By Jon Weisman
Baseball’s magnum opus, Game 7 of the World Series, takes place tonight — the Cubs and Indians taking their 176 combined years of bridesmaiding to a final contest.
Among other storylines, this will be the final night as a player for David Ross, who has received about as grand a farewell tour as a backup catcher will ever find. Of course, most of that has focused on his years as a Cub, but he spent a plurality of his professional career in the Dodger organization.
The Dodgers signed Ross 18 years ago, days after he was taken in the seventh round of the 1998 draft out of Florida. Only three of the 50 players the Dodgers drafted that year played for the team: first-rounder Bubba Crosby, fifth-rounder Scott Proctor and Ross. At age 21, Ross signed with the Dodgers 15 days before 19-year-old Adrián Beltré made his MLB debut with the team.
Ross would make his MLB debut on June 29, 2002, pinch-hitting for Shawn Green (and striking out) in the ninth inning of a 7-0 loss to the Angels. Beltré played third base, while the Dodgers’ starting center fielder that night was Dave Roberts. Another player in that game, pitcher Terry Mulholland, is now 53 years old.
Ross also happened to be the last Dodger to make his big-league debut before I founded Dodger Thoughts about three weeks later. That might well have been the most noteworthy fact of his first season in the big leagues, if not for the night of September 2.
By Jon Weisman
The 1908 season is the touchstone for Cubs fans, the long-buried Holy Grail signifying the last time that Chicago’s National League team won a World Series.
If you’re a Dodger fan, 1908 is … well, it’s not so magical.
By Mark Langill
Until this week, the Dodgers have never faced a scenario in which a National League Championship Series returned to Southern California tied at one game apiece.
The Dodgers opened on the road in four of their 10 previous NLCS appearances. They won the first two games at Pittsburgh in 1974 and the first two games at Philadelphia in 1978, which was critical in an era when the playoff series was a best-of-five format. In both cases, the Dodgers lost Game 3 in Los Angeles and wrapped up the series in four games.
The LCS format changed to a best-of-seven playoff in 1985. The 2008 Dodgers lost the first two games of the NLCS at Philadelphia and eventually dropped the series in five games, and the 2013 Cardinals beat the Dodgers in the first two games of the NLCS in St. Louis en route to a victory in six games.
Two hours before he would be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium on the 50th anniversary of his World Series-clinching shutout, former Brooklyn left-hander Johnny Podres was asked in 2005 if he would’ve been more nervous entering Game 7 of the 1955 Fall Classic at Yankee Stadium if he knew a half-century of celebration was at stake.
“Nah,” he replied with a shoulder shrug, puffing on a cigarette while sitting on a hotel luggage cart. “When you’re that young … you think you can do anything.”
At age 23, Podres blanked the New York Yankees, 2-0, as the Dodgers won their first and only championship in the history of the Brooklyn franchise.
The modern-day Dodgers face an all-or-nothing proposition in Game 5 of the National League Division Series at Washington. Nationals manager Dusty Baker has an easy choice for starting pitcher – 20-game winner Max Scherzer – while L.A.’s Dave Roberts has a pair of lefties at his disposal – veteran Rich Hill and 20-year-old rookie Julio Urias.
By Jon Weisman
The playoffs are so relentlessly tense, I was wondering when the last time Dodger fans could sit back and revel in a postseason romp.
Turns out, there’ve been a ton of pressure-packed innings in a row. Not since October 6, 2013 — 18 Dodger playoff games ago — has Los Angeles won a postseason game by more than three runs — in modern shorthand, a game that didn’t require a save.
But even though the Dodgers tied a franchise record for runs in a playoff contest with a 13-6 victory over Atlanta in Game 3 of the 2013 National League Division Series, that game was a roller coaster, considering the Dodgers trailed 2-0 early and didn’t break it open until scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth.
The paradox for some Dodgers fans entering the playoffs is rooting against the Washington Nationals without hurting the feelings of their manager — the one still wearing wristbands and known by a cool nickname at age 67.
Dusty Baker, the former All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder, is the first L.A. Dodger icon to face his former team as a manager in the postseason. In 1959, Los Angeles patrons weren’t attached to Al Lopez, the former Brooklyn catcher who was piloting the Chicago White Sox in the World Series at the Coliseum. Other opposing managers had played for the Dodgers, including second baseman Willie Randolph (2006 Mets) and reserve outfielder Charlie Manuel (2008-09 Phillies). Danny Ozark (1977-78 Phillies), Bobby Cox (1996 Braves) and Terry Collins (2015 Mets) were former minor leaguers in the Dodger organization.
By Jon Weisman
This is exorcism time.
Though it has been nearly 28 years since the Dodgers last reached the World Series, they have come tantalizingly close — closer than you might realize. The list of turning points — any one of which might have redirected the Dodgers from a title — doesn’t merely boggle the mind. It jengas the mind. It gnip-gnops the mind.
In all, there have been four National League Division Series (1996, 2006, 2014, 2015) and three National League Championship Series (2008, 2009, 2013) that might have gone the Dodgers’ way if not for a single play. There are 17 such plays captured below, and that’s not even an all-inclusive list.
Perhaps by confronting this chamber of horrors at once, we can spiritually move the Dodgers forward …
By Cary Osborne
This will be the Dodgers’ 11th trip to the postseason since 1988. Of those 11 teams, six have had a bullpen ranked in MLB’s top five in ERA. This year’s Dodger bullpen is No. 1.
If the Dodger bullpen finishes the season where it’s at today, it will be the third time that they’ve been the No. 1 relief crew in the game.
Only two teams since 1988 have held that distinction and won the World Series — the ’88 Dodgers and the ’89 Oakland A’s. The Dodgers were tops in 2009, but lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series. That Dodger bullpen allowed 14 earned runs in 21 NLCS innings.
Here’s how Dodger bullpens have performed in the regular season vs. the smaller sample size and higher stakes of the postseason:
Carl Erskine. Don Newcombe. Jamie Jarrín. And more, and more — all talking about Vin.
For our Dodger Insider tribute to Vin Scully, we presented numerous remembrances and tributes, offered in two different collections in the magazine.
Please click each link above to read the full stories.
— Jon Weisman