Los Angeles Dodgers: Ranking the Best Years in Dodgers History
2011 has been anything but a great year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. There have been a number of injuries to the Dodger infield and pitching staff, the team is currently in last place in the NL West, attendance is down, and the franchise recently went bankrupt.
But rather than harping on all of the negatives that are presently occurring, we will instead discuss the best years in Dodgers' history.
Originally from Brooklyn, the Dodgers played 127 years of baseball before the 2011 season even began. During that time, the boys in blue have had a plethora of great players, big moments and incredible dynasties.
For the younger generation of baseball fans, the Dodgers may seem like a franchise that tends to fill up seats in their stadium, but doesn't always perform on the field. However, from the 1940s through the 1980s, only the New York Yankees could rival the Dodgers in terms of success.
In fact, although the Dodgers haven't been to the World Series in 23 years, they still have the second most pennants (22) of any franchise next to the New York Yankees.
Things aren't looking too sunny these days in Dodger Stadium, but there are still a number of diehard Dodger fans that get butterflies when they think of these ten years.
Although the 1953 Dodgers didn't win the World Series, it was arguably the most talented team in franchise history.
With a deep roster featuring Dodger greats like Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Peewee Reese, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Carl Furillo, Don Newcombe, Jim Gilliam and Duke Snider, the Dodgers won a team-record 105 games in 1953.
A franchise known better for great pitching than superior hitting, the 1953 Dodgers scored a team-record 955 runs, while leading the league in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, runs and stolen bases. That season, center fielder Duke Snider and catcher Roy Campanella hit over 40 home runs a piece and each finished in the top three in MVP voting.
However, the 1953 Dodgers wound up losing to Mickey Mantle and the New York Yankees in the fall classic, their fourth series loss to the Bronx Bombers in seven seasons.
Before they became known as the Dodgers, the franchise went through several team names, including the Atlantics, the Bridgegrooms, the Superbas, as well as the Robins.
The only one of those teams that ever went to a World Series was the Brooklyn Robins in both 1916 and 1920.
With outfielder Zack Wheat and starting pitcher Jeff Pfeffer leading the way, the 1916 Robins won 94 regular season games to capture the first pennant in franchise history.
The Robins were matched up with the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, the only time in history that the two franchises have met in the fall classic.
Boston ended up winning the series in five games, in large part because of the incredible pitching of Babe Ruth, who allowed just one run in 14.1 innings.
The 1940s were a frustrating decade for Dodger fans.
Despite winning 894 games and three pennants between 1940-1949, the Dodgers failed to win their first World Series as a franchise.
However, 1947, albeit a frustrating year, was a great one for the Dodgers.
Second baseman Jackie Robinson signed a contract with the Dodgers in 1945 and played with the Dodgers minor league affiliate, the Montreal Royals, in 1946. Then, finally in 1947, after many years of discrimination, Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was a proud moment for the Dodger franchise and for African Americans around the country,
Robinson received mixed reviews from the public, but had an outstanding rookie year for the Dodgers. The Dodger second baseman hit .297 and led the NL with 29 stolen bases to capture the 1947 NL MVP.
As a team, the Dodgers won 94-60 and the NL pennant.
However, the Dodgers would ultimately fall to the New York Yankees in a hard-fought seven game World Series.
Similar to the 1940s Dodgers, the Dodgers in the 1970s had nine winnings seasons and won three pennants, but didn't win any titles.
The 1974 season was the first in which the famous Dodger infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey all started together.
With a great pitching staff that included starting pitchers Don Sutton, Andy Messersmith and Tommy John, as well as 1974 Cy Young relief pitcher Mike Marshall, the Dodgers led the league with a 2.97 ERA.
As a team the Dodgers won a major-league high 102 games. They then went on to beat Willie Stargell and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS.
However, the Dodgers were no match for the Oakland A's dynasty, who won their third consecutive World Series title.
After the Dodgers put up 12 consecutive winning seasons from 1946-1957, the team struggled in 1958, going just 71-83 in their first season in Los Angeles.
Dodger greats like Duke Snider, Jim Gilliam, Gil Hodges, Don Newcombe and Peewee Reese were all on the decline, so the team had extremely low expectations going into the 1959 seasons.
However, during a season in which the NL was filled with parity, the Dodgers managed to win the NL pennant with just 88 wins.
Matched up against Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, Early Wynn and the rest of the Chicago White Sox, the Dodgers went on to win the 1959 World Series in six games.
Dodger pitcher Larry Sherry earned World Series MVP honors, as he somehow won two games in the series and saved two more, while allowing just one earned run in 12.2 innings.
1981 will forever be remembered as the year of Fernandomania.
During a season that was shortened by 52 games due to a players strike, rookie pitcher Fernando Valenzuela and the rest of the Dodgers were still able to make the most of it.
Valenzuela began his rookie season by throwing five complete game shutouts in his first seven appearances. He started the All-Star game for the NL and went on to barely win NL Cy Young Award over Hall of Fame pitchers Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan and Bruce Sutter.
As a team, the Dodgers went 36-21 before the strike and finished 63-47 overall, which was good enough for a playoff birth.
During an unusually long postseason, due to the circumstances of the players strike, the Dodgers beat the Houston Astros and the Montreal Expos to clinch the NL pennant.
The Dodgers then met up with the New York Yankees in the World Series, whom they had lost to in both the 1977 and '78 fall classics.
After losing the first two games of the series, the Dodgers went on to win four games in a row to become the 1981 World Series champions.
For the famous Dodger starting infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey, it was their first and only World Series title, after they had spent more than eight seasons together.
Two years removed from a great year in 1963, in which the Dodgers won 99 games and swept the New York Yankees in the World Series, the Dodgers would once again return to their winning ways in 1965.
As a team, the Dodgers scored just 608 runs, but they had an exceptional starting pitching rotation featuring Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Claude Osteen and Johnny Podres.
Koufax won his second career NL Cy Young Award, going 26-8 with an ERA of 2.04, while striking out a then-major league record 382 batters.
Los Angeles posted a winning record every month of the 1965 season, including an unbelievable September, in which they allowed just 50 runs to their opponents in 27 games (1.9 runs per game). Overall, the Dodgers finished with an NL-best record of 97-65, two games better than the second place San Francisco Giants.
The Dodgers met up with Harmon Killebrew and the surprising 102-win Minnesota Twins in the 1965 World Series.
Koufax didn't pitch game 1 of the series because it fell on the same day as the Yom Kippur holiday, but he certainly made up for it as the series went on. After allowing just one earned run in game 2 of the series, Koufax pitched complete game shutouts in game 5 and game 7, as the Dodgers beat the Twins for their fourth World Series title in 11 years.
Koufax unsurprisingly won World Series MVP for the second time in three years.
Few would argue that the 1988 Dodgers were the most talented team in franchise history. However, the 1988 squad certainly experienced many of the franchises' greatest moments.
After posting back-to-back losing seasons in 1986 and 1987 for the first time since 1937 and 1938, the 1988 Dodgers exceeded expectations by winning 94 games to become NL West champions.
Dodgers' starting pitcher Orel Hersheiser had a season for the ages. The Dodger right-hander was 23-8 on the year with an ERA of 2.26, earning NL Cy Young honors. He also ended the season by throwing a record 59.1 consecutive scoreless innings.
Meanwhile, Dodgers' left fielder Kirk Gibson won the NL MVP after hitting 25 home runs and stealing 31 bases.
The Dodgers entered the 1988 postseason as heavy underdogs. However, the boys in blue managed to upset the 100-win New York Mets in seven games, setting up a fall classic between the Dodgers and the Oakland A's.
In game 1 of the series, the Dodgers trailed the A's 4-3 heading into the bottom of the 9th inning. With two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the 9th inning, MVP Kirk Gibson, who had a pulled hamstring in one leg, pinch hit against star closer Dennis Eckersley. Gibson miraculously took Eckersley deep as the Dodgers took game 1 of the series to shock the A's. It was a magical moment for Dodger fans and one of the most dramatic home runs in baseball history.
The Dodgers went on to upset the 1988 World Series in five games. Hersheiser, who had two complete game wins in the series, took home World Series MVP honors.
After a nice 1962 year that nearly made this list, the Dodgers had an even better year in 1963.
The Dodgers actually scored 202 less runs in 1963 than in the previous year, but their spectacular pitching easily made up for it.
The story of 1963 was the emergence of Sandy Koufax, from an All-star pitcher with a lot of potential into one of the greatest pitchers the game has ever seen.
Koufax set career-highs across the board, as he earned both NL MVP and Major League Cy Young honors. That year, Koufax won the pitcher triple crown, leading the league in wins (25), ERA (1.88), and strikeouts (306).
Meanwhile, Don Drysdale, who won the NL Cy Young Award the previous year, won 19 games, struck out a career-high 251 batters and actually finished the season with a better ERA (2.63) than the year before (2.83).
Also of note, Dodger closer Ron Perranoski had an amazing season in relief. He posted an impressive ERA of 1.67, as he won 16 games for the Dodgers and saved 21 more.
As a team, the Dodgers won 99 games during the regular season to easily clinch the NL pennant.
In the postseason, the Dodgers met up with White Ford and the New York Yankees.
The Yankees would muster up just four runs total in the entire series as the Dodgers swept their World Series-rivals for the first time ever. In the series, Koufax had two complete game wins, as he fittingly completed his legendary year with World Series MVP honors.
In 1955, just about everything went right for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
After a successful April, in which the Dodgers went 14-2, the boys in blue cruised to the NL pennant where they would match up with the New York Yankees for the fifth time in nine seasons.
Along the way, the Dodgers got a lot of production out of MVP catcher Roy Campanella (.318, 32, 107) and center fielder Duke Snider (.309, 42, 136).
Dodgers' starting pitcher Don Newcombe had a big year as well, winning 20 games and leading the NL in winning percentage (.800).
The 1955 World Series fittingly went the distance, but the Dodgers prevailed in seven games. After more than half a century of falling short, the Dodgers won their first World Series in franchise history and their only one in Brooklyn.