A Stop at Willoughby

March 24, 2014


While waiting for the next Dodgers game amongst the din of 24/7 sports channels on cable TV and hundreds of Web Sites, whose editors are imploring their writers to “push!, push!, push!” to file their stories and bring eyeballs to their screens, I got off the train at Willoughby.

The quiet was deafening as my feet alighted on the wooden planks of the station. The Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, that had been my constant companion, was missing from my pocket. At the side of the depot building, there was a curious booth, made of glass, with a double-hinged, glass door.   Inside, was an antique telephone with a fixed mouthpiece and separate handset, the type that I remember seeing once in a Humphrey Bogart film noir movie.

Across the street, the business district started with a row of shops.  On the other side of the F. W. Woolworth Company and Rexall stores, was an Allied Radio shop with some noise coming from a speaker mounted in the ceiling of its vestibule. As I got closer, I recognized the voice of Red Barber, that I had heard once in the Ken Burns “Baseball” documentary: “…and Vic Raschi, coming back for his second start.  And now for the Dodgers, the batting order, again, goes with Captain and shortstop Pee Wee Reese, leading off. With a right-hander going for New York, manager Shotton goes with his left hand hitters, which means, third baseman Johnny Jorgensen is hitting number two. Jorgensen at third, batting second. Snider in center field, batting third. Robinson, at second base, hitting fourth. Batting fifth, and in right field is Gene Hermanski – Carl Furillo is still out with that injured right groin, he just can’t go.  Hodges at first base, is hitting sixth. Marvin Rackley, who came out of the second game of the World Series… with a pulled muscle in his back, as you can recall, is the surprise nomination… Manager Shotton, at noon… talked it over, and thought that (Luis) Olmo would be his starting left fielder, but Rackley apparently told him he was all right, and Manager Shotton has changed, and is going with Rackley in left field.  Roy Campanella is catching… and Rex Barney is the pitcher.”

What in the heck was going on?  Where were all the foreign cars?   Why was there a 12″ Muntz TV in the window of a store which,  along with its neighbors,  closed years ago?   Why did that sign at the train depot say “Willoughby”,  and why was I compelled to exit the train there?  Most of all,  why was Red Barber reading off a list of Dodgers that had died years ago?

I vaguely remembered reading somewhere, maybe baseball-reference.com, that those players started in a World Series game decades ago.  As I pondered this,  a neatly dressed,  dark haired, young man,  wearing a business suit and smoking a cigarette,  opened the door,  and seeing my quizzical expression,  said “It is October 9th, 1949 Mr.  O’Connell.   Welcome to Willoughby… and the Twilight Zone.”

(Click on the above link to Red Barber to hear game 5 of the 1949 World Series.)


Utterly Embarrasing

October 7, 2011

It has been painful to  read some of the stories about Frank McCourt vs MLB.  Headlines like “Dodgers ask bankruptcy judge to reconsider limits on arguments” make me cringe.  Other headlines and sentences from recent articles include: “MLB calls Dodgers’ document demands ‘totally irrelevant'”, “The Dodgers also alleged that discovery “has been one-sided in favor of MLB” because Gross denied the Dodgers‘ previous requests…”, “Dodgers‘ argument fails to move bankruptcy judge”, “The Dodgers failed again on Wednesday to persuade U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross that they needed documents about other Major League Baseball teams”…

These stories make the Dodgers sound like a whiny, pathetic organization.  This is the organization of “The Boys of Summer”, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.  It is not “the Dodgers” making all of these desperate legal ploys, it is Frank McCourt!  I for one, cannot wait until this weasel is long gone from Los Angeles and the Dodgers can begin the long journey of rebuilding the legacy that we have come to know and love.

Attention headline writers and reporters: Stop writing Dodgers and write that McCourt is the one responsible for the legal maneuvering.

Brewers advance to NLCS

The Milwaukee Brewers just defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks in extra innings.  In the other game five action, the Cardinals are leading the Phillies going into the bottom of the 2nd inning.

Colletti talks about the off-season

Ned Colletti talked to ESPN’s Jim Bowden about the 2011 performances of some players and his thoughts for next year at http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/mlb/story/_/id/7071525/los-angeles-dodgers-gm-ned-colletti-assesses-team-personnel-season-come

Jon Weisman remembers 2011

The Dodger Thoughts blogger has been busy in the last week taking a look at various Dodger players including Justin Sellers, John Ely, Eugeni0-for-ever, Nathan Eovaldi, Casey Blake, Juan Castro, Aaron Miles and Javy Guerra.  See http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/dodger-thoughts/archive/_/month/october-2011

Dodgers signal they won’t bring back Rod Barajas

Wallach on Red Sox’ list of manager candidates

When Will Our Next ROTY Come?

September 10, 2011

It’s obviously a weird subject to touch upon, but in all seriousness, when will our next ROTY come?

It’s been almost 15 years since the last Dodger rookie put it upon himself to rise above the competition and play at a level worth rewarding.

These 16 players below have not only represented the Los Angeles Dodgers within my lifetime, but have also done so throughout the Brooklyn and golden years of this team.

1. Todd Hollandsworth

2. Raul Mondesi

3. Mike Piazza

4. Hideo Nomo

5. Eric Karros

6. Rick Sutcliffe

7. Steve Howe

8. Fernando Valenzuela

9. Steve Sax

10. Ted Sizemore

11. Jim Lefebvre

12. Frank Howard

13. Jim Gilliam

14. Joe Black

15. Don Newcombe

16. Jackie Robinson

These players have represented this franchise, and even when there was no Dodger player named as ROTY, there was always one player in consideration who wore Dodgers across his chest. But what happened.? Obviously, those days are gone, but why.?

I do so believe that the lack of minor league recruiting talent has diminished to the sense that we’ve underspent on signing Draft picks whom could make a difference. Think about this?

Since 2004, the first season that Frank McCourt was officially entrusted as the brain-trust of this team, this team has drafted notables such as:

-Blake Dewitt

-Scott Elbert

-Jamie Hoffman

-Javy Guerra

-Luke Hochevar

-Ivan DeJesus

-Josh Bell

-Jonathan Meloan

-Brent Leach

-Trayvon Robinson

-Scott Van Slyke

-Chase D’Arnaud

-Clayton Kershaw

-Bryan Morris

-Preston Mattingly

-Chris Withrow

-James Adkins

-Andrew Lambo

-Ethan Martin

-Josh Lindblom

-Kyle Russell

-Dee Gordon

-Cole St. Clair

-Nate Eovaldi

-Allen Webster

-Aaron Miller

-Garrett Gould

-Brett Wallach

-J.T. Wise

-Austin King

-Zach Lee

-Shawn Tolleson

-Devon Ethier

-Cody Martin

-Chris Reed

-Alex Santana

-Ryan O’Sullivan

Out of all these drafts, only six players are currently in the majors with this team, while most have yet to break through due to their slow development. Many have been traded, such as I count 10 who are no longer with this organization.

At what point are we going to stop signing pitchers whom furthermore have yet to produce more than Clayton Kershaw, who was rushed and made to learn on the fly. When are we going to sign talent whom we could use now and in the future. When are we going to tap into the Asian, Latin, and African continent for players.

I do not speak for many, but for the lack of money, we have diminished the talent level in the minors, and thus, what once in a while ago was deemed as a common thing, is now foreign to us. Who will finally break through and capture this now unattainable trophy. We have a probable Cy Young and MVP within our ranks today, and to think that we could someday have a 3rd piece of hardware to add to that in a ROTY, it would signal the overturn of an organization that as of now is in turmoil, and will continue to be in turmoil while this ownership group, and to reiterate this brain-trust is finally put out to pasture and shot down in the spirit of all that is decent and holy. Sorta to put it outta it’s misery.

This Day In Los Angeles Baseball History

September 10, 2008 – With a 4-2 victory over the visiting Yankees, the Angels clinch the division flag on the earliest date in the history of the American League West. The Halos, the first club this season to secure a post-season spot, have finished in first place four times in the past five seasons.

(If you know anything of interest that happened in Dodgers history, go ahead and post a comment.)

A Turning Point For America

August 28, 2011

Today marks the 66th anniversary of the day Branch Rickey met with Jackie Robinson to talk about breaking the color barrier in the major leagues.

America in 1945 was much different than it is today.  Despite waging a brutal war against Nazi Germany, who subjugated and annihilated a complete class of people because of their race and religion, America treated it’s black citizens in much the same way.    This moral contradiction between what America said it stood for and the way it was actually organized was most clearly articulated at the time by the eminent sociologist Gunnar Myrdal in An American Dilemma, published in 1944. The thesis of his book was that a terrible tension existed in American society between our professed ideals of equality and fairness based on individual merit and the reality of harsh, suffocating exclusion and oppression based on skin color.

Branch Rickey was the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers and began his quest for integration in 1943.  He confided his plan to George V. MacLaughlin, his banker, the president of the Brooklyn Trust Company, which essentially held a mortgage on the team.  MacLaughlin supported the idea, although not without some anxiety. He told Rickey that for this bold plan to work, he would have to find a black player who was better than the other players.

Rickey, who said “Luck is the residue of design”, was a master strategist whose ultimate goal was to win baseball games and to increase the fan base.  He began an extensive search for the right man.  By mid-1945, Rickey had narrowed his search and begun to focus on Robinson. He thought the young man was talented enough as an athlete and liked the fact that Robinson was educated and abstained from alcohol. Robinson’s temperament both attracted and worried Rickey. His refusal to buckle under to discrimination and strength of character were exactly what Rickey wanted. But Robinson’s explosive aggressiveness concerned Rickey: while it fueled his athletic performance, it also made him vulnerable to being provoked by the intense racism he was sure to experience as the first black to play in the major leagues. Rickey strongly believed that it would be necessary for Robinson to contain himself if the experiment was to succeed.

On August 28, 1945, at Dodgers headquarters at 215 Montague Place in Brooklyn, Rickey met with Robinson for the first time.

“For three hours, Rickey harangued Robinson … graphically illustrating the difficulties Robinson might face. He portrayed the hostile teammate, the abusive opponent, the insulting fan, the obstinate hotel clerk.  Rickey challenged the black man with racial epithets and verbally transplanted him into ugly confrontations. “His acting was so convincing that I found myself chain-gripping my fingers behind my back,” wrote Robinson.”  “In the face of this onslaught Robinson finally responded, “Mr. Rickey,  do you want a ballplayer who’s afraid to fight back?” [Rickey] had awaited this moment. “I want a player with guts enough not to fight back,” he roared.”

Jackie Robinson Meets Branch Rickey

Jackie Robinson Signs Contract With Branch Rickey Looking On

As we all know now, the arrival of Jackie Robinson on the Dodgers changed not only the baseball world, but also America itself.

This Day in Dodgers History

August 28, 1945 – A moment in American history takes place in Brooklyn as Branch Rickey meets with Jackie Robinson to share his plans to integrate the major leagues. During the three hour meeting, the Dodgers’ president will shout racial epithets to ‘test’ the 26-year old ballplayer’s mettle to withstand the abuse which will come with being the first player to cross the color line this century.

Dreamweaver: The Jackie Robinson Story

August 10, 2011
The Jackie Robinson Story

Scene From The Jackie Robinson Story

Last night I fell asleep watching a movie about Adolf Hitler on my laptop computer.  It’s not like I don’t get my fill of World War II documentaries on the Military History channel.  But this one was a little different.  It was an English propaganda film made in 1940 using a combination of documentary footage and recreated scenes.  I can’t remember when I nodded off, but a few hours later I awoke to a familiar sound – the crack of a bat striking a baseball.

The Jackie Robinson Story was halfway through when I regained consciousness.  It has been years since I have seen that movie but I am a sucker for any baseball or aviation movie.  We all know the story of how Robinson created such a stir upon his arrival in the major leagues.  His base-running exploits shook up the National League.

Dee Gordon reminds me a little of Jackie Robinson in the way he runs the bases.  He has an explosive style that seems a little different from the way other speedsters on the Dodgers run.  I hope he can remind us of the Dodger great with his bat too.

Click on the image above to watch The Jackie Robinson Story on Hulu.  It was made in 1950 and stars Jackie Robinson playing himself.

This Day in Dodgers History

August 10, 1995 – The first forfeit in the majors in sixteen years occurs when the fans for the third time during the night throw promotional souvenir baseballs onto the Dodger Stadium field. At the time of the decision to halt the game, Los Angeles is trailing the Cardinals, 2-1 with one out in the bottom of the ninth.