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Friday, September 22, 2006

Today's Birthdays

Ken Aspromonte LAA b. 1931, played 1961. Not particularly compelling as a ballplayer (he was a solid player in the PCL but couldn't reliably cut it in the Show), the utility infielder had a three-year managerial stint with Cleveland, in which capacity he was eventually replaced by Frank Robinson.

Doug Camilli LAN b. 1936, played 1960-1964. Son of two-time All Star Dolph, understudy for Johnny Roseboro, had he worked for the Dodgers just three more years, from 1959 through 1966, he would have played through the greatest string of dominance the franchise has ever known, and he would have collected two more World Series rings besides. Replaced by Jeff Torborg in 1965, he spent the final years of his career with the Senators.

Jim Fairey LAN b. 1944, played 1968, 1973. I Am Not Spock, Leonard Nimoy wrote long after Star Trek went off the air; typecast as the emotionless Vulcan, his career stagnated (though some say it was also due to mismanagement). Fairey's typecasting started when he hit a pinch-hit homer early in his career and became a bat off the bench for the Dodgers, and later, the Expos following the 1968 expansion draft. He came up with and finished his career with the Dodgers. Of course, by the time of his final season in 1973, there was this fellow on the Dodgers' roster named Manny Mota, and that was that.

Mark Guthrie LAN b. 1965, played 1995-1998

Lou Johnson CAL,LAN,LAA b. 1934, played 1961, 1965-1967, 1969. Since my memory of baseball is absent the 1980's and a great deal of history outside of the Dodgers, I'll use a simile that may rankle some: "Sweet Lou" Johnson was the Dodgers' answer to Scott Spiezio for the 2002 Angels, say, or Aaron Boone for the 2003 Yankees: an otherwise unremarkable player who hit a memorable home run in the postseason. In Johnson's case, it was a solo shot in the clinching game 7 of the 1965 World Series, incredibly, played at Metropolitan Stadium.

Tommy Lasorda BRO b. 1927, played 1954-1955, Hall of Fame: 1997 (Veterans). Comically bad as a pitcher, the rise of Sandy Koufax pushed him off the roster; he never left the high minors afterwards, and ended up in a PCL Angels uniform, preceding the Dodgers to Los Angeles. As a manager, he was an ambitious, self-promoting cheerleader who worked the press brilliantly, making "bleed Dodger blue" a catchphrase. He was the right man to replace Walter Alston and knew it; having managed the phenominal wave of talent coming up through the Dodgers' farm system in the early 70's, he was in an ideal position to take over the team's helm when, in 1973, he was named third base coach.

Near the end of the 1976 season, the team made it clear to Walter Alston that his services would no longer be needed. At a September 27 press conference, Peter O'Malley announced that "Walter told me he wanted to retire", although Glenn Stout recorded that Alston "looked tired and sounded bitter and resigned"; two days later, Lasorda took over. He held the team's reins through nineteen full seasons and parts of two others (the two remaining games in 1976, and the first half, more or less, of 1996), two World Series titles, five division victories, two Manager of the Year awards, and a career .526 winning percentage. He became the first rookie manager to take his teams to the World Series in his first two years at the helm in 1977 and 1978. His masterpiece, by far, was the 1988 championship team, which featured an all-pitching, no hitting lineup, save for Kirk Gibson -- who wasn't able to participate in the World Series, save for one famous at-bat and home run.

Two years after his resignation as manager following a midseason heart attack in 1996, he was briefly the GM in the interregnum between the firing of Fred Claire in 1998 and the start of the forgettable Kevin Malone era, from June 22 through September 11. Nothing in his resume qualified him for that position; indeed, he had a significant role in encouraging the disastrous Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields trade. His inexperience bordering on rank incompetence showed almost immediately, as the Dodgers traded Paul Konerko and Dennys Reyes for closer Jeff Shaw. Under the Basic Agreement then in force, Shaw had a right to demand a trade at the end of the season; Kevin Malone compounded the error by retaining him with a steep pay raise, giving the aging All Star closer a $16.5M contract with three-year extension. Shaw had a very good 1999, but the mediocrity he displayed in the last two years of his career made the deal a bust for the Dodgers. Meantime, Konerko had gone on to be a star with the White Sox at a time when Eric Karros's production had started to wind down.

He could be profane off the field; famous instances include his tirade about Dave Kingman's three home runs in a June 4, 1976 11-0 shellacking by the Mets; his argument with Doug Rau over whether Rau should continue in Game 4 of the 1977 World Series; and his Kurt Bevacqua rant. He wasn't the man offcamera he was on it; but who of us is?

Jeffrey Leonard LAN b. 1955, played 1977, All-Star: 1987, 1989. An All-Star with the Giants and Mariners, for the Dodgers he was a PTBNL when the team reacquired Joe Ferguson. All things considered, the "Hac-Man" — so called for his hacktastic approach at the plate — had a pretty good career as an outfielder over 14 seasons and five clubs, the highlight of which was hitting four home runs in each of the first four games of the 1987 NLCS; he was named NLCS MVP despite the Giants series loss, one of only three players to be so honored in postseason history.

Doc Marshall BRO b. 1875, played 1909, d. 1959-12-11

Dave Sax LAN b. 1958, played 1982-1983. Brother of Steve Sax.

Favorite Lasorda memory: In Philadelphia, when the Phanatic was beating up on a life size doll dressed up in a Dodger uniform between innings. Lasorda raced out of the dugout and ripped the doll from the Phanatic and took it back in the dugout. I'm from Philly, and not really a Philles fan, but wow, talk about really bleeding Dodger Blue. I thought that was great!!!!
I thought Lasorda had just two WS titles to his credit, 81 and 88, and not three.
You're right, Anon, I got that "three" thing stuck in my head from Doug Camilli's bio.
Wasn't it Leonard who created the "One Wing Down" home run trot?
You are correct, sir!

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