MLB 9s: L.A. Dodgers—Maury Wills, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson Shine
The shortstop who stole 104 bases, the catcher who was a great Dodger long before he was a great Met, and the third baseman who may have had one of the best single offensive seasons in L.A. history.
Power or speed? The past or the present?
It all points to one question with hundreds of possibilities: Which Dodger had the greatest offensive season at his position?
Major League Baseball has been asking fans this same question in an effort to choose each team's best-ever collection of stars.
They are calling it MLB 9s.
Here I have separated the contenders from the pretenders in an effort to pick my dream Dodgers lineup, based on their one career year.
My other MLB 9s you might want to check out are:
Catcher: Mike Piazza (1997)
When you are looking for the greatest offensive season by a Dodgers backstop, look no further than Mike Piazza.
In fact, you could make an argument that at least three of his first five full seasons in L.A. could make the cut.
His ’97 season was probably the best though. He hit 40 home runs and batted .362, scoring 104 runs and driving in 124. Only Larry Walker’s 49 home runs stopped him winning the NL MVP.
His batting average was third best in the National League, and his .431 on-base percentage and .638 slugging mark ranked third and second respectively.
His 104 runs are a franchise high for a Dodgers catcher, and his home runs and RBI tallies are second all-time.
He was named to his fifth consecutive All-Star game and won his fifth straight Silver Slugger award. It’s worth pointing out that 1997 also marked the fifth year that he placed in the top 10 in the MVP voting. He would never get closer than second in his 16-year career.
Highlight Game: Aug. 27, 1997 @ Pittsburgh. Piazza recorded his only six-RBI outing of the season in a late summer game against the Pirates.
Piazza went 3-for-5 with a pair of home runs and a walk, scoring three times in a 9-5 victory.
Competition: The only real competition comes from Roy Campanella, who hit 41 home runs and drove in 142 batters in 1953. The sole difference between the best seasons of both hitters is that Piazza batted 50 points higher.
Campanella—a Hall of Famer—won the Most Valuable Player award with the Brooklyn Dodgers three times, including in 1953. While his 1951 and 1955 seasons were both stunning, Piazza gets the nod by a small margin.
First Base: Jack Fournier (1925)
I didn’t know anything about Jack Fournier until I started researching my MLB 9s series.
Fortunately for Fournier, being a defensively inept first baseman does not disqualify him from my list.
In his third season with the Brooklyn Dodgers—his fifth Major League team—Fournier batted .350 and hit 22 home runs. Described as a pure hitter, Fournier racked up 130 RBI, 21 doubles, and 16 triples. He walked 86 times and had an OPS above 1.000 (1.015).
His 22 home runs ranked third in the NL that year. His .446 on-base percentage was second best, and his 86 walks led the league.
Highlight Game: May 3, 1925 vs. Philadelphia. Fournier’s only walk-off home run of his career came in the bottom of the ninth inning of a game against the Phillies.
Trailing 1-0 and one out away from being shut out, Fournier won the game with one swing of the bat, launching a two-out walk-off shot off Clarence Mitchell.
Competition: The big decision at first base was between Fournier, Eddie Murray, and Gil Hodges. The latter hit 42 home runs in 1954, scoring 106 runs and driving in 130.
The only knock against him was his .304 batting average, which wasn’t good enough for a top 10 spot.
Murray receives a mention based on his 1990 campaign, when he batted .330 and hit 26 jacks.
“Steady Eddie”—a Hall of Famer based mainly on his tenure with the Orioles—finished fifth in the MVP ballot after posting a .520 slugging percentage and driving in 95 runs.
That is good enough for Murray to beat out Hodges for second place, if there is such a thing. Unfortunately, too many people will probably just see the 42 home runs and hit the vote button without a second thought.
Second Base: Jackie Robinson (1949)
Robinson is a no-brainer at second base. Two years after winning the Rookie of the Year award, the 30-year-old Robinson won his first and only MVP title.
He batted .342, stole a league-leading 37 bases, and scored 122 runs to help the Brooklyn Dodgers reach the World Series.
He also hit 16 home runs, 38 doubles, and 16 triples, batted in 124 runs, posted a .432 on-base percentage, and drew 86 walks compared to 27 Ks.
His 122 runs and 124 runs batted in are both Dodger highs for a second baseman. His .342 average is fourth all-time.
Highlight Game: May 30, 1949 @ New York Giants. In the first game of a doubleheader against the Giants, Robinson broke a 13th-inning 1-1 tie with a leadoff home run to start the inning off Dave Koslo.
The Dodgers held on to win 2-1 but would lose the nightcap 7-4.
Competition: Davey Lopes was mere batting points away from snatching this from Robinson. His 28 home runs and 44 stolen bases are impressive, but his .265 average is his downfall.
Jeff Kent batted .289 with 29 bombs and triple-digit runs and RBI in 2005, and Charlie Neal went deep 19 times, scored 103 runs, and swiped 17 bags in 1959.
Third Base: Adrian Beltre (2004)
Back in ’04, Beltre flashed the kind of power bat that no other third baseman in the history of the Dodgers had ever done before.
His 48 home runs smashed the previous franchise high of 32, and only a juiced-up Barry Bonds kept him from winning the MVP in his final year as a Dodger.
He led the National League in long balls, batted .334, and slugged .629, driving in a career-high 121 runs and scoring 104.
The season is an anomaly in his 12-year career, especially considering the pedestrian seasons that went both before and after it.
No other L.A. third baseman has hit more home runs, scored more runs, or recorded more runs batted in that Beltre did in 2004.
Highlight Game: Aug. 20, 2004 vs. Atlanta. Beltre hit two home runs, including a walk-off blast in the bottom of the 11th inning to help the Dodgers beat the Braves 3-2.
Beltre—who finished 3-for-5—tied the game with a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning off of closer John Smoltz and then won it in his next at-bat against Juan Cruz.
Competition: Pedro Guerrero would have won this position battle if it wasn’t for Beltre’s one fantastic year. In 1983, Guerrero hit 32 home runs and was just two points away from batting .300.
He scored 87 runs, batted in 103, and stole 23 bases. His speed almost put him over the top, but it’s impossible to ignore Beltre’s monster year.
Dick Allen also receives props for his 1971 season: .295, 23 home runs, 90 RBI.
Shortstop: Maury Wills (1962)
104 stolen bases. Enough said.
Wills played in 165 games for the Dodgers in the 1962 season on his way to the Most Valuable Player award.
His 104 steals led all of baseball by 56, and nobody in the National League swiped more than 32. In fact, in the six years between 1960 and 1965 when he was the league’s top thief, he won the title with fewer than 60 steals four times.
A true leadoff hitter and table-setter, Wills batted .299, hit a league-leading 10 triples, and scored 130 runs—second only to Frank Robinson.
His 104 steals is seventh all-time in baseball history and the most by any infielder ever.
Highlight Game: Aug. 26, 1962 @ New York Mets. In seven innings of action against the Mets, Wills went 2-for-3 with an RBI double, a walk, three steals, and three runs.
It was one of seven games in the ’62 season where he swiped three or more bases.
Competition: Glenn Wright was good—as far as shortstops go—in the 1930 season. He hit 22 homers and batted .321. Rafael Furcal was better in 2006, batting a round .300, hitting 15 home runs, and stealing 37 bases.
Speed wins out over power at shortstop here.
Outfield: Duke Snider (1954)
This could just as easily be 1953 or ’55, but his 1954 season is just as good, if not better, than the rest.
He collected a league-leading 378 total bases, batted .341, and hit 40 home runs in the 1954 season.
He also led the NL with 120 runs scored, drove in 130 men, and slugged .647. He fell one hit shy of 200, legged out 10 triples, and hit 39 doubles.
He was selected to his fifth straight All-Star game, and he finished fourth in the MVP race behind Willie Mays, Ted Kluszewski, and Johnny Antonelli.
Highlight Game: June 7, 1954 @ St. Louis. Snider finished a single short of hitting for the cycle after hitting a triple, home run, and double in his first four at-bats.
He finished 3-for-6 with three RBI and a run, and the Dodgers survived a late scare to win 7-5 in extra innings.
Shawn Green (2001)
Green’s 2001 campaign was a beast. Not Barry Bonds "beast" or Sammy Sosa "beast," but still very impressive.
He bounced back from a no-frills 2000 season with a career-high 49 home runs and 125 RBI.
His .297 batting average was the highest mark of his time with the Dodgers, and he finally started to justify the eight-figure salary he received after the Dodgers shipped Raul Mondesi to Toronto.
Green scored 121 runs and stole 20 bases, despite striking out 107 times. He provided the Dodgers with the power bat they needed in right field and was rewarded with sixth place in the MVP voting.
Highlight Game: Aug. 15, 2001 vs. Montreal. Green exploded for three home runs and seven RBI in a 13-1 victory over the Expos at Dodger Stadium.
He took Carl Pavano deep twice in the second and fourth innings and then finished his highlight day with a solo shot to right-center field off Masato Yoshii in the seventh.
It’s not the four home runs he hit in a game against Milwaukee the following year, but it’s still pretty good.
Babe Herman (1930)
The lesser-heralded "Babe" of the 1920s and '30s, Herman had a career year with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1930 season.
He batted .393 and hit 35 home runs, 48 doubles, and 11 triples. He also stole 18 bases, scored 143 runs, and drove in 130.
His 143 runs are the most by any outfielder in the history of the franchise, while his 48 doubles and 130 RBI rank third all-time.
Highlight Game: June 22, 1930 vs. Pittsburgh. In one of five multi-home run games of the season, Herman went deep twice against Larry French
He tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning with a solo shot and then again in the seventh with a three-run blast to knot the game at 6-6.
The Dodgers went on to beat the Pirates 9-6.
Competition: Raul Mondesi, Matt Kemp, and Gary Sheffield were all on the bubble.
Mondesi hit 30 home runs and stole 32 bases in 1997, Sheffield batted .325 with 43 home runs in 2000, and Kemp hit 26 and stole 34 in 2009.
Tommy Davis also seemed a popular choice with MLB voters after hitting 27 home runs, batting .346, and stealing 18 bags in 1962.
Pitcher: Don Newcombe (1955)
A pitcher who could handle the bat, Newcombe batted .359 with seven home runs and 23 RBI. He also scored 18 runs and hit nine doubles in 117 at-bats.
Highlight Game: May 30, 1955 vs. Pittsburgh. In the second half of a doubleheader, Newcombe went 3-for-4 with the bat, hitting a pair of home runs to power the Dodgers past the Pirates 8-3.
Competition: Don Drysdale also hit seven home runs in 1958, but he only batted .227. Earl Yingling, on the other hand, hit .383 in 1913 but never went yard. Newcombe’s 1955 season is the best by quite a long way.
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