Archive for the ‘ Profiles ’ Category

A rookie year in the life of Ross Stripling

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By Cary Osborne

On a spring Arizona night, Ross Stripling arrived at a Scottsdale restaurant with a girlfriend and left with a fiancée.

Shelby said yes.

A couple since they were students at Texas A&M, the baseball player and school teacher were now engaged. Stripling had the moment of a lifetime. And then kept having more in 2016.

There are rookie seasons, and then there is Ross Stripling’s incredible life as a rookie.

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MLB’s Rookie of the Year might be the Dodger manager

Los Angeles Dodgers

Patrick Gee/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Cary Osborne

Both times Dodger president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman used the word optimism when referring to Dave Roberts, he thought it needed a forceful descriptor in front of it.

What Roberts brought to the Dodger organization in 2016, Friedman said, was “relentless optimism.”

And through the countless adversities of a season so unique, there is a direct correlation between the Dodgers reaching the postseason as National League West champions and the manner in which Roberts skippered the ship.

Yes, it was a world-class, top-of-the-line ship. But 2016 was typhoon season for the Dodgers, with an onslaught of injuries (including losing the best pitcher in baseball for two months), first-half offensive woes, balancing playing time, guiding rookies and falling eight games behind the San Francisco Giants in late June.

“Dave has done an incredible job this year,” Friedman said. “Just his ability to communicate. His relentless optimism and his ability to put guys in a position to succeed have been a huge part of our success this year.”

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How lefty Grant Dayton found the feel in 2016

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Grant Dayton is a 28-year-old rookie who had a 9.26 for Triple-A Oklahoma City last summer.

Since then, something wicked this way came.

Making his Major League debut July 22, Dayton has a 2.05 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings for Los Angeles, putting him on everyone’s shortlist for the postseason roster. It’s not exactly something one would have easily predicted 12 months ago.

“I don’t know what happened to me last year, to be honest,” Dayton said during the Dodgers’ last homestand. “I was having a great year, and then I got traded. And then I lost feel for all my pitches. It was definitely mental, but I have no idea why it happened.

“Looking back on it, I don’t know if I’d be here if it didn’t happen.”

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Culberson joins pantheon of Dodger heroes

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Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

He stood at the plate as Charlie Culberson. Twenty-four seconds later, his helmet flung in the air, his feet barely touching the ground, he returned … as Charlie Culberson. 

Never before in Los Angeles Dodger history had a player stood in the batters’ box with no one on base, taken a swing — and won a division title. But that’s exactly what Culberson did today, sending the Dodgers to the playoffs with a 10th-inning, walkoff home run to beat Colorado.

“I’m floating right now,” Culberson said. “It’s awesome. I couldn’t have written it up any better.”

Culberson’s happy drive to left field was an intoxicating blend of Steve Finley, who delivered the 2004 National League West title with a grand slam, and Dick Nen.

Nen was the Dodger who, in his first Major League game on September 18, 1963, homered in the ninth inning to keep the Dodgers alive for a critical extra-inning victory in their World Series championship season.

The 27-year-old Culberson is considerably more experienced — today’s was his 178th game in the big leagues — but still much closer on the fame-obscurity spectrum to Nen than Finley.

“It (speaks) to how he goes about what he does,” Andrew Friedman said. “Great role player. Knows his role, fits in really well with the clubhouse — how much he cares. There are so many different aspects that make him very fitting to be the one to hit the walkoff.”

This was hardly Culberson’s first big game for the Dodgers. It wasn’t even his first big 10th inning. On April 9, he saved Los Angeles in a game at San Francisco, making dazzling plays at both shortstop and left field, and going 2 for 5 with the game-winning double in a 3-2 victory.

But it was the biggest, putting him in the ring of regular-season Dodger heroes that includes Nen, R.J. Reynolds, Finley and a select number of others.

“He was a non-roster invitee (to Spring Training), he was up and down all year long and he did whatever you asked,” Dave Roberts said. “I embraced him earlier, and he said outside of his baby, that’s the biggest moment of his life.”

Culberson finished the game 3 for 5, to raise his on-base percentage in 58 plate appearances with the Dodgers to .310 and his OPS to .696. For a defense-first player, that’ll do.

Still, he had gone 25 months since hitting a Major League home run. He had missed all but five games of the 2015 season recovering from a bulging disk and back surgery. He spent most of 2016 in Triple-A.

And now, he’s Charlie Culberson.

“The Dodgers gave me an opportunity to play,” he said. “Honestly, I’m just happy to be here and be part of this awesome team. … I’m just fortunate to put on a uniform and be able to play baseball.”

Vin His Own Words: An extended 2014 interview

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Before the 2014 season, Vin Scully gave us an extended interview about his life and career that we presented over 21 pages in the commemorative 2014 Dodger Yearbook. Here, for the first time online, are those pages: Vin His Own Words. Click either image, and enjoy.

— Jon Weisman

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Sandi Scully: The wind beneath Vin’s wings

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If there’s no one whom we’re bigger fans of than Vin Scully, there’s no bigger fan of his than his wife, Sandi. For our Dodger Insider tribute to Vin Scully, Mark Langill provided us with this feature on the First Lady of the Vin Scully Press Box.

Click here to read the entire story.

— Jon Weisman

On this day 100 years ago, Jerry Doggett was born

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doggett-1980s-headshotBy Jon Weisman

As we reach the waning moments of Vin Scully’s 67 seasons with the Dodgers, let’s pause for a moment to remember his broadcast partner for nearly half of those years, Jerry Doggett, born 100 years ago today on September 14, 1916.

Like Scully, Doggett wanted from childhood to be a broadcaster, as Larry Stewart wrote in this obituary for the Times, after the 80-year-old Doggett passed away in July 1997.

Doggett, born in Moberly, Mo., grew up in Keokuk, Iowa, listening to St. Louis Cardinal and Chicago Cub broadcasts and dreaming of being a baseball announcer.

After graduating from Northwestern and spending three years in the Navy, Doggett got a job doing odds and ends at a Chicago radio station. He got his first full-time announcing job in 1938 at radio station KFRO in Longview, Texas.

After working in Longview for three years, Doggett went to WRR in Dallas, where he spent the next 15 years announcing Texas League games and calling the Game of the Week for the old Liberty Broadcasting System.

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Doggett joined the Dodgers in 1956 — 60 years ago this September, as team historian Mark Langill pointed out to me, adding that Scully handed over the ninth inning of Sal Maglie’s September 25 no-hitter to the 40-year-old rookie as a kind of christening.

You can also hear Doggett here from April 16, 1957, on his first Opening Day with the Dodgers — and last in Brooklyn.

scully-doggett-1958For the Dodgers’ first 19 seasons in Los Angeles, Scully and Doggett were the only radio voices fans knew, each calling the game separately, each working with folksy, knowledgeable styles at once distinct and complementary.

In 1977, Ross Porter became a third individual voice, with the Dodgers continuing the solo booth past 1987, when Don Drysdale succeeded Doggett.

For a kid like me raised in that era, Doggett was very nearly as integral to the Dodger experience as anyone.

“Jerry deserves every nice thing that can be said about him,” Scully told Stewart. “He was one of my closest friends and the best partner anyone could ever have.

“He never complained about not getting more of the limelight, he never showed any ego or any of that baloney. Jerry Doggett was just a terrific guy, and I will miss him forever.”

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Pepe Yñiguez keeps wife’s memory with him every day

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LOS ANGELES DODGERS MANAGER GRADY LITTLEBy Cary Osborne

Usually before every Dodger game, Spanish-language broadcaster Pepe Yñiguez will have a conversation with his wife, Margarita.

He’ll tell her to look after their kids — two girls who earned their college degrees and flourished into accomplished women. He’ll ask her to give him the enthusiasm and energy to do his best.

Then he’ll tell her goodbye and leave Rose Hills Memorial Park to go to work.

“I’m always thinking of her,” said Yñiguez, now in his 19th season as a Dodger broadcaster and the play-by-play man to Fernando Valenzuela’s color for SportsNet LA’s Spanish broadcasts. “She would always tell me, ‘I know you can do it.’ ” …

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

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Yasmani Grandal returns to his hard-hitting ways

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By Jon Weisman

Sunday brought another homer for the catcher who leads Major League catchers in homers, Yasmani Grandal.

Grandal has actually surpassed Justin Turner in adjusted OPS (126 OPS+) and trails only Corey Seager on the Dodgers. His impressive year still seems to be operating under the radar, but we did make him the cover story in a recent Dodger Insider magazine.

“Whoever tells you that they say, ‘I’m going to hit a home run here,’ and they’re thinking about it and they hit it, not too many guys can do that,” Grandal said. “If you think about it, it’s probably not going to happen. My main point throughout the whole season is being able to hit the ball hard, and wherever it goes, it goes.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Beginning this year, the Dodgers merged their previously separate Playbill and Dodger Insider magazines into one publication (at least 80 pages per issue) with a new edition available each homestand plus one in October, 13 issues total. It is distributed at auto gates (one per vehicle) and via Fan Services for those who use alternate transportation. Dodger Insider magazine includes news, features, analysis, photos, games, stadium information and more. Fans who still wish to subscribe can do so at dodgers.com/magazine

The Dish: Off the field with … Trayce Thompson

Trayce Dish

By Jon Weisman

Trayce Thompson might be far from returning to the playing field, but he isn’t far from our hearts. In the most recent Dodger Insider magazine, we asked Thompson about his off-the-field thoughts and interests for our regular profile, “The Dish.”

Click the image above to enlarge. 

Despite not having played since July 10, Thompson remains fifth on the Dodgers with 13 homers, seventh with 11 doubles and tied for second with five stolen bases.

Beginning this year, the Dodgers merged their previously separate Playbill and Dodger Insider magazines into one publication (at least 80 pages per issue) with a new edition available each homestand plus one in October, 13 issues total. It is distributed at auto gates (one per vehicle) and via Fan Services for those who use alternate transportation. Dodger Insider magazine includes news, features, analysis, photos, games, stadium information and more. Fans who still wish to subscribe can do so at dodgers.com/magazine