April 24, 2014

Sandy Koufax and Chan Ho Park: An Unlikely Pair

Not only was Sandy Koufax a legend on the field, but he’s quietly been an ongoing inspiration to the team’s younger pitchers for more years than I can remember, and this year is no exception (well, Sandy did take a few years off during the FOX ownership era, but all is now well with his relationship with the Club). Today, Josh Rawitch’s blog, Inside the Dodgers, notes his work with Scott Proctor and Chan Ho Park.

A really interesting note about Sandy’s continued influence with the Club and Park in particular comes from Ken Gurnick at MLB.com, which makes Josh’s blog entry all the more interesting (note that this was written the day before Josh’s comments). Here’s an excerpt from Gurnick’s post:

“One player disappointed to hear he missed Koufax was Chan Ho Park. Koufax was a surrogate mentor to Park through his friendship with then-pitching coach Dave Wallace when Park blazed the modern trail for Asian players to the Major Leagues.”

That’s a fascinating insight into both Sandy and Chan Ho. Park’s got a long way to go to make the team this year, but I wish him all the luck in the world. I remember seeing him years ago when, after getting sent down by the Dodgers, he was pitching for the Albuquerque Dukes and the team was in the Northwest to play the Tacoma Rainiers (the Mariners’ AAA Club). I remember that the guy had blazing speed, but with a real control problem. Still, I remember being very impressed and was shocked to see Park’s name when I looked him up in the program. He’s obviously a fighter, so I’m glad to see him back for another drink of water at Spring Training.

But I digress; back to Sandy. I am curious to see what happens next year at this time. According to Gurnick, the noted recluse splits time between Vero Beach and somewhere in the Caribbean. Will he still spend quality time with the Club in Glendale? I certainly hope so. The guy’s a living legend and I’m glad to see the younger (and older) pitchers giving him the respect he obviously deserves.

Lastly, for those of you interested in learning more about Koufax, I highly recommend Sandy Koufax, A Lefty’s Legacy by Jane Lear. The book was written back in 2002, but it’s a great story of the writer searching Sandy out and the friendship and trust that developed between the two, while also giving you a unique insight into one of the most interesting players of all time (both from a baseball perspective, but also from a human perspective). It’s a beautiful read, and a great way to get psyched about not only the current season, but about the Dodgers’ 50th Anniversary celebrations to come.

Dodgers take a shot at the record with historic Coliseum game

 

 

Looks like the Dodgers exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox on March 29 sold out in under an hour – not bad for 90,000+ seats!  DodgerFan.net scored four seats to the historic game, and you better believe we’re going to be there (even though our seats are a long, long, long ways away in left field).  If the Coliseum folks can find away to squeeze a few more seats in, they’ll be able to break the record for most people ever at a professional baseball game.

 

According to the Baseball Almanac, it was October 6, 1959 when the LA Coliseum played host to the Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox with 92,706 in the stands during game five of the World Series.  Check out the 1959 roster…this team was stacked with legends like Koufax, Drysdale, Podres, Hodges, Wills, Zimmer, Furillo, Snyder…the list goes on.  Needless to say, LA won that Series 4-2.  Hopefully the Dodgers will bring back some of the guys from the ’59 team for this special game.

 

Of course, DodgerFan.net will be on hand to document the game for those who can’t make it.  If you’re lucky enough to be going, leave a comment and we’ll invite you the inugural DodgerFan.net pre-game tailgate! 

Gettin’ Psyched for March 29!

So while we’ve already picked out a few of the highlights of the Dodgers Spring Training schedule, there is one game that promises to be full of memories as the 50th Anniversary celebration of the team’s arrival in LA rolls on.  Yup, the Dodgers are going to play one exhibition game in the Los Angeles Coliseum, the first home for the team during the 1958 and 1959 seasons while Dodger Stadium was being constructed.  Personally, I can’t wait.  I remember my grandparents telling me and my brothers about going to games there (including the 1959 World Series).  Check out this image to see what how crazy the dimensions were (and keep it in mind as you read the excerpt below).

For fans of LA sports, there is simply no better writer than the late, great (and Pulitzer Prize winning) Jim Murray of The Los Angeles Times.  Here’s how he described the Dodgers arrival in Los Angeles in his autobiography, which is simply titled Jim Murray:

 ”O’Malley had a choice of Wrigley Field or or The Coliseum to showcase his team when it arrived.  There was no contest.  Wrigley Field, which he had purchased along with the franchise rights to LA from Phil Wrigley, was a 24,000 seat replica of Chicago’s Wrigley Field.  The Coliseum had 92,000 seats – from about 28,000 of which you could actually see the game.

O’Malley, who never had trouble adding, had no trouble opting for the 92,000 seats.  The baseball establishment was aghast.  I remember the commissioner of all baseball, Ford Frick himself, taking to the airways to deplore what would happen to the grand old game in this monstrosity of a ballpark.  Frick, who had been his biographer, always worried what would happen to Babe Ruth’s home run records.

To be sure, The Coliseum’s dimensions were a little startling.  To squeeze a ballpark in, left field was a bare 250 feet from home plate.  So they put up a 4o foot wire mesh fence.  ‘There goes Babe Ruth’s record!  Also Roger Maris’!” harrumphed Red Smith.  “Willie Mays’ll bunt over that thing.”

It was a Pittsburgh pitcher, Bob Friend, who first tipped me to the essential characteristics of the Wall.  “You’ll get a lot of lazy high flys that will go over.  But, you’ll get a lot of line drive hits that Willie Mays’ll hit that would go out for homers anywhere else in the world-but they’ll crash into that fence for a single.  It’ll even out.”

He proved prophetic.  The most home runs any Dodger ever hit in a year while they were playing in the Coliseum was 25 – Gil Hodges, 1959.  A Dodger pitcher, Johnny Podres, also accommodated himself to the geometry of the park.  “You just get’em to hit to right field,” he said.  “It’s 440 to the right field wall.  It’s inhuman.”

The moral of the story: You can play baseball anywhere.  Even indoors, as they were shortly to prove.”

 Come on, how can you not want to go to this game?

Welcome Dodger Fans!

As my Dodger spirit warms to the heat being emanated from the Hot Stove League this December, I’ve found myself thinking ahead to Spring Training, and our hopes for a World Series berth for our beloved LA Dodgers.

Depite my scepticism about Ned Colletti’s ability to pull off a truly smart trade, there’s no denying that it’s going to be an exciting year for the boys in blue. The signing of Andruw Jones is certainly a positive, and I’m excited to see how the Club celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the team’s arrival in Los Angeles.

In any case, more to come on all of this in the coming weeks and months ahead, but I first wanted to welcome you all to my blog, LA Dodger Blue! This will be an open forum on everything related to the Dodgers, and all viewpoints and opinions are welcome (and encouraged).

Here’s to an exciting season of Dodger baseball!