I’m a fan of Houston Mitchell’s, Dodgers Dugout newsletter distributed by the Los Angeles Times (click here to subscribe) and I especially enjoyed a recent feature that asked fans to vote for their favorite all-time Dodgers. The recently revealed poll results (illustrated list above) came up with, what I believe to be, a darn fine roster of players that I can find little to quibble with as to the legitimacy of their placement on such a list … but, as a baseball fan, quibble I must!
Sandy Koufax is my personal favorite and is the greatest left-handed pitcher to have played the game, at least until a fella named Kershaw came along. As a kid, I was sitting in the stands at Dodger Stadium in May of 1964 watching a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, whose season was going just fine at the time but their future would unfold into one of the great late season team collapses in baseball history. But, on this day, thanks to a home run by Tommy Davis (#24 on the list), my Dodgers were clinging to a 3-1 lead. Koufax had missed his last couple of starts due to a tweaked ankle and was not expected to be seen for a spell. In the eighth inning as the Phils were about to come to bat, I noticed a strange buzz in the crowd. I looked out at the bullpen in left field just in time to see the gate swing open and a familiar, yet shadowy, figure emerge with a Dodger Blue satin jacket draped over his left shoulder. Women screamed, men with big cigars waved their scorecards round and round over their heads and kids like me stood on our seats and cheered at the sight of the great Sandy Koufax strolling to the mound. As he warmed up I noticed that wind-up, caught in sequence by so many photographers whose pictures adorned the bulletin board in my bedroom. The arch in the back after that looong stride that generated so much torque opposing hitters were left dumbfounded. He proceeded to strike out the side. On nine pitches. Apparently the ankle had been tested and he was ready to resume the season.
Despite my childhood memories and despite my affection for Sandy, it seems a shame that Jackie Robinson should finish second on any roll call of baseball greats. After all, his iconic uniform number 42 hangs on the wall of every major league ballpark in America. Not Babe Ruth’s, not Sandy’s, just Jackie’s. He means too much to all of us to finish second. I think even Sandy might agree,
Another note: Among the Top 10 vote getters only one is not in the Hall of Fame. Fernando. It’s doubtful the Hall will induct him anytime soon, but I think the Dodgers could recognize how much he means to us by retiring number 34, or maybe even a statue someday. No Los Angeles Dodger did more to unite disparate SoCal communities than Fernando.
Now, as for #19 on the list, I am going to put on my grumpy curmudgeon hat (it fits me well) and snarkily suggest Mr. Piazza be left off altogether. Let him be voted onto the Mets’ list of greats. Sure, he owes his career to the Dodgers, but his ungracious behaviour toward we fans here in L.A. sort of negates the on-field thrills he gave us … I mean, come on, we didn’t trade him.
All in all, it’s a great list and one that stands to remind us of what a wonderful franchise we’re blessed with! Now, on to the question of who was left off!