Many call it the greatest draft in the history of pro sports

August 20th, 2015

In 1968, the Dodgers drafted nine players who would go on to play a total of 148 seasons in the Major Leagues, appear in 23 All Star games, total over 11,000 hits, and club more than 1,100 home runs. The two pitchers from the draft tallied 305 big league wins. Add in six Gold Glove Awards, a batting championship, an All Star MVP award, a regular-season MVP award, a World Series MVP award, and the N.L. record holder for consecutive games played, and it’s easy to see why many believe it’s the greatest draft by any team in the history of professional sports. “The draft of 1968 was historical,” said Ron Cey, one of the players drafted that year. “97% of the cream of the crop each year is supposed to fail. That draft might be the best draft in history with a bunch of guys who played 15 years or so, Bobby Valentine, Billy Buckner, Davey Lopes, Tom Paciorek, Doyle Alexander, Steve Garvey, Joe Ferguson, myself. That’s a lot of guys right there.” Cey failed to include 111-game winner, Geoff Zahn, a Dodger teammate for three seasons. The selection of those players laid the foundation for continued excellence in Los […]

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HoFer Bert Blyleven gave Don Mattingly an earful in ’84!

August 5th, 2015

By Jim Smiley After fourteen years on the ballot, Bert Blyleven got elected in 2011, his final year on the Writers’ ballot. The first Dutch-born inductee, Blyleven was a practical joker off the field, and a competitor on it. Renowned for having one of the game’s best curveballs, Blyleven could also bring the heat. Just ask former Yankee Don Mattingly. The first time the two squared off was in August of 1984 at Cleveland’s Lakefront Stadium. Blyleven was in the midst of one of his finest seasons. The Dutchman went 19-7 with a 2.87 ERA that year and finished fourth in the American League in strikeouts. Mattingly was near the apex of his career, finishing the year as the A.L. batting champ, leading the league with 207 hits, and 44 doubles. “The first at bat, I hit a seed, a one-hopper right at the first basemen,” Mattingly said. Feeling confident Mattingly came up for his second at bat ready to do some damage. “I was like all right, I’m going to hit him hard again,” Mattingly recalled. Did the confidence pay off? “The first was right at my chin and knocked me down on my ass,” said a smiling Mattingly. After dusting himself off, the […]

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Absent from Cooperstown, former Cy Young and MVP Don Newcombe made a US President’s Hall of Fame

August 4th, 2015

By Jim Smiley Don Newcombe’s baseball resume reads like a history lesson, spanning from the pre-integration era of the 1940s to the present day. The first player to win Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Most Valuable Player awards, “Newk” won 20 games and hit .359 in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ only championship season. Despite his accomplishments, Newcombe never received more than 15.3% of the writers’ vote in elections for Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Though Cooperstown has yet to beckon, Newcombe may very well be in a more prestigious Hall of Fame — one that requires presidential approval for admission. To understand the accomplishments that warrant inclusion into such a Hall of Fame, one must peer into Newcombe’s groundbreaking baseball experiences. Two seasons after beginning his professional baseball career with the Negro Leagues’ Newark Eagles, Newcombe played for the Nashua Dodgers, America’s first racially integrated baseball team since the color line was drawn in 1888. By 1949, Newcombe, with teammates Jackie Robinson, and Roy Campanella, and Cleveland outfielder Larry Doby was among the first African-Americans to be named to a Major League All-Star team. Apparently aware of Newcombe’s role in breaking baseball’s color line, it was President Obama himself who included Newcombe in the […]

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Dodger press box can be a lonely place — just ask Don Hartack

August 1st, 2015

Many boys dream of making it to the major leagues, hitting balls over the fence and into a crowd of wildly cheering fans.  They picture toeing the pitching rubber with the crowd hushed in anticipation of the pitch.  The big league dream is strong for many, but elusive for all but the special few. Don Hartack, a former high school shortstop, realized early his ability to cleanly field grounders and stay back on a curve ball would not carry him to  baseball’s zenith. It’s Hartack’s other skills that would take him all the way to The Show. You’re watching a baseball game and a hard hit one hopper glances off of the infielder’s glove.  Quick — is it a hit or an error?  The pitch that made its way to the backstop.  What do you think, is it a wild pitch or a passed ball? There’s only one person whose opinion matters. With his precise knowledge of the rule book and keen decision-making skills, Hartack got to the majors as Major League Baseball’s official scorer at Dodger Stadium. The uniformed men play and umpire the game, but it’s Hartack who interprets the plays and decides how they will be statistically recorded.  When he’s […]

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"Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball…"

~Jacques Barzun, 1954