Los Angeles Dodgers Information

The borough of Brooklyn had a history of outstanding baseball clubs dating back to the mid-1850s, notably the Brooklyn Atlantics, the Brooklyn Eckfords and the Brooklyn Excelsiors, who combined to dominate play through the late 1860s as part of the National Association of Base Ball Players. The first baseball game requiring paid admission was an all star contest between New York and Brooklyn in 1858. Brooklyn also featured the first two enclosed baseball grounds, the Union Grounds and the Capitoline Grounds, which accelerated the evolution of the game from amateurism to professionalism. Despite the success of Brooklyn clubs in amateur play, however, no strong Brooklyn-based club emerged after the first professional league, the National Association of Professional Baseball Players, was formed in 1871.

The Brooklyn baseball team which became Dodgers returned afterwards in 1883, and joined the American Association the following year. The “Bridegrooms” won the AA pennant in 1889. Upon switching to the National League in 1890, the franchise became the only one in MLB history to win pennants in different leagues in consecutive years. Eight years passed before any more success followed. Several Hall of Fame players were sold to Brooklyn by the soon-to-be-defunct Baltimore Orioles, along with their manager, Ned Hanlon. This catapulted Brooklyn to instant contention, and “Hanlon's Superbas” lived up to their name, winning pennants in 1899 and 1900.

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Manager Wilbert Robinson, another former Oriole, popularly known as “Uncle Robbie,” restored the Brooklyn team to respectability, with the “Robins” winning pennants in the 1916 and 1920 World Series and contending perennially for several seasons. Upon assuming the title of president, however, Robinson’s ability to focus on the field declined, and the teams of the late 1920s became known as the “Daffiness Boys” for their distracted, error-ridden style of play. Outfielder Babe Herman was the leader both in hitting and in zaniness. After his removal as club president, Robinson returned to managing, and the club’s performance rebounded somewhat.

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While the Dodgers generally enjoyed resounding success during this period, in 1951 they fell victim to one of the largest collapses in the history of baseball. On August 11, Brooklyn led the National League by an enormous 13-1/2 games over their archrivals, the New York Giants. However, while the Dodgers went 26-22 from that time until the end of the season, the Giants went on an absolute tear, winning an amazing 37 of their last 44 games. At the conclusion of the season, the Dodgers and the Giants were tied for first place, forcing a three-game playoff for the pennant. The Giants took Game 1 by a score of 3-1 before being shut out by the Dodgers' Clem Labine in Game 2, 10-0. It all came down to the final game, and Brooklyn seemed to have the pennant locked up, holding a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning. However, Giants third baseman Bobby Thomson hit a stunning three-run walk-off home run off the Dodgers' Ralph Branca to secure the NL Championship in dramatic fashion for New York. Today, this home run is known as the Shot Heard 'Round The World and, despite the crushing blow it represented for the Dodgers, is widely regarded as one of the greatest moments in baseball history.

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There has been much controversy over the move of the Dodgers to California, perhaps more than over any other franchise move of that era. Walter O'Malley, in particular, is described as villainous by some and admirable by others. Certainly he demonstrated some measure of selfishness and greed, but the same is also true of the New York City politicians who opposed him. Both sides were quite stubborn, and fatally misjudged each other. It should also be noted that Brooklyn had declined in many ways, under various social pressures, and was a much less desirable location for a baseball team than it had been. In fact, both sides in the stadium dispute proposed to remove the Dodgers from Brooklyn (Moses' plan for a team in Flushing Meadows was realized several years later, with little alteration, when the New York Mets began playing in Shea Stadium). O'Malley also deserves credit as a visionary. Until 1958, St. Louis had generally been the westernmost outpost of Major League Baseball, whereas 12 of baseball's 30 teams now have their homes farther west.

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Many writers have suspected O'Malley of deliberately making his stadium proposal impractical, in order to bolster his claim that New York politicians drove him out of Brooklyn. It has been noted that O'Malley kept a model of the Dodgers' new stadium on his desk and publicly touted its merits while privately negotiating with Los Angeles politicians.

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During the 2000 World Series, Roger Kahn wrote an Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times in which he recalled sitting on a panel of New York State and City officials to explore the purchase of the Dodgers. The O'Malley family put the team up for sale in 1998, and the panel was charged with exploring the possibility of moving the Dodgers back to Brooklyn. Kahn said the officials came up with a preliminary offer which was rejected by the O'Malleys; the figure, he said, was larger than the price Rupert Murdoch eventually paid for the team. Kahn argued that the O'Malleys rejected the offer because the story of the Dodgers being thrown out of New York was an essential part of the team's mythology. Kahn said the O'Malleys needed the myth more than the money.

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The Opening Day starting pitcher for 1981 was a 20-year-old rookie from Mexico: Fernando Valenzuela. Pressed into service due to an injury to Jerry Reuss, Valenzuela pitched a shutout that day, and proceeded to win his first 8 decisions through mid-May. The youthful left-hander, speaking only Spanish but sporting a devastating screwball, became a sensation. “Fernandomania” gripped Southern California, as huge crowds turned out to see him pitch. Valenzuela became the only pitcher ever to be named Rookie of the Year and win the Cy Young Award in the same season. The Dodgers' torrid start assured them of a playoff berth in the strike-shortened split season, and they proceeded to defeat the Yankees in the World Series.

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In 2004, the Dodgers were returned to family ownership, as News Corp sold the team to real estate developer Frank McCourt. McCourt immediately hired Paul DePodesta, schooled in Billy Beane's methods of using statistical approaches to evaluate players, as general manager. With a team largely assembled by DePodesta's predecessors, augmented by some shrewd acquisitions, the Dodgers were near the top of the standings through much of 2004.

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Upon his hiring as general manager, Colletti immediately took steps to strengthen the Dodgers into a contender again, mainly through the free agent market. His first move was the hiring of Grady Little as the new manager of the Dodgers on 8 December 2005. Dipping into the free agent market after that, Colletti rebuilt the infield by signing former Atlanta shortstop Rafael Furcal to a 3-year contract worth $39 million; third baseman Bill Mueller (formerly of the Boston Red Sox) was also signed to a contract. Outfielder Kenny Lofton (previously with the Phillies), and catcher Sandy Alomar, Jr. were picked up as well. Finally, Colletti made a big splash by inking Nomar Garciaparra to a one-year deal worth $6 million. Although Garciaparra is ordinarily a shortstop, was moved to first base in the light of Furcal's addition to the team and has since committed only one error in over 300 chances. He is a former All-Star and he will most likely help the Dodgers improve.

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