation for abusing pitchers, Tommy did work a number of talented arms until they just shrivelled up and died. But hey - he was one of a kind, and no one is going to wear this number again either. Also of note: Leo Durocher, at the end of his career as a player-manager, as the manager in the 1940s, and again when he came back to look over Walter Alston's shoulder as a coach in the early 1960s.

3. Billy Cox was the third baseman for the Boys of Summer, a true defensive whiz. Steve Sax went to three All Star Games and won a Rookie of the Year award. But we're going to acknowledge a man who spent almost all of his career regarded as a disappointment, a man probably best remembered for one nightmarish afternoon in October 1966. Willie Davis joined the Dodgers as a September call-up in September of 1960 - in 22 games he hit .318 with a couple of home runs. He was just 20 years old, and the talent just seemed to be oozing out of him - a centre fielder with utterly blinding speed and a promising left-handed bat. People were predicting batting titles; people were predicting greatness. It didn't happen. And then, in game two of the 1966 World Series, came his Moment from Hell. Sandy Koufax was locked up in a scoreless game with a 20 year old named Jim Palmer. In the fifth inning, with one out and Boog Powell on first, Davis misplayed a fly ball by Paul Blair. The next batter was Andy Etchebarren, and the same thing happened - Davis couldn't track the ball in the blinding afternoon sunshine, and in his frustration, he compounded the problem by angrily heaving the ball past the catcher to the backstop. Three unearned runs scored in the inning, and seeing as how the Dodgers were not going to score another run in the rest of the Series, that was all she wrote. It was the last game of Koufax's career.

Willie Davis was a hell of a player. He seems not to have had the greatest work ethic, but he was staggeringly talented, and he was a large reason the Dodgers were one of the powerhouse teams of the 1960s. It was his misfortune to play in Dodger Stadium in the 1960s - as Bill James memorably summed it up "the fences weren't close, the pitcher's mound was about four feet high, and the foul territory was larger than several national forests." It was Davis' additional misfortune to spend the heart of his prime battling the expanded strike zone of the mid 1960s. When the strike zone was restored to normal, he ripped off the first three .300 seasons of his career. Even with the deck stacked against him, he banged out more than 2500 base hits. Only two men - Zack Wheat and Pee Wee Reese - had more hits in a Dodger uniform.

4. Hack Wilson came to the Dodgers in 1932, as part of the St. Louis Cardinals great salary dump. Wilson had been a great hitter for the Cubs, and he gave the Dodgers one good year, but he didn't age very well. Dolph Camilli, had about a five year run as a truly great player and won the 1941 MVP award - he hit for power and average, and drew 100 walks in a season. It works today, and it worked then. Camilli's career started late and ended early, which brings us to the Duke of Flatbush. Duke Snider took over centre field in 1949 and ran off four fine years in a row - but then, in 1953 he made the leap into one of the most fearsome hitters in the National League. It was Snider's good fortune to call Ebbets Field home - the short line in right field was tailor-made for him. Better still, his Dodgers were both an offensive powerhouse, and a severely right-handed powerhouse. Reese, Robinson, Hodges, Campanella, Furillo - all right-handed hitters. It was a lineup that destroyed southpaws, and as a result the Dodgers (and Snider) seldom saw any. (The Braves used to try to arrange their rotation so Warren Spahn's turn wouldn't come up when they had Brooklyn on the schedule.) Still - while Duke had these things working for him, it's to his credit that he took full advantage. He slugged more than 40 homers five years in a row, while also hitting for average (as high as .341) and getting on base (drawing as many as 104 bases on balls.) In centre field, he wasn't Willie Mays, but he was a fine outfielder. Snider was so good that he was part of the discussion, along with Mays and Mantle, as to who might be the best New York centre fielder. He wasn't quite that good, of course, but you get the idea of how he was regarded when active. The Coliseum in Los Angeles took an enormous bite out of his power, and his game didn't age well. On his way to the Hall of Fame, he became a pretty good broadcaster in the early days of the Expos. The Dodgers let a few other guys wear this number before retiring it for the Duke.

5. Here we have the man who won the 1965 Rookie of the Year Award. History puzzles over this decision - Jim Lefebvre was a fine ballplayer, a switch-hitting second baseman with some pop - but there was another rookie second baseman in the NL that year who was pretty clearly better - a fellow named Joe Morgan. Lefebvre was almost as good in Morgan in 1966, though, hitting .274 with 24 HR and 74 RBI - remember, this was Dodger Stadium in the midst of the second Dead Ball era. Alas, his 1966 numbers were all career highs. Injuries began cutting into his playing time in 1967. He played his last major league game in 1972 at age 30 and finished up with four years in Japan. His post-playing career has been lively. He spent a year as a Dodger coach - Lasorda fired him, and the next spring Lefebvre took a swing at old Tommy. He managed Seattle for three years, and led them to their first winning season ever, 83-79 in 1991. For his troubles, he was was fired a week later (having tangled with GM Woody Woodward and RF Jay Buhner). He moved on to the Cubs, quarrelled briefly with George Bell (who was traded for Sammy Sosa at the end of spring training.) In 1993, despite losing Greg Maddux, Lefebvre's Cubs came in at 84-78 after three straight losing seasons. Once again, he got the boot, having rubbed GM Larry Himes the wrong way. He was the interim replacement when the Brewers finally fired Phil Garner in 1999, but aside from that, he hasn't received another shot. Also of note: Tony Cuccinello, Cookie Lavagetto (his last hit in the majors was one of the most famous hits in baseball history), and Mike Marshall the outfielder.

6. This was the number was worn by Lefty O' Doul, he of the .349 lifetime average. That's the fourth highest career batting average in history. O'Doul's career was very short because he made the majors as 22 year old pitcher in 1919. Arm injuries put an end to his pitching career by the time he was 26. So he went to the minors and became an outfielder. He was 31 before he was back in the show, and when he won his second batting title for the 1932 Dodgers he was 35 years old. O'Doul isn't in the Hall of Fame, but Joe "Ducky-Wucky" Medwick is, and this was his number during his Brooklyn tenure, which was short but worthy. After him came one of the famous Boys of Summer, Carl Furillo. He spent fifteen seasons in Dodger Blue, the longest tenure of anyone who's worn this number. He was a complementary bat in that powerful lineup, but he did drive in 90 runs six times. He is best remembered for his throwing arm - in 1951, he rang up 24 Baserunner Kills which was why they called him the Reading Rifle. After Furillo, it was passed to Ron Fairly, a 22 year old outfielder who had already spent parts of three seasons with the Dodgers. Even with Furillo having retired, the Dodgers had outfielders coming out of the walls - veterans Duke Snider and Wally Moon were still with the team. Frank Howard was the 1960 Rookie of the Year; Tommy Davis, just 22 years old, was the other outstanding rookie of 1960; and the most promising young prospect of all, Willie Davis, made his smashing debut at the end of the 1960 season. But Fairly hit .322 in 1961, and they had to somehow make room. They tried moving Tommy Davis to third base, and Fairly to first. Davis didn't work out as an infielder, but Fairly settled in at first base for the next few years. At which point, the Dodgers came up with Wes Parker, who spent his first year as an outfielder, but was a brilliant defender at first base. So Fairly returned to the outfield in 1965, and remained there for the rest of his Dodger tenure. He spent the 1970s as a first baseman, much of it on those new Canadian teams in Montreal and Toronto, representing each as an All-Star. O'Doul, Medwick, Furillo, Fairly - four very good players.

And then Fairly passed this number to a young third baseman named Steve Garvey. It was quickly evident that Garvey's arm was nowhere near good enough for third base (to be honest, it wasn't even good enough for first base) so he was moved across the diamond. Bill Buckner, who had come in from the outfield to play first, went back to the outfield. The Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey infield had taken shape - they would play together for eight seasons, and help take the team to four pennants.Garvey, in his first full season as the Dodger first baseman, was the write-in choice to start the All-Star game, and ended up winning the NL MVP. He would play in nine All-Star games before he was done. It's generally recognized that Garvey was always a little over-rated while he was active. He hit .300 every year, but he never walked and he didn't have great power. On the other hand, he was hitting .300 every year in Dodger Stadium, and he wasn't hitting 200 singles a year. He drove 100 runs five times and when in 1977 his new manager asked him to hit more home runs, Garvey adjusted his game accordingly and posted what would be his career bests in HR, RBI, and slugging. Even better, every September, just like clockwork, Garvey would unfailingly turn into the hottest hitter in the National League; and then, after having helped his team get to the post-season, he would get even hotter. His career postseason numbers are .338/.361/.550 in 55 games; if he had played like that in the regular games, he'd have been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago. As it was, he wasn't quite a great player, but he was a very good one for a very long time.

. Although J.D. Drew was a better player, Steve Yeager spent 14 seasons in a Dodger uniform. He was a fine defensive catcher, who chipped in occasionally with the bat. Yeager is best remembered these days for two things: his performance in the 1981 World Series when he shared the Series MVP Award after he knocked in the go-ahead runs in Games 4 and 5; and his invention of the device that hangs down from a catcher's mask to protect the throat. He came up with that after being hit by a flying chunk of broken bat. Alfredo Griffin also wore this number as a Dodger.

8. There are two excellent candidates here. Reggie Smith was one of the greatest switch-hitters in history, a player who has always been somewhat overlooked. This is possibly because there was another outfielder named Reggie active at the same time, who had a special gift for attracting attention. Smith was nowhere near as spectacular as the other Reggie, but his game was wonderfully complete. If you can imagine Eddie Murray playing centre field, you've got the general idea. Injuries ground down his career a little early, and left his counting numbers a little short of the Hall of Fame. It's tough to pass him over. But John Roseboro is another outstanding player who has been largely forgotten. It was Roseboro's fate to replace one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game, and then spend his prime years batting in the Second Dead Ball Era. At Dodger Stadium, yet. He was also the man conked on the noggin by an enraged Juan Marichal, in one of the game's more bizarre on-field moments. In truth, Roseboro was decent LH bat and a very fine defender, and his team won four pennants in his ten years as the starting catcher.

9. Babe Phelps was a three time All Star catching for the Dodgers just before the war. Greg Brock was unable to live up to his advance billing, but he was a decent player for a few years nonetheless. The Dodgers got Wally Moon from the Cardinals - despite being the NL Rookie of the Year in 1954, the St. Louis fans had run him out of town as soon as they could for the crime of not being Enos Slaughter. In his first year in California, he started the All Star Game in the outfield along with Stan Musial and Willie Mays, and took his new team to an utterly unexpected World Series win. Injuries, and the Dodgers enormous cache of talented young outfielders reduced his playing time over the following seasons. A very fine outfielder, a dangerous line drive hitter, and one of the best sets of eyebrows in major league history.

10. Two catchers best known for their defense, and their subsequent careers as managers, wore this number for the Dodgers: Al Lopez and Jeff Torborg. Dodgers fans would probably rather forget another catcher who wore number 10 - all anyone remembers about Mickey Owen is that he dropped game-ending third strike in the 1941 World Series, and the Yankees rallied to a Series changing victory. No matter. By far the most memorable Dodger here is the Penguin, Ron Cey. Cey was strangely shaped - his legs, rather like my own, were unusually short between the knee and the ankle. It was very odd to watch him run. Unlike me, he was one very good ball player, a power hitter who drew lots of works and a fine defender. Third base has traditionally been a position the Dodgers never could find a solution for, except during the ten years Cey manned the hot corner.

11. Dixie Walker was a fine player, but we're going to snub him for snubbing Jackie Robinson, and salute the one and only Manny Mota. He was one of the first Dominicans to play in the majors, along with Juan Marichal and the Alou brothers - like them, he came to the majors in the Giants organization. But he had been traded to Pittsburgh by the time he made it to stay in 1964. He was a singles hitting outfielder with no power at all, fighting for playing time in an outfield that also included Clemente, Matty Alou, and Stargell. He became one of the original Expos, and went to the Dodgers after three months in Montreal as part of the Maury Wills trade. After several seasons as a semi-regular in a crowded outfield, at age 35 he assumed the role for which he is remembered today - Pinch Hitter Deluxe. From 1974 through 1979 he started a total of 8 games in left field, and never had more than 57 at bats in a single season. He hit .310 over those seasons and drove in 52 runs in 271 at bats. He retired after the 1979 season and became a coach. The Dodgers activated him that September to pinch hit a few times. He went 3-7, with a game winning pinch-hit in extra innings.

12. Jeff Kent is still around, working on his resume. Before he became a manager best known for his somewhat reckless disregard for pitch counts, Dusty Baker was a fine power-hitting outfielder. But Tommy Davis won two batting titles despite playing half his home games in Dodger Stadium, and drove in 153 runs in 1962. For one of the few times in history, the MVP voters chose to honor the man who was being driven in, when for once they would have done better if they had honoured the RBI guy, who also hit .346 with 27 homers. Davis was an impatient hitter, but seeing as how he could hit line drives pretty much at will, and run like the wind, no one really had much cause to complain. The Dodgers at this time had many, many more outfielders than they had positions on the field - so they tried turning Davis into a third baseman, with generally comic results. But the man could swing a bat. A serious broken leg cost him almost all of the 1965 season, and he was never the same player again - his speed never came back. But the advent of the DH in 1973 allowed him to continue ripping those line drives for a few more years.

13. Ralph Branca won 80 games for the Dodgers, but he's best remembered for one he lost in 1951 (he actually lost 7 games - yes, seven - to the Giants that year.) Kirby Higbe had his Dodger tenure interrupted by the War, which cost him two seasons - but he was 51-30 in the three years before he went into the service, and went 17-8 when he came back.. He had some post-baseball troubles, did a little time, and ended up writing an interesting book (The High Hard One) about his life and times.

14. The current Angels manager, Mike Scioscia, was a very fine player - a useful hitter with tremendous plate discipline who worked well with pitchers and may have blocked the plate better than any catcher ever. Gil Hodges started out as a catcher, but was moved to 1B in 1948 and the next year began a run of seven straight 100 RBI seasons, twice hitting more than 40 homers. He was also regarded as a superb defensive player. When his playing days were done, he embarked on what was looking to be a very promising managerial career - he took over the hapless Senators and improved them every year before being traded (as a manager!) to the Mets, where he presided over the 1969 miracle. Alas, he died of a heart attack just before the 1972 season began, two days before his 48th birthday.

Rafael Furcal has it now, and it remains to be seen if his tenure as a Dodger will be long enough make this one his. He was preceded by, among others, Shawn Green, who had some mighty fine seasons in California. And one of the most famous catches in World Series history was made by a little outfielder named Sandy Amoros, in the deciding game of the 1955 World Series. But we're going to remember Davey Lopes here. He was already 28 years old before he established himself as a major leaguer. He played second and led off for the Dodgers for nine years. He was neither a great second base man, nor a great leadoff hitter - but he was pretty good at both, which makes him an awfully useful player. He was also one of the greatest percentage base stealers ever (when he was 40 years old, playing OF for the Cubs, he stole 47 bases in 51 attempts.) He had a fabulous post-season run in 1978 (15-41, .366 with 5 HR and 12 RBI in 10 games), but his team lost in the end so it's completely forgotten.

16. Rick Monday played on three World Series teams for the Dodgers... Hideo Nomo was the first Japanese import to make a major impact in North America...Van Mungo had a great name and was actually a better pitcher than Nomo...Billy Herman was a fine second baseman for a long time, even if most of it was with the Cubs. But we'll go with Ron Perranoski, one of the first outstanding career relievers. Perranoski started exactly one game in his thirteen seasons (as a rookie in 1961) - his 1963 season might have been the greatest season ever by a relief pitcher up to that point in time (16-3, 1.67 with 21 saves, fourth in MVP voting.)

17. When the Dodgers said goodbye to Vero Beach in spring 2008, they brought back Carl Erskine for the occasion. Erskine won the first game at Dodgertown in 1953 - he also won 122 games that counted in his twelve seasons, all spent with the Dodgers. He was the ace of the 1953 team, which was probably the best edition of the Boys of Summer.

18. In the early 1970s, the Dodgers had two exciting shortstop prospects trapped behind Maury Wills - Bill Grabarkewitz and Bobby Valentine. In the end, the Dodgers packed both of them across town (along with Bill Singer and Frank Robinson) in the Andy Messersmith deal, and moved a 23 year outfielder named Bill Russell to shortstop. A strange course of action, but it worked out just great. Russell held the job for the next twelve years, and while he was not a great player on either side of the ball, he was a solid contributor, and was the starting shortstop on four league champions. Only one man (Zack Wheat) played in more games for the Dodgers
19. He was always Plan B, but he was always the answer. Whatever problem the Dodgers had, they could always solve by plugging Jim Gilliam into the spot. He was the NL rookie of the year in 1953 as a second baseman (pushing Jackie Robinson, no less, off the position.) In the mid 1950s, when the team had a shortage of outfielders, he started to spend time in LF. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, they came up with a fine second baseman named Charlie Neal, but they had a black hole at third. So Gilliam moved to third. When Neal lost effectiveness a few years later, Gilliam went back to second. He retired after the 1964 season to become the third base coach - but when the team had a problem at 3B in early 1965, Gilliam suited up again and filled the spot with his usual efficiency - he hit .280 and collected another World Series ring. He was a fine leadoff hitter (career .371 OBP as a leadoff hitter) when they needed that from him, and he was the perfect number two hitter when they needed someone to take pitches so Maury Wills could steal. He was the very definition of an unsung player. He was still coaching for the Dodgers when he died of a sudden brain hemorrhage on the eve of the 1978 World Series. The shock in the baseball world at the time was tremendous - Gilliam was only 49 years old, a man universally regarded with respect and affection. The Dodgers have retired his number.

20. This one's pretty easy, with all due respect to Candy Maldonado. I have always thought that Don Sutton got less respect than any of the other outstanding pitchers of my lifetime. Sutton was certainly as good a pitcher as Nolan Ryan, for example. But there were people who grumbled about Sutton making the Hall of Fame, people who grumbled that Sutton "hung on" to make it to 300 wins. This is nonsense, of course - the year that Sutton won his 300th game, he was going 15-10 for a team that came within one pitch (Donnie Moore to Dave Henderson) of going to the World Series. Sutton only had one 20 win season - the Dodgers were one of the first teams to go to a five man rotation, and Sutton won 18 or 19 games three times. He never won a Cy Young; his best season was the year Steve Carlton won 27 games for a team that lost 100. His stuff didn't intimidate - he struck out 200 hitters in a season only twice. He just took the ball every time it was his turn and gave you a good game. And he always turned up his game in September - he was one of the great pennant race performers of his time. Only two pitchers in history (Young and Ryan) started more games. The number is retired.

21. What, we can't do better than Jim Brewer? No we can't - but Brewer was pretty darn good. As a young pitcher with the Cubs, he was best known for having his jaw broken when Billy Martin charged him on the mound one day - but at some point, he picked up a screwball (apparently from Warren Spahn himself) and he arrived in Los Angeles just in time to give the Dodgers the benefit of what he'd learned for almost twelve full seasons. He had lots of fine years, but his 1972 campaign was especially remarkable: 8-7 with 17 saves and a 1.26 ERA, allowing just 41 hits in 78.1 IP. Sadly, he was killed in a car accident (only 50 years old) in 1987.

22. He was actually wearing number 45 in 1955 when he pitched the shutout in Game 7 that finally won Brooklyn their first championship. But Johnny Podres switched to this number when the Dodgers went west in 1958, and wore it during his three All-Star seasons. He was in the majors at age 20, and lost his effectiveness early - his last truly good season was at age 28, although Dodger Stadium protected him for a few years after that. This was also Bill Buckner's number when he broke into the majors, and Brett Butler wore it during his Dodger days.

23. Podres faded badly in 1964, and the Dodgers tumbled from a World Series title to sixth place. So they packaged Frank Howard and a big bunch of young talent - Pete Richert, Ken McMullen, and Phil Ortega - to Washington for Claude Osteen and John Kennedy. Kennedy was a glove whiz, but couldn't hit a lick, and all four of the players the Dodgers gave up would help the Senators. But Osteen, a fine pitcher trapped on a bad team, was the point of the deal for the Dodgers. He settled in as the third man behind Drysdale and Koufax for the pennant winning teams of 1965-66, and over the next nine years would win 147 games for the Dodgers. Recent notables: Kirk Gibson, Eric Karros, and Derek Lowe.

24. On 27 September 1936, the last day of the season, the Cardinals let late season call-up Walter Alston make his major league debut, finishing the game at first base. Alston, who had led the Mid-Atlantic League with 35 homers, struck out in his only at bat. He was 24 years old, but he never played another game in the majors. Almost ten years later, Branch Rickey hired him as a player-manager for Trenton in the Interstate League. He worked his way up the system, and spent four years in Montreal preparing the Dodgers top prospects for the Big Show. He was tapped to replace the brilliant (just ask him!) but erratic Charlie Dressen in 1953 and held the job for a remarkable 23 years. Alston was possibly the least showy manager in history. There was no flash to him at all, and this was probably what made him so appealing to O'Malley, coming after those noted prima donnas Durocher and Dressen. Alston liked to play small ball, and he liked to lean on his starting pitchers - and in Dodger Stadium, with Koufax and Drysdale (plus Podres, Sutton, Osteen, Messersmith, John), it worked more often than not. He was at the helm in 1955, when the Dodgers finally reached the Promised Land; after the seventh place disaster of the team's first year in California, he promptly led them to another title in 1959; after the playoff meltdown of 1962, with Leo Durocher hovering balefully over his shoulder, Alston took his team to another championship in 1963. Only two men in history have managed the same team to more victories than Alston did with the Dodgers: Connie Mack and John McGraw. The number is retired, of course, and Alston went into the Hall of Fame in 1983, a year before he died.

25. Hugh Casey was the relief ace remembered only for throwing the pitch that got away from Mickey Owen; Frank Howard was the enormous slugger who was a rookie of the year for the Dodgers but achieved his true destiny in the nation's capitol. Whereas Tommy John has a surgical procedure named after him. He also won 288 games in the major leagues. Despite these accomplishments, the Hall of Fame hasn't seen fit to call his name. One can only assume it's because he wasn't even slightly impressive to watch. He just threw sinker after sinker, all of them right at the knees - and the hitters tapped groundball after harmless groundball to the infielders, because there was nothing else they could do with that pitch. He's remembered for that, and the career-saving operation he was the first to undergo, and for pitching until he was 46. That last may also cause some to discount the 288 wins. He did lose a full season out of his prime, and had two of his best seasons (1968 and 1974) cut off by injury.

26. Three flawed pitchers vie for our attention. Curt Davis was a soft-tossing righty who finished up in Brooklyn by winning 58 games in five years as a swingman while World War II watered down the competition; Rex Barney was a wild right hander who had one decent season (1948); Alejandro Pena was a very fine pitcher who just couldn't stay healthy, but was generally effective when he could make it to the mound. He couldn't make it for the Braves in October 1992, which was why they had to summon Jeff Reardon instead... good times.

27. I never actually liked him much either, but Kevin Brown really was a very fine pitcher and he gave the Dodgers (58-32, 2.83 in L.A.) some of his best seasons. For which they paid through the nose, of course. But they're the Dodgers, they can afford it.

28. He wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, he didn't have a defensive position, and he had trouble avoiding injury. But Pedro Guerrero might have been the best hitter in baseball for a while in the mid 1980s, and he was certainly one of the greatest hitters in Dodger history. What he might have done in a different park, and without a team that moved him from position to position every year is an intriguing question. This number was also worn by Preacher Roe, the outstanding southpaw from the Boys of Summer teams (93-37, 3.26 as a Dodger), Wes Parker (only played nine seasons - a better hitter than people realize and the best defensive first baseman of his time), and Mike Marshall, the first reliever to win a Cy Young Award, and the only man ever to pitch in 100 games in a season and 200 innings out of the bullpen.

Tim Wallach gave the Dodgers one very good season at the end of his career, whereas Adrian Beltre gave them one sensational season, and a couple of pretty good ones at the beginning of his.

30. Billy Loes had a couple of fine seasons pitching for the Boys of Summer, and while Dodgers fans mainly remember Jose Offerman for the 79 errors he made in his two seasons as the Dodgers regular shortstop, he was actually a pretty decent player. Maury Wills, of course, is the man who won an MVP award by stealing bases. That was pretty silly, but Wills was a good player. I think he's remembered as a mediocre shortstop, but a fine leadoff hitter, the man who ignited the offense of the Dodgers fine teams of the 1960s. Seems to me both those ideas are mistaken. Nothing could have ignited an offense in that park and in that time, and certainly not Wills who simply didn't get on base enough to be a great leadoff hitter. But he was a better shortstop than people remember - he made a lot of errors, but he got to a lot of balls.

31. If we know anything in this life, we know this - Mike Piazza is the greatest hitting catcher in major league history. As a Dodger, he hit .331/.394/.572 with 177 HRs in 726 games. Amazingly, he never won an MVP award - in a couple of votes that history should be puzzling over, he was the runner to Ken Caminiti in 1996 and to Larry Walker in 1997. I'm happy Walker won the award and all, but Piazza's numbers in Dodger Stadium are almost as impressive as what Walker was doing in Coors Field. Walker of course was a Gold Glove outfielder, while Piazza was a catcher who couldn't throw. But he evidently handled the pitching staff well enough - only the mighty Braves allowed fewer runs. And don't get me started on Ken Caminiti. Anyway, an obvious Hall of Famer.

32. Let us briefly remember the immortal Babe Herman, who was a fine hitter, but a comically bad outfielder and baserunner. He was the Marv Throneberry of his time (but he was a much better player than Marv!), who is best remembered for tripling into a double play. How did he manage that? Well, with the bases loaded, Herman lined a shot off the RF wall. One runner scored, but the man on second, Dazzy Vance, was caught between third and home when the ball caromed all the way back to the second baseman. So Vance retreated to third. Which was occupied by Chick Fewster, who had been on first when the play started. Those two were then joined by Herman, who had come charging around second with his head down... And for decades afterwards, whenever anyone happened to say "the Dodgers have three men on base," wary Brooklynites would ask "Which base?"

We move on from the Babe to one of the most remarkable players ever to wear Dodger Blue. Sandy Koufax was a Brooklyn boy, who joined his hometown team at age 19 in 1955. As everyone knows, it took him a few years to gain control and command, and along the way he had to endure a home field with a 260 foot left field line. By 1961, aged 25, he had figured it out - that year he went 18-13 and struck out 269. And then the Dodgers moved out of the LA Coliseum into Dodger Stadium, and Sandy Koufax instantly conquered the world. And as for the National League - well, he sacked and pillaged it. He was unhittable, untouchable, almost unstoppable - Almost, because injuries stopped him from time to time. In 1962, he was blowing away NL hitters (14-3, 2.06 with 208 Ks in 173 IP) when a circulatory problem derailed his season. But he was healthy enough in 1963 to win his first Cy Young (and the MVP as well). He went 25-5 1.88 with 306 strikeouts, the most by any NL pitcher since the mound was moved back in 1893. He pitched 11 shutouts, the most by anyone in almost 50 years. After seeing him blow away his Yankees twice in the World Series that fall, Yogi Berra famously observed "I can see how he won 25. What I don't get is how he lost 5."

In 1964, Koufax was having another brilliant season (19-5, 1.74) when he injured his elbow in mid-August sliding into second base. He missed the rest of the season. But in 1965, he roared back with a vengeance - he pitched his fourth no-hitter in as many years, this one a perfect game. He went 26-8, 2.04 and struck out an unimaginable 382 batters. He then pitched two CG shutouts in four days to win Games 5 and 7 of the World Series.

In 1962, the Dodgers had reported profits for the year in excess of $4 million. In 1966, Koufax and Don Drysdale staged their famous joint hold-out. They were asking for $175 K per season, and ended up settling for $125 K and $105 K. Koufax went back to work and submitted what may have been the best season of all - the 27 wins was a career high, the 1.73 ERA was a career low. He fanned 317 batters. He lost his only World Series start when the Dodgers made six errors behind him. He was 30 years old.

And he walked away. Since the base running injury of 1964, he had developed an arthritic condition in his left elbow. He was tired of the pain, and he thought there was more to life than baseball. He said "I'm a young man, and I want to be able to use my left arm for the rest of my life." He walked away and he never looked back.

He was incredible. He was the most overwhelming, dominating presence on a pitching mound in my lifetime. No one else - not Clemens, not Johnson, not Maddux - has ever made hitters seem so completely beaten before they even stepped in, so hopelessly overmatched, all of them. Koufax made the game seem unfair, he was so good. It was as if something had somehow shifted out of alignment, as if the game's ancient balance had been thrown out of kilter. He was (and still is!) a big man (6'2, 210) with a truly unique delivery. He took an enormous, gargantuan stride down off the mound towards the hitter, almost to the very edge of the dirt area of the mound - and his back leg never followed through, generally just scuffling around the dirt near the rubber, as he sank down on to his left knee at the end of his motion. Absolutely nothing else like it. He threw just two pitches - a fastball that, despite everything physics tells us, rose - and an utterly sick 12-6 curveball, that batters tended to look at with disdain, there being very little point in swinging at the damn thing. Casey Stengel, who had seen a few in his time, thought him the greatest pitcher in history. He was unforgettable. One of a kind.

33. I always had an utterly irrational fondness for Vic Davalillo, who came to LA at age 40 as their LH pinch hitting specialist and hit .312 (39 for 125) in that role for the 1977-78 pennant winners. But while Eddie Murray put together the bulk of his Hall of Fame career in Baltimore, he did give his home town team three fine years along the way. Including his 1990 season, when he pulled off the unique feat of leading the major leagues in batting without leading either league.

34. Fernando Valenzuela absolutely burst onto the baseball scene in the strike year of 1981. He had pitched brilliantly out of the pen as a September call-up the previous season (2-0, 0.00 in 10 games), and Lasorda tapped him to make the Opening Day start in 1981. He pitched a five hit shutout, to beat the Astros. Six weeks later, after his first eight starts of the season he was 8-0, 1.50 with five shutouts. He couldn't keep that up - he wasn't the greatest pitcher in the history of the game, after all - but he was a reliable workhorse in the Dodger rotation for the rest of the decade, posting 21 and 19 win seasons. Lasorda worked him very, very hard, as was Lasorda's way - he had six straight years of more than 250 innings, all by age 26. He faded after that. He was a lot of fun to watch - he was a portly lefthander with a screwball, and in the midst of his motion, his eyes would fly upwards, as if he were checking to see if any large birds were passing overhead. If I were a hitter, I would have been very disconcerted.

35. Sal Maglie was the hard luck loser in one of the more memorable games in baseball history - Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series. But Maglie only spent about five minutes (OK, sixteen months) as a Dodger. Bob Welch arrived with a bang in 1978. He arrived in June and went 7-4 2.02 with 3 saves and 3 shutouts, and came out on top in a memorable showdown with Reggie Jackson in the second game of the World Series. He never quite delivered on that early promise - he had a problem with alcohol, which surely set him back - but he stabilized into a solid, dependable starter for most of the next fifteen years. The Dodgers got most of that, as he went 115-86 3.14 in Los Angeles. He would go on to win one of the flukiest Cy Youngs of all time in Oakland, where one of his normal solid years was lifted to 27-6 by unbelievable run support. No one has one more games in a season since, unless you also include post-season performance - in which case John Smoltz's 29 wins in 1996 takes the prize.

36. There was a time when the Dodgers system produced pitchers as reliably as the way that Detroit used to produce automobiles, and in similar quantities. Rick Rhoden was one, whose solid major league career was spent mostly with the Pirates. The best Dodger to wear this number was another drinking man. Don Newcombe was the first outstanding African-American pitcher in the major leagues (okay, there was Satchel - but Paige was twenty years past his prime before he got the Show. At least.). Newcombe was a big RH who joined the Dodgers at age 22 in 1949 - he won 17 games, was named Rookie of the Year, and lost both his World Series starts. He never would win a World Series game, but he gave the Dodgers a series of outstanding seasons, culminating in his 27-7 MVP-Cy Young performance in 1956. He was 30 years old, and he had his first sub-par season the next year. When the team moved to California, Newcombe got off to a dreadful start (0-6, 7.86) and was sent packing to Cincinnati. He kicked around a few more years, but he was essentially done.

37. They remember Darren Dreifort for the $55 million contract the Dodgers gave him in 2000. At the time, Dreifort was a 28 year old RH with a 39-45 career record who had never pitched 200 innings in a season; he barely pitched another 200 innings over the five years of his big deal. They remember Ed Roebuck for the ninth inning in the deciding playoff game against the Giants in 1962. With the Dodgers holding a 4-2 lead, Roebuck went out to get the final three outs that would put them in the World Series. Unfortunately, it was his fourth inning of work, his arm was killing him, and he was completely out of gas. After two walks and two singles, the score was 4-3 and the Giants had the bases loaded. Stan Williams came in to give up the sac fly that tied the game, an intentional walk to reload the bases, and an unintentional walk to plate the go-ahead run. Had someone else come on to work the ninth, and recorded those three outs, Roebuck would have finished the season 11-1, 2.87 with 9 saves. He should have been the hero - in the sixth inning, with the Dodgers trailing 2-1, he had come in for Podres with the bases loaded and none out. Roebuck got out of the inning without allowing a run to score. At least he was part of the 1955 and 1959 champs in his eight years as a Dodger.

38. For three years, Eric Gagne was about as good as it was possible for a relief pitcher to be. From 2002-2004, he went 13-7, 1.79 with 152 saves. In 247 IP he struck out 365 batters, while allowing just 145 hits. Shoulder problems derailed after him that, but in those three years he saved more games than anyone else who has worn a Dodger uniform.

39. Jackie Robinson had cleared the path in 1947, and Roy Campanella joined the Dodgers the following season. By 1949, he was the best catcher in the NL by a comfortable mile and he played at the level of an all-time great for the next five years, winning MVP awards in 1951 and 1953. He was a short, squat man and an absolutely wonderful defensive player: extremely mobile behind the plate, with soft hands and a strong arm. He could hit, too, for both power (four 30 HR seasons) and average (three .300 seasons.) He was already 26 years old before he was allowed to play a major league game, and he started breaking down in 1954 - but he bounced back strongly the following year at age 33 to win his third MVP and lead the Dodgers to their first title. It was his last great season. After two more undistinguished seasons, his career ended when he was paralyzed in a car crash two months before the Dodgers played their first game in Los Angeles. At his peak in the early 1950s, he was one of the greatest catchers who has ever played the game. The number is retired.

40. Four interesting pitchers vie for our attention here. Roger Craig spent seven seasons as a useful swing man for the Dodgers, and contributed to the 1955 and 1959 champs. After two years with the original Mets (he went 15-46, despite pitching pretty well), he won another ring as a swing man with the 1964 Cardinals. He would have a long career as a pitching coach and manager, and when he was managing the Giants he was notorious for running pitchers back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation. It had always worked for him. Stan Williams was a big, hard throwing righty who notoriously walked in the winning run in the 1962 playoff. He also went on to a long career as a pitching coach. He's the one I always think of as scoffing at the notion of the Quality Start - "you can have an ERA of 4.50!." Which no one ever does, of course, and Williams himself went 71-25, 1.71 in his 111 career quality starts. Bill Singer started the first game in Blue Jays history; he was at the sore-armed end of his career by then. Earlier he had spent six seasons in the Dodgers rotation, and one of those years (1969) was especially impressive, as he went 20-12 2.34 with 247 Ks. It was his only real outstanding season for the Dodgers, although he'd have another 20 win season in Anaheim. And Rick Honeycutt came to the Dodgers in late 1983, having already pitched enough innings in Texas to lead the AL in ERA that year. He spent most of the next few seasons in the Dodgers rotation before falling off the earth in 1987 (2-12, 4.59) and being dispatched to Oakland where he met Tony LaRussa and embarked upon his first, best destiny. I'm going with Craig because of the two championships.

41. Jerry Reuss spent seven mostly good years in the Dodgers rotation and was the runner-up for the 1980 Cy Young Award. Lou Johnson was a career minor leaguer who got his first real break at age 30 when Tommy Davis broke his leg. Johnson took over as the left fielder for two pennant winning Dodgers teams. I think I'll take Clem Labine, the relief ace for the Boys of Summer. He was the 1951 Rookie of the Year, a two time All Star, and collected a win and a save in the 1955 World Series.

42. You know who this is. As I once wrote, in this very space, "There was only one Jackie Robinson. He was more than a credit to the game; he was a credit to the species. I can be proud to be a human being, because Jackie Robinson was also a human being." He was also a pretty fair ball player, of course. He was already 28 years old when he made his major league debut, and he may have taken him two seasons to finish adjusting to his new league. He was very, very good while he was at it- playing out of position at first base, he was Rookie of the Year in 1947, and turned an almost identical season in 1948 while the Dodgers were moving him to the centre of diamond. By 1949, he was unstoppable. For the next four years, he was the best second baseman baseball had seen since the days of Collins and Hornsby - a great defensive player, a fast and disruptive base runner, and one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. He only had five years as a regular second baseman - by 1953, Robinson was 34 years old and the Dodgers had come up with Jim Gilliam. He was still one of the best hitters on an offensive powerhouse, so he split his playing time between left field and third base for the rest of his career. After another fine season in 1954, his game began to decline. He played two more ordinary seasons (by his own lofty standards, anyway), and when the Dodgers traded him to the Giants - the Giants? - at the end of 1956 he chose to retire instead. He was a month short of his 38th birthday, and had just finished his tenth major league season. His career was too short to post impressive counting numbers - Eric Karros had more hits in a Dodger uniform than Jackie Robinson - but the only baseball player whose impact can be spoken of in even the same breath is Babe Ruth. We can all be proud to be human beings, because Jackie Robinson was one of us.

43. Charlie Neal, a power hitting second baseman, was a good enough player for a couple of years to push Jim Gilliam off the position. But then he stopped hitting. Rick Sutcliffe won 17 games and the Rookie of the Year award in 1979 before going into eclipse. He would return as a fine starter, but with the Indians and Cubs. Which leaves us another Dodger Rookie of the Year, the Brown Buffalo himself, Raul Mondesi. We might forget what an exciting talent he was when he came up - he hit for power (three 30 HR seasons for the Dodgers) and average (two .300 seasons), could steal bases (two 30 SB campaigns in LA) while playing a very fine right field (four Gold Gloves.) He loved the night life, he liked to boogie, and his game and his body didn't wear as well as it could have. But he was a very fine player for a while, and the Dodgers got the best of him.

44. Al Downing's blazing fastball when he was a young Yankee was just a memory by the time he came to Los Angeles. He had enough game left to give the Dodgers one outstanding season, and hung around long enough to throw a famous pitch to Henry Aaron. Likewise, Darrell Strawberry had given his best years to New York - he gave the Dodgers one very good season before it all began to catch up with him. Which leaves us with Ken Landreaux, who put in seven useful years as the Dodgers centre fielder.

45. Johnny Podres was wearing this number when he was the hero of the 1955 World Series, but we've saluted him elsewhere. Pete Richert and Pedro Martinez would both be traded away by the Dodgers and go on to enjoy long and successful careers elsewhere. Richert would make two All Star teams while he was a starter with Washington, and then have many fine seasons coming out of Earl Weaver's bullpen in Baltimore. Martinez you probably know about - the Dodgers traded him for Delino DeShields because Tommy Lasorda thought he was too slight to hold up a starter's workload (he probably was too slight to hold up to the way Lasorda worked his starters.) Which leaves us with, of all people, Odalis Perez who actually made an All Star team as a Dodger.

46. Burt Hooton was originally famous because of a pitch he threw - when he arrived with the Cubs, he brought with him something he called a knuckle curve. He probably wasn't the first to throw it, and Mike Mussina has used it all through his long career (and it was Roy Halladay's second pitch when he was a high school phenom) - but Hooton is the first one I know of, anyway. After three years in Chicago, the Cubs traded him to the Dodgers for Geoff Zahn (whom they would release at the end of the year - Zahn would emerge as an effective pitcher years later, in the AL). Hooton would have seven fine years in the LA rotation, and was the runner-up for the 1979 Cy Young.

47. One of the more significant players in baseball history, Andy Messersmith only spent three years with the Dodgers. They'd acquired him from the Angels in exchange for Frank Robinson, Bill Singer, and both their shortstops of the future - Bill Grabarkewitz and Bobby Valentine. They knew he was good, and he was just great for the Dodgers. He went 55-34 2.67 as a Dodger, but is most remembered for playing the 1975 season without signing a contract. He won 19 games with a 2.29 ERA. Messersmith (and Dave McNally, who was retired but was serving as Marvin Miller's insurance policy in case Messersmith decided he couldn't refuse the fistfuls of money the Dodgers might wave at him, as the Cardinals had waved at Ted Simmons a few years earlier) then argued that this one season represented the one year renewal spelled out by the reserve clause. He and McNally , therefore, were now free agents. The owners' position, as always, was that the reserve clause could be renewed again and again, one year at a time, forever. The players' grievance was upheld by arbitrator Peter Seitz in December 23, 1975, and Messersmith signed with Atlanta as a fee agent the following March.

48. Dave Stewart was yet another product of the Dodgers pitching factory, and while he showed flashes of his enormous promise with them, he had some growing up left to do and would have to be traded and released before he became Dave Stewart. Pedro's older brother, Ramon Martinez, was a wonderful pitcher when he arrived with the Dodgers. He went 20-6 2.92 with 223 Ks and finished second in the Cy Young vote in his first full season. He was just 22 years old. Ramon was 6'5 and even skinnier than Pedro, and he had trouble bearing up under the load routinely applied to Dodgers starters. After going 17-13 the following year, he started to have arm problems. His strikeout rate fell drastically, and he would only have one more season when he was able to pitch 200 innings.

49. Tom Niedenfuer had four good seasons in the Dodgers bullpen, and by 1985 had emerged as their late inning ace. Then he gave up two shattering, game-winning homers (to Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark) that essentially cost the Dodgers a spot in the World Series. And he was never the same again. Tom Candiotti spent a number of decent years in the Dodgers rotation, but the best Dodger knuckle baller of them all was probably Charlie Hough. While Hough would have a long, long career as a starter, that all came after he left California. He gave the Dodgers some fine years coming out of the bullpen. I think we're going to go with one of the Boys of Summer, a comet who flashed across the sky, and then vanished. Joe Black (who violates the old saw that players named "Black" are always white, and vice versa) had a tremendous rookie season at age 28 for the 1952 Dodgers - 15-4, 2.15 with 15 saves. Manager Charley Dressen gave him a couple of September starts to prepare him for a starter's role in the World Series. He won the opener, which made him the first African American pitcher to win a World Series game. He pitched well in his other two series starts, but took a pair of tough losses. Next spring Dressen insisted that he added some additional pitches to his fastball-curve repertoire. It messed him up, and he was never any good again.

50. This is where the pickings normally start getting slim. But Jay Howell is worthy - he gave the Dodgers five very good seasons as their bullpen ace, saving 85 games and posting a 2.07 ERA as a Dodger.

51. Larry Sherry was a decent enough reliever for several years in Los Angeles, and he was absolutely sensational in the 1959 World Series. He got into four games, won two of them, and allowed but one run 12.2 IP, which won him the Series MVP automobile. This was also worn by that Fat Tub of Goo, Terry Forster during his Dodger days - which were pretty good, when he was able to haul his butt out to the mound.

52. Tim Crews died along with Steve Olin in the 1993 spring training boat accident. He'd spent six years as a useful arm in the Dodgers bullpen before signing as a free agent with Cleveland. He was two weeks short of his 32nd birthday.

53. The case of Don Drysdale is often cited by people who want to make a Hall of Fame argument, of one kind or another. Drysdale's career numbers (209-166) look almost the same as those of Milt Pappas (209-164), who no one thinks of as a Hall of Famer. I don't know if Drysdale is a Hall of Famer, but I have no clue what the Hall of Fame's standards are anyway. There are better pitchers than Drysdale who are not in the Hall, and worse pitchers than Drysdale who are in. But Drysdale was memorable. He came up while the team was still in Brooklyn, and went 17-9 2.69 in the Dodgers final season at Ebbets Field. But he was made for California. He was articulate, brash and handsome in 1960s movie star kind of way. On the mound, he was extraordinarily intimidating. He stood 6'6, which made him enormous by the standards of the day, and he had a sidearm delivery that seemed to be coming at RH hitters from the general vicinity of third base. He threw very, very hard. And he liked to pitch inside. Oh, did he like to pitch inside. Now all of the great pitchers of the 1960s shared this attitude - men like Koufax and Gibson and Bunning regarded as an affront to their personal honour if a hitter took a halfway decent swing at a pitch on the outside part of the plate. But no one was more cheerfully open, and brutal, about it than Drysdale. It was a principle with him, and he liked to talk about it as often as possible, just so everybody knew exactly what to expect. Which really encouraged the hitters to dig in. He led the league in hit batters five times, and stands 13th on the all-time list with 154 despite his abbreviated career. Dodger Stadium in the 1960s was a wonderful place to pitch, but it was a good place for the other team's pitcher as well. Drysdale didn't always have the best run support, and put together some seasons that look very odd now: 19-17, 2.63 in 1963, and 18-16, 2.18 the following year. His luck wasn't always bad, and he won the Cy Young award when he went 25-9 for the 1962 team. In 1965, he went 23-12 2.77 for the championship team and doubled as the team's top pinch-hitter: he hit .300 with 7 HR and 19 RBI in 130 at bats. He had two more all star seasons left at that point, and in 1968, the year of the Pitcher, he ran off six straight shutouts and established a new major league record by pitching 58 consecutive scoreless innings. He was 32 years old. And suddenly, he was finished. His shoulder gave out on him the next season. He moved smoothly into broadcasting, and was on assignment when he died suddenly at age 56 in Montreal.

54. Not much to choose from here, but Tim Leary won 17 games for the 1988 champs, and just hearing his name reminds me of the 60s. Anyway, it's him or Omar Daal.

55. Tommy Lasorda thought that one way to turn a skinny bespectacled right-hander into a fierce competitor was by giving him a ferocious nickname. And so Orel Hershiser became "The Bulldog," which is just so wonderfully absurd when you remember what the man actually looked like. He arrived with a fine rookie season as a swing man in 1984; in his first full season in the rotation he went 19-3, 2.03. The Dodgers fell on hard times at that point, putting together back to back 73-89 seasons in 1986-87. They couldn't score - they were 10th in league in runs scored in 1986 and 12th (dead last) the following season. Hershiser went 14-14 and 16-16 for the hitless wonders. But in 1988, the arrival of Kirk Gibson apparently scared the team silly, and they started to play some serious ball. At the end of August, the Dodgers had a comfortable 6.5 game lead - Hershiser had just defeated the Expos 3-2 for his 18th win against 8 losses. The Expos scored a couple of runs in the fifth, but Hershiser went the distance for his third complete game in a row. At that point, Danny Jackson of the Reds, then at 19-6, 2.59 looked like the favourite for the Cy Young award. But in his next start, Hershiser shut out Atlanta. Then he shut out Cincinnati. Then he shut out Atlanta again. Then he shut out Houston. And San Francisco. He went into his final start of the season having thrown 49 consecutive scoreless innings, just nine behind Drysdale's record. He pitched ten scoreless innings to set the new record, in a game that took 16 to finish. In six September starts, he'd gone 5-0, 0.00 with five shutouts. And he wasn't done - he extended his stretch to 67 scoreless innings by blanking the Mets for the first 8 innings in the first playoff game, before finally surrendering his first run in six weeks. That game ended up going to extra innings, and the Dodgers' bullpen coughed up a 4-3 lead (two unearned runs) in Hershiser's next start in game three - so Hershiser came out of the pen himself to save game four. He then threw yet another shutout to win the decisive seventh game. The World Series was more of the same. He pitched a three hit shutout to win Game 2 (he rapped out as many hits himself as he allowed to the Oakland lineup), and submitted yet another complete game victory in the series finale. It was an impossible act to follow, and in 1989 the Dodgers offense fell right off the face of the earth. Despite pitching brilliantly, Hershiser was a .500 pitcher again (15-15, 2.31.) In April 1990, his workload caught up with him and he was shelved for more than a year with reconstructive shoulder surgery. But he fought his way back, and while he was no longer as brilliant as he had been, he was still a fine pitcher and won another 106 games in the major leagues and made two more trips to the World Series, this time with Cleveland.

A few Dodgers, generally pitchers of recent vintage, have worn the higher numbers: Pedro Astacio (56) and Ismael Valdez (59) come to mind. The unfortunate Steve Howe (57) won a Rookie of the Year and went to an All Star game while with the Dodgers. But I'll take one of my favourites here. Before he signed that notorious contract with Texas, Chan Ho Park (61) had five very fine seasons in the Dodgers rotation, while finding time to make one of the funniest Nike commercials of all time.

For much of their time in Brooklyn, and for almost all of their time before they put numbers on the jerseys, the Dodgers really were a bunch of Bums. But a few players from that dark era should be remembered. The last of the legal spitballers, Burleigh Grimes, pitched them into the 1920 World Series and posted four 20 win seasons in Brooklyn. At age 31, having pitched just 2 innings in the majors over the previous six years, Dazzy Vance suddenly exploded as the premier power pitcher in the National League, leading the league in Ks seven years in a row, winning 20 three times, and scooping up the 1924 MVP. Only Sutton and Drysdale won more games in a Dodgers uniform. And Zack Wheat spent 18 years patrolling left field in Brooklyn; he played more games and knocked more hits (2804) than any other Dodger, ever.

And there's also a fellow who never put on a uniform. But how can we think of the Dodgers and not think of Vin Scully? What other broadcaster has an X-Files character named after him? (yes, Chris Carter is a fan.) Scully started out with the Dodgers in Brooklyn in 1950. He called the 1955 World Series win. He called Aaron's 715 homer. He called Kirk Gibson's improbable pinch hit homer in the 1988 World Series, and after saying "she is ... gone!" Scully did not say another word for more than a minute, letting the noise of the crowd tell the story. Breathes there another broadcaster in the known universe who would do that? But Scully likes to let the game speak for itself, whenever possible - he sees his role as to tell you what you can't see, or can't know. Plus he speaks in fully formed sentences, that you can read as good prose on the page afterwards. And his voice just sounds like baseball. He was, and still is, as good as it gets.

Well, the Dodgers tale is an epic. I started doing these with the idea of just choosing the right guy for each number, but as I get into it, I find I want to do a brief sketch of why the player was memorable. A team with a history like this... well, it takes some time. The way sacking a city takes some time. Next up in the Lobby's tour of the NL West will be the San Diego Padres. That will be a light appetizer before another massive epic slides into view - the long and mighty saga of the Giants of New York and San Francisco.