Saturday, October 20, 2012
Day Off From Post Season Play...Remembering the Dominance
As we endure another October of baseball playoffs without the Dodgers this year, I reminisce about the times when October was special for the Los Angeles Dodger fans. When the Dodgers were the team of dominance.
Between 1974 and 1988 the Dodgers won 2 World Series, 5 Pennants, 7 Division titles and they were eliminated from post season play twice on the last day of the regular season. That’s quite a run, but it was what fans expected in that era and a standard that many old time Dodger fans like myself have come to expect. We would have been shocked in 1989 if we’d have been told about the dry run the team would have for the next 25 years.
The Dodgers were THE team in Los Angeles. The sports pages were dominated by them and the National League feared them. It was a team that dismantled the dominant Cincinnati Big Red Machine and one that went through transition and still continued to win beating some solid Houston Astro, Padre and Giant teams in the 80s.
Post season play was expected by the boys in blue. A pennant victory was often the outcome. A World Series Championship was tougher to come by, but always a possibility. Those Dodger teams had swagger and finesse. They came into cities on the road with confidence and weren’t pleased unless they left Chicago, New York, or Atlanta with sweeps. They had stars and were hated by opposing fans. There was definitely a jealousy factor with them.
National League West opponents hated them. Going into Houston, San Diego, Atlanta, Cincinnati and especially San Francisco, you could always expect a chorus of “boos” to accompany them. Steve Garvey was loathed for his clean cut ways and his clutch hits. Ron Cey was especially hated in Frisco because he owned them. Rick Monday made no friends in Montreal after knocking the Expos out of the World Series with his 1981 blast. Dave Lopes had broken the Phillies hearts in 1977 with a ninth inning single that evened the score in an amazing comeback Dodger win. Then there was Dusty Baker and Reggie Smith, a power outfield tandem that reeked havoc on the League. And I haven’t even addressed the dominant pitching those Dodger teams had.
Don Sutton, Burt Hooten, Andy Messersmith, Tommy John, Mike Marshall, Jerry Reuss, Rick Rhoden, Bob Welch, Doug Rau, Rick Sutcliffe, Alejandro Pena, Steve Howe, Orel Hershiser and Fernando Valenzuela. Amongst the group were 3 Cy Young Awards and 5 runners up, 2 ERA titles, several strikeout leaders and a club that led the league in ERA year in and year out.
There was Tommy Lasorda. Flambouyant, confident and loud mouthed. He was the type of manager who made his presence known. They thought he was arrogant and obnoxious. They hated that he was fat and round and would talk about his Dodgers as if they were the second coming of the ’27 Yankees. Tommy would roll into a city like New York or Chicago and hit the restaurants and talk Dodger, Dodgers and Dodgers. He didn’t shy away from cameras and if a rhubarb erupted on the field, he was the first one out of the dugout fighting for his ball club.
Yes, the late 70s and 80s Dodgers were arguably the dominance of the National League. The title always went through Los Angeles. There were some solid opponents during the same time period, but the Dodgers were always in the top tier of the mix. Will those days over return? Probably not to the extend that we remember, but this ownership group will certainly spend a lot to try to do so.
Things are really dead on the Dodger news front, as MLB has sent out it’s annual edict to teams that they not announce any news that will distract from Post-Season play and the World Series. So it was quite a surprise to see that Gerry Hunsicker was added to the Dodgers baseball operations staff. That move in itself might be the most significant one the team has this off season.
The Giants Barry Zito pitched his best game as a Giant at the most opportune time yesterday. Had Zito been shelled and the Giants eliminated, there was a high probability that he would have been released this off-season. As an admitted Giants critic and one that has blasted them for that $125 million seven year deal that they gave Zito, I must say that the junk balling lefty was absolutely craftsmanlike last night. He pitched a masterpiece mixing 5 different pitches to near perfection. The Giants live another day and should be feeling pretty good about themselves as they have Vogelsong and Cain slated to pitch the final two games.