After six straight division titles and a repeat trip to the National League Championship Series to commence on Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise is as solid as ever. Some, particularly a certain group of people residing in the San Francisco area, revile the Dodgers as a big-market monster swallowing the National League’s minnows that dare wander into their path. Yet this revulsion is clearly misplaced, for the Dodgers are undoubtedly the greatest franchise in the history of major league baseball, and have given more to America’s Pastime than any other team. It is a team worthy of the adulation of its fans, and deserving of even more.
Here are 25 reasons why every baseball fan should love the Dodgers:
1) The Dodgers are the only major league team named after their fans. When the team was in its infancy, its fans would have to navigate the crowded streets of Brooklyn to get to the game. A number of them were killed annually by unfortunate collisions with Brooklyn trolley cars that zipped through those crowded streets, so the team became the “Trolley Dodgers,” which was later shortened to the Dodgers.
2) At the turn of the 20th century, the Dodgers’ best pitcher was “Iron” Joe McGinnity, who earned his nickname by pitching both ends of a double header.
3) Dodgers President Larry MacPhail was the creator of night baseball.
4) The Dodgers were the first team to broadcast their games on radio in New York City (which at the time they shared with the Giants and Yankees), hiring Hall of Famer Red Barber in 1939 as their play-by-play announcer.
5) The Dodgers were also featured in the first televised Major League Baseball game, hosting the Cincinnati Reds in 1939.
6) Babe Ruth retired as a Dodger.
7) The Dodgers ended segregation in baseball, bringing Negro League star Jackie Robinson to their AAA team, the Montreal Royals, in 1946, and introducing him to their major league lineup in 1947. The Dodgers quickly added several other Negro League stars like Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella before the rest of baseball integrated, and were rewarded for their positive morality by years of success on the field.
8) Roger Kahn’s “The Boys of Summer,” a biography of several members of the 1952-53 Dodgers, is widely considered one of the best baseball books ever written.
9) Brooklyn pitcher Don Newcombe became the first player to ever win both the MVP Award and the Cy Young Award in the same season in 1956.
10) The Dodgers expanded major league baseball to the West Coast when they moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. Brooklyn has not been able to support a team since, proving that the move was necessary.
11) Dodgers lefthander Sandy Koufax is considered by many to be the greatest pitcher of all time.
12) Walter Alston managed the Dodgers for 23 years. In 1976, he handed the reins to his protegeprotégé, Tommy LaSorda, who managed the team for another twenty years.
13) The 70s Dodgers infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey played together for a decade– an unheard-of run of consistency.
14) The 1977 Dodgers were the first team to feature four players with 30 home runs– Garvey, Cey, Reggie Smith, and Dusty Baker.
15) Texas Longhorns star and pitching coach Burt Hooton was the Dodgers ace in the 70s.
16) In 1974, Dodgers pitcher Mike Marshall became the first relief pitcher to win the Cy Young Award.
17) In 1981, Dodgers screwballer Fernando Valenzuela became the first rookie to win the Cy Young Award.
18) Picked in the preseason to finish fourth in the division, the 1988 Dodgers won the division. They then beat the heavily favored New York Mets in the National League Championship Series. Facing the “Bash Brothers” Oakland A’s team that won 104 games, and playing without MVP Kirk Gibson, who had torn a hamstring in the NLCS, the Dodgers trotted out the weakest lineup in World Series history. Their collection of scrubs and benchwarmers beat Oakland in five games to become world champions.
19) Trailing 3-2 in Game One of the 1988 World Series, the Dodgers entered the ninth against Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley, who was one of the greatest closers in baseball history. Eckersley got the first two outs easily. Pinch-hitter Mike Davis drew a walk. Gambling, Tommy LaSorda sent Kirk Gibson up to pinch hit. Having torn his hamstring only days earlier, Gibson could barely walk. Eckersley went right after him, and Gibson could only use his arms to swing while balancing on one leg. Gibson fouled off several pitches to work the count to 3-2. Eckersley’s sidearm delivery came in, and Gibson hit it into the right field seats for a game-winning home run. It is arguably the greatest moment in World Series history.
20) During the 1990s, the Dodgers set a record with five consecutive Rookies of the Year– Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo, and Todd Hollandsworth.
21) The Dodgers opened the door for Japanese players to enter the major leagues when they signed Kintetsu Buffaloes star Hideo Nomo in 1995. Masanori Murakami was the first Japanese player to play in MLB in the mid-sixties, but he was on loan from his Japanese team and they were angry that the Giants played him in the major leagues, and he only played one full season before he had to go back to Japan. Nomo was the first Japanese player free to play in MLB, and opened the door for modern stars like Ichiro Suzuki.
22) In 1994, Dodgers pitcher Chan Ho Park became the first South Korean-born player to pitch in the major leagues.
23) Recently retired Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully was the team’s play-by-play announcer for over 50 years, as he started his career when the team was in Brooklyn.
24) Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax and later Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green, both devout Jews, refused to play in playoff games during Yom Kippur, choosing their faith over their profession.
25) Nothing could be more American than those red, white, and blue uniforms. Uniforms that have been copied ad infinitum by a number of imitators.
So, casting aside any success that the Dodgers have had on the field– which has been substantial– they are clearly the most influential team in baseball history. Not only is the team named after their fans, but they brought radio broadcasts to New York City, they ushered in televised games, brought major league baseball to the entire country, opened the door for black and Asian players, and have a long history of faith and loyalty. In the midst of one of the most successful runs in team history, it’s good to be a Dodgers fan.