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Category: Jackie Robinson

Dodgers Web Musings: The numbers say it's over

The Dodgers are so done. The season is so over, the team is so finished it awaits only its final coup de grace.

If nothing else, baseball is about numbers. And alas, blue bleeders, it’s all there in bad digits.

It was troubling enough when the Wall Street Journal reported that, since the wild-card format was introduced in 1996, just 9% of teams that have had a losing record on June 1 have gone on to to win 90 games, the number typically considered the playoff minimum.

But now comes Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, who writes that in that same period 96% of all teams that were both at least five games under .500 and at least five games out of first place failed to make the playoffs.

By the end of June 1, the Dodgers were left 26-31 and 5½ games out.

Verducci has the four teams that managed to buck the odds, including the 2005 Astros who were 13 games under .500 and ended up in the World Series.

The National League West, of course, continues to offer hope to all. No team has stood out, and its five teams are bunched up fairly closely.

Also on the Web:

--ESPN/L.A.’s Tony Jackson lunches with MLB trustee Tom Schieffer, who tells him: "I don't think there is any question there is a strain between the franchise and the community right now. And that isn't the community's fault.’’

--The Times’ Ben Bolch tries to figure out how Ubaldo Jimenez could do to the Dodgers Wednesday night what he couldn’t do to any other team in his first nine starts -- beat them.

--In a video, Fox Sports’ Kevin Kennedy says it would be foolish for the Dodgers to deal either Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier: "You have to give fans a reason to come to the park.’’

--The Daily News’ Tom Hoffarth has more on the story first reported by Vin Scully Is My Homeboy’s Roberto Baly, of the Vogue covering up Vin Scully’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: The Vogue is haunted.

--That new Jackie Robinson movie is a go, to be written and directed by Brian Helgeland, who penned the classic "L.A. Confidential.’’

--True Blue L.A.’s Brandon Lennox looks at players with Dodgers bloodlines who will be eligible for next Monday’s MLB draft.

--ESPN/L.A.’s Jon Weisman thinks it’s time the performances of the youngsters in the bullpen received more due.

--Fox Sports’ Jack Magruder writes that the Diamondbacks have bought into Kirk Gibson’s ultra-competitive style and it’s working.

--Yahoo Sports' Steve Henson has a terrific piece on why Sparky Anderson eschewed a funeral.

--Giovanni Ramirez, the suspect in the Bryan Stow beating, has taken a second polygraph test, according to his lawyer.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Jackie Robinson Day features panel discussion, Dodger Stadium ceremonies to honor No. 42

L0yaronc The Dodgers have scheduled a series of events Friday to honor the 64th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier.

They’ll start off the day with 10 current and former Dodgers holding a panel discussion on Robinson’s effect on baseball and society at Crenshaw High School. Former Robinson teammate Don Newcombe, now a special advisor to Frank McCourt, will moderate the panel.

Also scheduled to appear at the Crenshaw assembly are Tommy Davis, Maury Wills, Lou Johnson and current Dodgers Matt Kemp, James Loney, Marcus Thames, Tony Gwynn Jr., Xavier Paul, and minor leaguer and Crenshaw alum Trayvon Robinson. It is closed to the public.

The Dodgers have also donated tickets to the entire Crenshaw student body for their game June 13 against the Reds.

"The Dodgers and Jackie Robinson have been a team for so many years and they remain a team today,’’ Newcombe said in a statement. "I look forward to helping the next generation of Americans learn all about who Jackie was and how much he means to so many people.’’

Continue reading »

Dodgers Web musings: If Robert Redford plays Branch Rickey, who gets to be Jackie Robinson?

Yep, that Robert Redford, he of the Wonderboy bat and Kim Basinger as his femme fatale.

The Times' Steven Zeitchik reports that Redford is set to play legendary former Dodgers executive Branch Rickey in a new film to be directed by Brian Helgeland, who penned the film "L.A. Confidential" based on James Ellroy's crime classic novel. The film also starred Basinger. Any excuse to mention Basinger again is a good one for me.

This new, still-untitled film will feature the relationship between Jackie Robinson and Rickey. Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947.

Now, who to play Robinson? If only Denzel Washington were younger. Any ideas?

Also on the Web:

-- A vigil was held Wednesday night for Bryan Stow, the Giants fan brutally beaten in the Dodger Stadium parking lot after last week's season opener.

KTTV/Fox has a report:

-- The Times' editorial page maintains that fans can start the turnaround in crowd behavior at Dodger Stadium.

-- The Times' Dylan Hernandez looks at Chad Billingsley's rough day in Denver.

-- Hernandez also looks at Casey Blake's return and says Manager Don Mattingly may play him some at first and sit James Loney against some tough left-handers.

-- New security adviser Willliam Bratton talks to KNBC/4 on his plans for Dodger Stadium:

-- ESPN/LA's Tony Jackson talks to Tony Gwynn Jr. about his return to San Diego on Friday to play the Padres.

-- LA Dodger Talk's Mark Timmons said the media has an agenda -- if only I could figure out what mine is -- and accuses it of plotting Frank McCourt's demise.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers web musings: Future of `young core' with team could be on the line this season


Since no big superstar arrived to the rescue during the offseason, the Dodgers’ outcome this year will largely depend on how Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney and Jonathan Broxton rebound from a disappointing 2010.

But personally, they could be playing for even more. Broxton can become a free agent after this season, and Kemp, Ethier, Loney and Chad Billingsley are eligible the following season.

ESPN/LA’s Ramona Shelbourne points out all will have to play well to make their individual case they should be re-signed. She said this season will go a long way in determining which players will make themselves part of the team’s long-term future.

Also on the web:

-- The Times’ Dylan Hernandez said Kemp has earned positive reviews this spring in his efforts to rebound.

-- Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness’ Mike Petriello is being won over by the play of Tony Gwynn Jr. this spring, and given the team’s configuration, thinks he could answer several problems.

-- The Dayton Beach News-Journal’s Sean Kernan, via Roberto Baly, writes on the 65th anniversary of when Jackie Robinson played his first exhibition game and broke baseball’s color barrier in spring training.

-- Baseball Savvy’s Howard Cole continues his profiles of Dodgers bloggers with an in depth look at the prolific, two-jobs Jon Weisman of ESPN/LA.

--’s Ken Gurnick
takes a look at catcher Hector Gimenez, this season’s unknown Venezuelan discovery by Ron Rizzi, who is making an unexpected roster bid.

-- Albuquerque Baseball Examiner’s Christopher Jackson, via Petriello, writes that Jon Link is not all that thrilled with being turned into a starter.

-- True Blue LA’s Eric Stephen profiles Dodgers injured starter Jon Garland.

-- MLB Network, via Weisman, has what it says is unprecedented film footage of Dodgers Hall of Fame right-hander Dazzy Vance from 1924.

-- The Dodgers have a new business/marketing partner -- El Zarco Tequila.

--Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Last April, James Loney, left, and Matt Kemp were congratulating Andre Ethier, right, for a game-winning home run in the 10th inning against Arizona. Will these celebrations continue long term? Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Dodgers' Web musings: Ramon Troncoso pitches his way back into bullpen picture

Ramon_300 Love is a many-splendored thing, unless Joe Torre was going all goo-goo eyed over you in the bullpen.

Sometimes, that qualified as tough love. If Torre loved you, he tended to use you. And sometimes, too much.

Troncoso had been an unexpected delight in 2009, appearing in 73 games and posting a 2.72 ERA and even picking up six saves. The Dodgers assumed it would be more of the same last year, and things began well enough.

But Troncoso appeared in 14 of their first 20 games last April and began to slip. By the end of June his ERA was up to 5.45 and his confidence was shaken. He looked worn out. He was soon sent back to the minors, where he would spend the bulk of the next two months.

Troncoso entered this spring almost as an afterthought. The bullpen looked packed, with maybe one opening that hardly appeared earmarked for the 28-year-old.

But an injury to Vicente Padilla and Ronald Belisario’s latest AWOL routine have presented an opportunity, and Troncoso appears set on making the most of it.

Manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson that last season Troncoso became reluctant to use the sinker that had been so effective for him in the past.

This spring he has retired 10 of his 11 batters and at least in the early going has been impressive. His ability to pitch more than one inning could help him jump back into the Dodgers’ bullpen picture.

"His role would be to kind of fit in the middle [ahead of] whoever you have setting up," Mattingly told Jackson. "He is a guy who is going to have to pitch multiple innings."

Also on the Web:

-- The Daily News’ Tom Hoffarth takes a great look at ex-Dodger Greg Goosen, whose death last week was almost typically overshadowed by that of Duke Snider’s passing.

-- In the New York Times, ex-Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca gives a moving first-person account of Snider and how he stood up for Jackie Robinson.

-- The Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin writes that commissioner Bud Selig is again speaking volumes while refusing to comment on Frank McCourt’s ownership difficulties while aiding troubled Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

-- Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan profiles ace-in-the-making Clayton Kershaw, also taking another look at his off-season trip to Africa.

-- More from Passan: He writes that Dodgers reliever Travis Schlichting has the greatest mullet in the history of mankind, or at least baseball.

-- The Post-Gazette’s Ron Musselman writes that ex-Dodger James McDonald is thrilled to have a set role in the Pirates' rotation, where he is tentatively scheduled in the No. 3 spot.

-- TrueBlueLA’s Phil Gurnee profiles left-hander Scott Elbert, off to a slow start in Arizona.

-- More from LAT's Shaikin: Will the Dodgers let Matt Kemp run free on the bases this season, even if he’s the cleanup hitter?

-- Orange County Register travel editor Gary Warner takes a look a the Dodgers’ semi-new home in Phoenix and likes it.

-- The N.Y. Times' Ben Shpigel writes that catcher Russell Martin and right-hander Phil Hughes are bonding over their love of hockey.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Ramon Troncoso in 2010. Credit: Paul Buck / EPA

Dodgers Web musings: Getting all positive on the 2011 Dodgers

T.J. Simers, The Times’ resident optimist, takes a look at the new Dodgers and comes away overflowing with optimism.

At least in his inimitable way.

Wrote Simers on the coming season: "Some fans might be so excited they are even thinking about buying tickets or loaning Frank McCourt money."

Can’t you just smell the fresh-cut grass?

Also on the Web:

-- There are numerous heartfelt tributes to Duke Snider, including at The Times, the New York Times, Newsday, the New York Daily News, and

-- The Canadian Press has the story of the U.S. Ambassador’s plans to place a plaque at the Montreal apartment of Jackie and Rachel Robinson in their honor as part of Black History Month.

--’s Ken Gurnick talks to left-hander Scott Elbert and the pressures that apparently led to his leaving the organization last season, for personal reasons that were never explained.

-- The New York Times’ Karen Crouse has a feature on Clayton Kershaw’s life-changing trip to Africa in the off-season with his wife, Ellen.

-- CBS Sports’ Ray Ratto thinks Charlie Sheen would be the ideal new Dodgers owner, because in the troubled actor they would have "someone who would at least make the Dodgers more stable than they already are, because the only thing less stable than the Dodgers ownership in its current state is a solar flare."

-- ESPN L.A.’s Tony Jackson has the details on the Dodgers’ plans for a benefit game March 25 against the Arizona Diamondbacks to benefit the Christina Taylor Green Memorial Fund.

-- Yahoo Sports’ Steve Henson thinks Joe Torre’s cool will work well as commissioner Bud Selig’s new vice president.

-- Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi talks to outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. about his Hall of Fame father’s battle with cancer, getting cut by the Padres and joining the Dodgers.

-- Baseball Savvy’s Howard Cole gets an insightful interview with Dodgers’ super fan Roberto Baly of Vin Scully is My Homeboy.

-- TrueBlueLA’s Eric Stephen looks at which Dodgers pitchers excelled at getting the called strikeout last season.

Stephen also picks up on dropping the obnoxious "This Is My Town" slogan and opting for the classic Vin Scully phrase, "It’s Time for Dodger Baseball." That's called progress.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Duke Snider, a classic Dodger, dies

Snider1_325 We never got to see the best of him. Not really, not on the field, anyway. Not in Los Angeles.

Duke Snider was a legendary player before the Dodgers came to L.A. prior to the 1958 season. Put up numbers that now seem almost unfathomable.

In the five years with the Brooklyn Dodgers before they moved west, Snider averaged 41 home runs, 117 RBI and 116 runs per season.

The great debate was which New York team had the greatest center fielder -- the Giants with Willie Mays, the Yankees with Mickey Mantle or the Dodgers with Snider.

He was graceful on the field, clutch at the plate and, in my experience, a gentleman off the field. The last surviving regular member of the Boys of Summer, he died Sunday in a convalescent hospital in Escondido at age 84 after battling diabetes.

"He was an extremely gifted talent, and his defensive abilities were often overlooked because of playing in a small ballpark, Ebbets Field," veteran Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully said in a statement.

"When he had a chance to run and move defensively, he had the grace and the abilities of DiMaggio and Mays, and of course, he was a World Series hero that will forever be remembered in the borough of Brooklyn. Although it’s ironic to say it, we have lost a giant."

Snider was "The Duke of Flatbush," one of baseball’s all-time great nicknames, although he graduated from Compton High School.

In Brooklyn, he helped lead the Dodgers to six pennants and finally helped push them past the Yankees to their historic first World Series title in 1955. Though he was never voted MVP -- he hit .309 with 42 homers, 136 RBI and 126 runs in 1955 but finished second to teammate Roy Campanella -- he went on to the Hall of Fame.

Duke3_300 In Los Angeles, the cavernous Coliseum, a bum knee and perhaps age affected his production. His best season here was in 1959, when he hit .308 and had 23 home runs and 88 RBI in 370 at-bats on the Dodgers’ first World Series championship in L.A.

As with the rest of us, there were down moments in his career -- run-ins with fans and management, getting caught up in a memorabilia scandal in 1995.

But the silver-haired Snider later seemed to take to his elder-statesman position, though never shy about offering an honest opinion.

Those were great Dodgers teams he was part of -- Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Jim Gilliam, Carl Furillo and Campanella. Teams that so captured the imagination of Brooklyn that their move to Los Angeles still tears at the borough today.

At their center was the Silver Fox, batting third in the order, always rising to the moment in the World Series.

His legend only swelled in Terry Cashman’s iconic baseball song, "Talkin’ Baseball -- Willie, Mickey and the Duke," and in Roger Kahn’s classic sports book, "The Boys of Summer."

Though he would finish his career with seasons with the Mets and Giants, he seemed an eternal Dodger. A part of their classic past, even if it came before Los Angeles.

"Duke was not only a great player but he was a great person too," said Tommy Lasorda, his former teammate, in a statement. "He loved his family and loved the Dodgers. He was the true Dodger and represented the Dodgers to the highest degree of class, dignity and character. He was my teammate and friend, and I will really miss him."

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photos: (Top) Duke Snider rounds the bases after hitting one of four home runs for Brooklyn in the 1956 World Series. (Bottom) Duke Snider with Los Angeles on the road, circa 1962. Credits: Getty Images and Associated Press

For the record: An earlier photo caption accompanying a photo with this post said Duke Snider was celebrating the 1954 World Series championship with teammate Larry Sherry. The two were actually celebrating the 1959 World Series championship.

Rounding out the Top Ten coolest Dodgers of all time, and then the not-so-cool

Manny_400 Hey, I can do cool. Not personally, maybe, unless rounded, balding, middle-aged dudes are finally in fashion.

But here in Wednesday’s Times, Chris Dufresne had a fun read on his 50 coolest athletes in Southland history.

Any list with Johnny Weissmuller and "Gorgeous" George Wagner in its Top 5 is OK by me.

His No.1 coolest, quite naturally, is Sandy Koufax. Just naturally cool. Three other Dodgers make his top 50 with Jackie Robinson at No. 15, Fernando Valenzuela at No.21 and Don Drysdale at No.30 (one behind wife Ann Meyers).

Parker_300 So figured I’d take a swing at filling out Dufresne’s start with the Dodgers’ Top Ten. Current Dodgers excepted:

5) Manny Ramirez: Yeah, I know. But in his offbeat, dreadlocked, beat-to-his-own-drummer way, he was cool. Nothing was cooler than his impact on the ’08 Dodgers.

6) Kirk Gibson: Not your prototypical version of cool, but he was a unique firebrand who dominated a room. Also, when he was going good, an all-time quote.

7) Steve Yeager: Admit it, even though you never have, don’t you feel like you partied with this dude?

8) Chuck Connors: Hey, he was "The Rifleman." Nothing was ever cooler than that. So cool, I can even forget he was once a Boston Celtic.

Yeager_300 9) Steve Sax: OK, so he tilts a little toward the goofy side of cool, but there’s room for one.

10) Wes Parker: He just looked smooth whatever he was doing. Playing first, swinging, standing in the clubhouse. Still the only Claremont McKenna College player to make the bigs.

Honorable mention: Eric Young (the smile), Wally Moon (Moon shots alone), Rick Monday (his iconic moment), Eric Karros (hair), Wee Willie Keeler (name alone), John Wetteland (played guitar).

The Uncool Top Ten: Orel Hershiser (aw, shucks), Burt Hooton (looking for a plow), Kevin Brown (temper, temper), Rickey Henderson (too much effort), John Tudor (such attitude), Milton Bradley (he could have been cool; he could have been a lot of things), Steve Garvey (see: Rickey Henderson), Jeff Hamilton (has yet to speak), J.D. Drew (mannequin man), Juan Marichal (because we have long memories).

-- Steve Dilbeck

Top photo: Manny Ramirez. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Middle photo: Wes Parker. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Steve Yeager. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Checking in with Carl Erskine: still being honored 50 years later

Dodgers He said it still happens sometimes. More than 50 years since he retired, times when dawn breaks and Carl Erskine will again ponder the question.

"I wake up in the morning and say, 'Did that really happen to me?' Because you couldn’t dream or fantasize to play with the team I played for," Erskine said.

What happened was a 14-year career as a right-handed pitcher for the Dodgers that he looks back at almost through the haze of some vague illusion.

Playing alongside team legends Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Carl Furillo, Pee Wee Reese and Don Newcombe. Throwing two no-hitters. Winning five National League pennants and the breakthrough World Series title in 1955. Striking out a then-record 14 in a World Series game.

And starting the first game the Dodgers played in Los Angeles.

"You can almost take the scores, forget them and ask, 'What really mattered?’ What really mattered was being there and being a part of these Hall of Famers’ careers and part of history," he said.

Continue reading »

Checking in with Tommy Davis, still the L.A. Dodgers' only batting champion

Davis He seemed a lonely island of offense, surrounded mostly by singles-hitters and speedsters.

Tommy Davis was a phenomenon on those great early-’60s Dodgers teams, a hitting machine who seemed almost out of place in an offense spurred by speedsters Maury Wills and Willie Davis.

"We manufactured runs, and with the pitching we had, the formula was OK,’’ Davis said.

The legendary pitching, of course, included Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Johnny Podres and Claude Osteen.

And although massive Frank Howard could provide some much needed pop, it was Davis who was the consistent offensive threat. His 1962 season remains one of the greatest in Dodgers history -- a .346 batting average, a team-record 153 RBIs , 230 hits and 27 home runs.

"It didn’t come totally together,’’ Davis said. ``We didn’t win.’’

That 1962 batting average won him the first of consecutive National League batting crowns, the only two in Los Angeles Dodgers history.

Davis, 70, now lives in Alta Loma with his wife, Carol. The father of three girls and one son, he continues to work with the Dodgers’ speakers bureau. He also makes visits to the team’s lower minor leagues for hitting instruction, as well as continuing to provide private hitting lessons. He also owns a small marketing company that manufactures T-shirts and hats.

Davis was born in Brooklyn, but didn't make it to the majors until the team moved to Los Angeles. And that might not have happened but for a late phone call.

"I was getting ready to sign with the Yankees because they had shown more interest," he said. "But then I got a call from Jackie Robinson."
Continue reading »

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