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Dodger quiz, 1958

September 1, 2008 |  6:00 am

1958_september_01_sports By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

Quiz time: Who was the Dodgers' most valuable player of 1958?

You could make a case for several players. Gil Hodges and Charlie Neal tied for the team lead in home runs with 22.  Duke Snider, despite injuries and struggles adjusting to the dimensions of the Coliseum, hit .312 with 15 home runs.  Johnny Podres led the Dodgers with 13 victories, following closely by Don Drysdale (12) and Sandy Koufax (11).

The winner, according to The Times' Frank Finch, was infielder Jim Gilliam.

"Without Gilliam and with just another journeyman infielder occupying Junior's place on the roster, the Dodgers proably would be dead last or no better than seventh right now," Finch wrote. He added that his Mirror colleague, "Sir Charles Park," also voted for Gilliam.

Oh course, you can tell how badly a team is doing if the writers are discussing most valuable players at the start of September. But Gilliam certainly was a first-rate player. He was the National League's rookie of the year in 1953.

Finch credited Gilliam's durability and versatility on a team overwhelmed by injuries. "While operating with equal efficiency in the outfield, third base or second base, he has played in more games than any oher Dodger," Finch wrote.

Gilliam stayed with the Dodgers after retiring in 1965. In September of 1978, the first-base coach collapsed at his home and suffered a brain hemorrhage. He was only 49 when he died in October.

"He was a father to some of us, a brother to others and a friend to us all," Davey Lopes said at Gilliam's funeral.