With the exception of a few years during my junior high and high school days, I have been a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers throughout my life.
It was passed down to me from my grandparents, who, being African American, were fervent Dodger supporters due to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947.
Though they were based in Brooklyn at that time, the Dodgers were undoubtedly Black America's team.
That devotion was solidified when the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1958. My family, being from L.A., was obviously ecstatic; it was inevitable that I would become a Dodger fan.
Having said that, here are my choices for the all-time Dodger team, with the players being from both Brooklyn and Los Angeles.
Since they are one of baseball's premier franchises, I think it's a good idea to do this:
CATCHER: Roy Campanella ("Campy"). One of the charter members of Brooklyn's "Boys of Summer" team that dominated the 1950s. He won three Most Valuable Player awards in a five-year span, and understood that "you have to have a little boy in you" to play this game.
FIRST BASEMAN: Gil Hodges. It was a close call between him and Steve Garvey, but Hodges gets the nod because he was an integral part of one of baseball's great teams, and he should have been elected to the Hall of Fame a long time ago.
SECOND BASEMAN: Jackie Robinson. The man who broke the color line. The greatest Dodger ever. The greatest man, not only in baseball history, but in the history of sports.
SHORTSTOP: Pee Wee Reese. Jackie's friend, and another obvious choice. The captain of the "Boys of Summer", he was a Dodger for 18 years, and played spectacularly at short. He even accompanied the team to L.A., bridging the old and the new.
THIRD BASEMAN: Ron Cey. The only Los Angeles Dodger in this all-time infield. Part of baseball's longest playing infield quartet in the 1970's and early '80s, he was a hot corner mainstay, and L.A.'s all-time home run leader for a time.
LEFT FIELDER: Tommy Davis. The last Dodger to lead the National League in RBI, he was the best hitter on the Koufax and Drysdale-led team...at a time when runs were at a premium, and very tough to come by.
CENTER FIELDER: Duke Snider, "The Duke of Flatbush". A significant reason why Brooklyn won six pennants in ten years, plus the World Series in 1955. He hit 407 homers in a 17-year career, and is the all-time Dodger franchise leader.
RIGHT FIELDER: Carl Furillo, "The Reading Rifle." Another "Boy of Summer" with a steady presence, a timely bat, and an outstanding throwing arm. A mainstay at Ebbets Field, he was most beloved by Brooklyn fans.
1. Sandy Koufax. The best all-around pitcher in Dodger history, and the dominant hurler of the 1960s. With his four no-hitters, including an epic perfect game in 1965, he put Los Angeles on the major league map.
2. Don Drysdale. He was part of baseball's best pitching duo, along with Koufax, in the '60s, and was one of the meanest hurlers of that period. He would throw at opponent's heads and think nothing of it. His record of 58 and 2/3 scoreless innings stood for 20 years.
3. Don Newcombe. The ace of the "Boys of Summer". He won 20 games several times, while leading "Dem Bums" during the glory days of the 1950s. The fact that he's not in the Hall of Fame is an absolute crime.
4. Don Sutton. The Dodgers' best pitcher during the 1970s. He helped lead the Blue Crew to four pennants, and was the leader of that staff.
5. Fernando Valenzuela. The architect of Fernandomania in the 1980s, this southpaw from Northern Mexico galvanized the Latino community as no one else had, especially in L.A. He had a wicked screwball as well, which he used to mow down hitters for ten years.
RELIEF PITCHER (CLOSER):
Eric Gagne. With his all-time record of 84 consecutive saves, no one else comes close.
Entering the field to Guns and Roses' "Welcome To The Jungle", he was the reason why Dodger fans stayed through the ninth inning, rather than leaving after the seventh.
OK, now that the starters and front-line pitchers have been named, here's the rest of the all-time 25-man Dodger roster:
Mike Piazza. Perhaps the greatest hitting backstop ever.
Steve Garvey. Mr. Consistency. He is the National League's leader in consecutive games played with 1,207, and was a constant Gold Glover and .300 hitter.
Jim Gilliam. Who was great both in Ebbets Field and Dodger Stadium.
Maury Wills. Who stole 104 bases in 1962, shattering Ty Cobb's record. Enough said about that.
Dusty Baker. A tremendous slugger for Los Angeles in the 1970s and '80s. And not a bad manager either.
Babe Herman. His .393 average in 1930 is a Dodger franchise record that stands to this day.
Dazzy Vance. He led the National League in strikeouts multiple times in the 1920s, in an era where hitters dominated.
Carl Erskine, "Oisk." This mainstay on the "Boys of Summer" staff was outstanding during the Ebbets Field days.
Johnny Podres. The fact that he shut out the New York Yankees in Game Seven of the '55 Series, giving the borough of Brooklyn their only title, automatically puts him on this all-time staff.
Orel Hershiser. Along with Kirk Gibson and his epic home run against the A's, he was the reason behind the last Dodger championship in 1988. Going 23-8 and breaking Don Drysdale's record of 58 consecutive scoreless innnings that year, he was a pitcher for the ages.
Mike Marshall. Helping the Dodgers to the pennant in 1974 while coming out of the bullpen, he was the Cy Young Award winner that year.
Johnny Roseboro. Did spectacularly in taking over behind the plate for Roy Campanella after his tragic car accident that paralyzed him for the rest of his life. He was a clutch hitter and standout defensive catcher who helped the Dodgers to a good start in L.A.
Zach Wheat. An outfielder from the 1920's who was Brooklyn's best player from that decade.
And my choice for manager? I'm sure you're asking that right now.
It's a tie between Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda, two completely different personalities who led the Dodgers to all six of their World Championships. They were the club's only two skippers in a 42-year span, covering both Flatbush and Chavez Ravine.
Hopefully Dodger fans will concur with my picks for this all-time roster.
Whether the Dodger faithful agrees with me or not, one thing is for sure: a team with this many legends on it would be a longtime dynasty.
If there is anyone who doesn't agree with me on that, I would like to meet him. Or her.
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