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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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Exclusive: Excerpt from The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodger Baseball
2004-11-03 09:33
by Jon Weisman

As many of you know, I am dying to write a book about the Dodgers - and have been held back only by the lack of a patron and the lack of time to earn one. You know, good ol' excuses.

Two people who doesn't need to make excuses are Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson. With books on the Yankees and Red Sox already under their belts, they have now created The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodger Baseball. A comprehensive review of the entire history of the Dodger franchise, with encyclopedic information, interviews, a wide range of photographs and pointed commentary, The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodger Baseball is a book any Dodger fan should consider as the holiday shopping and by-the-fireplace reading season begins.

In a combination of promotional savvy and kindness (with an emphasis on the latter), Stout was good enough to allow me to excerpt a chapter of my choice for Dodger Thoughts. Though tempted in a number of different areas, I chose his chapter on the most unexplored period in Los Angeles Dodger history, the time from Sandy Koufax's retirement through the end of the Walter Alston era. It was a period that laid the groundwork for the Dodgers many of us grew up with it, but as I've written before in my feature on the 1967 season, it's fallen too far from the radar screen.

Later this week, I'll have a short interview with Stout, who will also appear with Johnson for a reading and panel discussion at Bob Timmermann's Los Angeles Public Library on November 10. Sometime in the next year or 50, I'll have my book completed. In the meantime, enjoy the following excerpt.

* * *

From The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodger Baseball (Houghton Mifflin, 2004). Text by Glenn Stout. Photos selected and edited by Richard Johnson. Copyright 2004 by Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson, all rights reserved.

Chapter Fourteen: 1967-1976
California Dreaming

Six months after playing in the World Series, Dodger GM Buzzie Bavasi made an admission that only a few months before would have been unthinkable.

"We always want to win the pennant and we always expect to, but we don't think the public expects us to win this year . . . So we think we're free to experiment." For in the six months since the World Series, the Dodgers had changed more dramatically since before the days of Branch Rickey.

Since coming to Los Angeles in 1958, the Dodgers had enjoyed one long sweet ride. In less than a decade, they had achieved more success than they had ever dreamed of in Brooklyn - at the gate, on the field and everywhere else it mattered. Unless one still lived in Brooklyn, or maybe Long Island, whenever anyone mentioned the Dodgers they evoked visions of palm trees and Dodger Stadium, fastballs and starlets, stolen bases and champagne.

If any team in baseball had adopted the swagger that until recently had belonged only to the Yankees, it was the LA Dodgers. Yet almost as soon as the 1966 World Series ended, despite possessing a pitching staff that still appeared capable of giving them a chance to win, the Dodgers were prepared to toss it way, to play "wait til next year" before next year had even started.

That approach would be an enormous mistake, one that would take nearly another decade to overcome fully, a decade in which the team that had so long been ahead of the curve spent much of its time, if not behind the curve, behind other teams.

Of course, the wheels had started to fall off shortly after the end of the 1966 season. In the days following the loss to Baltimore, it was clear there had to be some changes – scoring only two runs in the World Series was embarrassing.

Even Alston admitted, "It's pretty obvious we need a solid swinger," but he should have been thinking plural, not singular. And he dismissed the notion of getting a bonafide slugger, saying, "I don't care so much for a long ball hitter because our park isn't built that way." In a story headlined, "Are Dodgers Due to Collapse Like Yanks?" the Times openly wondered if the loss to Baltimore was akin to the Yankees loss to the Cardinals two years before, a herald of bad times ahead. And this was before anyone even knew Koufax wasn't returning.

A few days after the debacle against Baltimore, the team was scheduled to leave for Japan to represent American baseball in the annual goodwill tour. Koufax and Drysdale begged off, citing fatigue. Maury Wills also wanted out. As much as either pitcher, playing a 162-game season took a toll on Wills. By October his legs were a mess, a mass of abrasions and bruises.

But Wills wasn't Koufax or Drysdale. The Dodgers bluntly told him he had to go, and Wills went – grudgingly. But after only a few days he left without club permission and went to Hawaii.

O'Malley took it personally. Ballplayers were changing. The nineteen sixties were starting to take hold and players were beginning to think for themselves. After being a holdout in 1966, Wills' defection was the last straw, a sign of egregious disloyalty. O'Malley wired Bavasi – who didn't make the trip either, but went on a cruise - and told him to get rid of Wills ASAP.

While Bavasi endeavored to do just that, Koufax was mulling just how to announce his retirement. He wanted to do it right after the Series, for there was already some speculation that he might call it quits – his recently published book was full of hints. Writers were pestering him with questions about his plans and he tried to be diplomatic, telling them only "I won't be able to say I'll return until I see how my elbow feels next spring," but he felt as if he were lying.

On November 16, while the Dodgers were in Japan and Wills was playing his banjo in a bar in Hawaii, Koufax told Bavasi he was done. Bavasi begged him to hold off on any announcement for at least a week, until O'Malley returned from the Japan, or even better, until after baseball's winter meeting. Bavasi knew he needed another pitcher and if Koufax announced his retirement before then, he'd be dealing from a position of weakness. He hoped there was another Osteen out there.

But now Koufax had the hammer. And he remembered how he'd been treated the previous spring during the holdout.

He didn't wait for O'Malley or anyone else. He held a press conference on November 18 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and announced his decision. He was understated, as usual, "I don't have much to say, just a short statement. A few minutes ago I sent Buzzie Bavasi a letter asking him to put me on the voluntarily retired list." Then he took questions and told reporters the reason for his retirement was, quite simply, his arm. But the pain and fear that his arm would be permanently damaged was only part of it; the treatments he took were just as much a concern. "I had to take a shot every ballgame," he admitted, "I don't know if cortisone is good for you." He added that he had been taking so many drugs that while pitching he felt "high half the time."

In Japan, his teammates were stunned. Most echoed Ron Fairly, who said simply "There's no way to replace him." The press concurred. Wrote Charles Maher in the Times, "This may appear to put the Dodgers in terrible trouble. But it is actually a little worse than that."

No kidding. Bavasi was already bemoaning the future. Although he said, "For fourteen years they've been telling me to get rid of my older players. And in that time we've won only eight pennants," he knew that now it was different. Koufax was completely irreplaceable.

And while it was common knowledge that the Dodgers were mad at Wills, it wasn't yet public knowledge that he'd be traded. Now that Koufax was gone, that didn't make any sense, did it?

No, but that didn't matter – that wasn't the point. Getting rid of Wills for skipping out on a series of exhibition games made little sense as it was. Getting rid of him after the Koufax retirement meant none whatsoever. But he'd embarrassed O'Malley.

There wasn't a huge market for Wills. At thirty-four he was old for an infielder, and his skills weren't much in demand, for few other clubs had the need to scratch and claw for runs like the Dodgers. They didn't need a player to steal bases, and the consensus was that Wills was starting to slow down. The shortstop position was still viewed as essentially a defensive position and Wills was no longer a very good fielder. He'd always been erratic, and while his shortcomings had been masked playing half a season on the rock-hard infield of Dodger Stadium, that wasn't the case elsewhere.

The Dodgers also had to get a shortstop back in the deal. Bavasi opened shop and there received few offers. "The line," he moaned, "is not forming to the right."

At the winter meetings, he did what he could. For some reason, the New York Mets thought Tommie Davis would regain his earlier form. The Dodgers thought he was babying his leg and had run out of patience waiting for him to be a star. Bavasi packaged him with infielder Derrell Griffith in exchange for second baseman Ron Hunt and outfielder Jim Hickman, a sometime slugger coming off a broken wrist. Hunt was actually pretty good, but had trouble controlling his temper. During the 1966 season he'd written his ticket out of New York when in a fit of rage he'd thrown a bat into his own dugout. The Dodgers now planned to move Lefebvre to third, a perennial trouble spot. If they kept Wills the Dodger infield was looking pretty good.

But that wasn't going to happen. Wills and the Dodgers started arguing in public. The shortstop said his knees were bad and that if he didn't play with the Dodgers, he might not play at all. In response, the Dodgers announced they'd cut his salary by the full legal amount, 25%. The end result made him even less valuable in trade.

Yet on December 1 Bavasi agreed to a trade with the Pirates. All he could get for Wills was Bob Bailey and Gene Michael. Michael was a triple-A shortstop who couldn't hit, while Bailey, a native of Long Beach, was a California high school legend turned bonus baby who had stagnated on the Pirate bench and never fulfilled his promise.

Wills couldn't believe it. He considered himself as a much a part of the club's success as Koufax, and in a way, he was. On a team that had a hard time scoring and that played in a place like Dodger Stadium, he had been invaluable. And now he was being traded for a couple of spare parts because he flew to Hawaii? "I feel I've been as loyal and dedicated as any ballplayer that ever wore a Dodger uniform," he said.

And that was it. The Dodgers – the LA Dodgers - the team that had used pitching, speed and defense to win three world championships - were finished, just like that. The farm system, apart from pitching prospects, was barren. The Dodgers had been blind to their weaknesses, convinced they could always win with pitching, that hitting didn't matter. They stocked up on arms and let the offense take care of itself. But when they traded Wills they lost any chance they had to remain respectable.

Bavasi was finished making deals. The Dodgers didn't even try to add a veteran starter to replace Koufax. Bob Miller started on Opening Day and lost to the Reds, 6-1. It wasn't long before the press began referring to the pitcher as "Bomb" Miller. Rookie Bill Singer soon took over for him in the rotation.

The Dodgers still had pitching, but even according to their low standards they couldn't hit, scoring nearly 100 runs less than in 1966, averaging barely three runs a game. In Don Drysdale's sixteen losses, the Dodgers scored a total of fifteen runs. Gene Michael hit .202 and couldn't field either. Bailey hit .227. Lou Johnson broke his leg.

Wills hit .302 for Pittsburgh. Only the Astros and Mets kept the Dodgers out of last place. They finished 73-89. More significantly attendance at Dodger Stadium dropped by a million fans, down to only1.6 million, less than the pennant-winning Cardinals and Red Sox, the first time since moving from Brooklyn that the Dodgers hadn't led the majors in that category.

Some experiment. And it didn't not appear as if 1968 would bring any improvement. It was obvious the Dodgers missed Wills and needed offense, so in the offseason Bavasi made a trade he thought would make up for it, sending Roseboro, Ron Perranoski and Bob Miller to the Twins for Zoilo Versalles and Mudcat Grant.

It would have been an interesting trade two years earlier. Now it was simply a swap of fading veterans.

It soon became clear why Bavasi had never made many trades – he didn't know how. He dealt for names, not talent. Lou Johnson was sent to the Cubs for Paul Popovich, an infielder with no pop whatsoever. He bought former slugger Rocky Colavito from the White Sox and sent Hunt to the Giants for catcher Tom Haller.

All it did was a shuffle the deck – badly. Versalles was terrible and hit .196, Colavito was almost as bad. Haller helped, but Popovich was dismal.

Just before the start of the 1968 season the Dodgers made another monumental mistake. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4 and America erupted. While the rest of baseball suspended operations, the Dodgers went ahead and played an exhibition game at Dodger Stadium versus Cleveland. And when the rest of baseball pushed back opening day until after King's funeral on April 9, the Dodgers planned to play, even though their opponents, the Philadelphia Phillies, announced they would rather forfeit than participate. Hollywood even postponed the Academy Awards. But the Dodgers, the team that signed Jackie Robinson, insisted on playing their game.

Everything Bavasi said about the situation made him sound insensitive and the organization appear totally out of touch. "I talked to Willie Davis and [coach] Jim Gilliam," said Bavasi of the team's two high profile African-Americans. "I told them the game would be played but they would not have to participate. It is similar to the time when Sandy Koufax did not play because of religious holidays." It was not.

He said the Dodgers planned to play "to give people some sort of amusement when they need it most. It may help keep people off the streets and to forget their anger." Besides, he reasoned, the Dodgers were playing a night game – King's funeral was in the morning.

The Dodgers were excoriated over the decision. On April 8 O'Malley and Bavasi met and finally backed down but the damage to the teams' reputation was done. Bavasi didn't help matters by saying afterwards, "There's no sense bumping our heads against a stone wall," as if the decision had somehow been correct and everybody else was wrong. They simply didn't understand that choosing not to play was a simple matter of respect.

The Dodgers were trying to give the 1968 season a theme. They called it "Operation Bounceback." And when they finally opened on April 10, that's just what they did, bouncing back to where they'd ended 1967. Chris Short and Phillies shut them out 2-0.

Dodger observers were finally starting to get impatient. Columnist Charles Maher in the Times referred to the club's home schedule as "eighty-one slumber parties" and offered that from the fan's perspective the season slogan should really be, "We're tired of sitting on a stiff board when we are bored stiff." Lack of offense was a problem throughout baseball in the 1960s, but the Dodgers raised it to an art form. Even club vice president Fresco Thompson went on record as a supporter of the "wild card" hitter, a notion similar to the designated hitter. No team needed that more than the Dodgers. Unless they won by shutout, it was hard for them to win at all.

And no Dodger pitcher knew that better than Don Drysdale. Now that Koufax was gone, the pitcher they called "Big D" was supposed to fill the same role he had. But as the Times' Dan Hafner commented after Drysdale's eighth start of the season on May 14, "The Dodgers can get a run for almost any pitcher [but] the pitcher had better be prepared to hurl a shutout though if he expects to win." After seven starts, Drysdale's only victory was a 1-0 whitewashing of the Mets, and in their last four games, LA had scored only a single run in each. Hafner had no idea just how prophetic his words would be.

This time, the Dodgers got one for Drysdale, and he followed Hafner's advice, shutting down the Cubs on two hits to win 1-0. After the game, a clearly exhausted Drysdale was asked if he thought he could pitch twenty shutouts.

"Oh my heavens, no," he said. "I couldn't stand something like this every time out. I'm too old for that."

But he wasn't. In his next three starts, Drysdale threw shutouts. The major league record was five shutouts in a row, set back in 1904 by Chicago White Sox pitcher Doc White.

When Drysdale took the mound at Dodger Stadium against the Giants on May 31 for a chance to tie White's mark, there was more excitement in the stands that at any time since 1966. And more people. More than 46,000 fans packed the park for a chance to witness history.

The Dodgers gave him a lead in the second when, miraculously, Colavito doubled and Bailey followed with a single, which for the Dodgers was nearly the equivalent of batting around. They added single runs in the third and eighth and Drysdale took the mound needing only three outs to make history.

Drysdale hadn't been in much trouble all night. Only one Giants hitter, the pitcher Mike McCormick, had made it as far as second base.

Still, Drysdale hadn't been particularly sharp. He'd thrown a ton of pitches and although he hadn't walked anybody, he'd gone to a three-ball count on a dozen hitters. His fastball was tailing and his sinker dropping out of the strike zone, movement that led most hitters to believe that Drysdale was doctoring the ball.

In the ninth, the Giants were determined to break his streak. There was still considerable bad blood between the two teams and San Francisco, in first place, enjoyed looking down at the seventh place Dodgers. Willie McCovey worked a walk – the first of the night – then Jim Ray Hart singled and McCovey stopped at second. Dave Marshall followed with a walk and with no outs the bases were loaded.

Alston was in a quandary. As much as he wanted Drysdale to get the record, he also wanted to win the game. In the seventh inning he made a few changes to put his best defensive team on the field. Now, with San Francisco catcher Dick Dietz up, he had to decide whether to play the infield in to cut off the run at the plate, or back for the double play, conceding the run. He kept the infield back, making Drysdale's task a little bit harder.

Dietz worked the count to 2-2. Then Drysdale came inside with a fastball. The pitch hit Dietz, a right-handed hitter, on the left elbow. The hitter dropped his bat and started to first base as McCovey started toward home.

Home plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt immediately called him back and called the pitch ball three. Dietz got in his face and started to argue, and San Francisco manager Herman Franks raced from the dugout.

Dietz, ruled Wendelstedt, had made no effort to avoid the pitch. In such an instance, the umpire did not have to recognize that the pitch hit him.

That's what the rule said, but the judgement call is one of the most rare in baseball. Franks tried to argue, but Wendelstedt was unmoved. "It was the worst call I've ever seen," raged Franks later.

But now Drysdale, with the crowd threatening to explode, still had to work out of the bases loaded jam. With the count 3-2, Dietz flew out to short left field. McCovey had to stay put.

Alston kept the infield at double play depth, but with pinch-hitter Ty Cline at bat, he moved everyone in a single step. Cline smashed a pitch to the right side.

It went directly to first baseman Wes Parker, acknowledged by most as the best fielding first baseman in the game. He dug the ball out of the dirt and fired home for the force out. Now Drysdale was one out away from the record.

In his previous start, against Houston, he had wiggled out of a similar jam, giving up two hits, a walk and hit batsman in the ninth, only to be saved by a spectacular double play. But this was escape artistry of another order.

Jack Hiatt was the last hitter. Drysdale, who had already thrown more than 150 pitches, jammed him and Hiatt popped the ball up to Wes Parker. Drysdale had the record and his teammates mobbed him as if he had just won the World Series.

But the Giants were still livid. Franks called Wendelstedt a "Gutless son of a bitch," after the game and said "put Wendelstedt's name on the trophy first." He went on to claim the pitch in question was a "Vaseline ball." Dietz denied being hit on purpose, saying the pitch froze him and all he had done was "Flinch before it hit me."

The Dodgers backed their ace. Alston admitted that he had never before seen such a call in his long career, "but then it's the first time I ever saw anyone get deliberately hit by the ball." Dodger catcher Jeff Torborg concurred and said, "As soon as the ball hit Dietz, ‘I yelled, ‘Hey!' and Wendelstedt was already making his call." Drysdale, for the record, called the pitch a slider, and the victory "the biggest thrill of my life."

The shutout put a few more records within reach. He had not given up an earned run in his last 49 innings and only two in 67 innings for the season. He needed only two more scoreless innings to match Carl Hubbell's NL record of 46 1/3. Another shutout would give him that record all by himself, and put Walter Johnson's major league record of 56 consecutive scoreless innings within reach.

In his next start against Pittsburgh on June 4, he was near perfect again. He broke Hubbell's mark with a second inning strikeout of Bill Mazeroski, and cruised from there, shutting out the Pirates on three hits to win 5-0 and run his scoreless streak to 54.

Excitement over Drysdale's record assault obscured two events that would, in the end, prove more important to Dodger history. At the end of May, Buzzie Bavasi announced that he would resign as Dodger general manager and become part owner of the expansion franchise in San Diego that would begin play in 1969.

That was the first sign that changes were about to take place atop the Dodger organization. Walter O'Malley was getting old and maneuvering to put his son, Peter, atop the organization. He'd already served the organization for a number of years in the minor leagues, and was ready to assume a greater role. Bavasi, who had never been cut into ownership by O'Malley, saw the San Diego opportunity as his big chance to cash in.

Next to O'Malley, Bavasi was as responsible for the shape of the organization as any man since Branch Rickey. But after Rickey's club grew old Bavasi had been slow to react as Dodger offense took a dive and he didn't have a plan after the retirement of Koufax. His trades since then had been disasters. The farm system, although under the control of player development director Al Campanis and Fresco Thompson, had not provided a first-rate position player in years. Most Dodger prospects seemed to follow a familiar pattern – early success, like that enjoyed by Tommie Davis and Jim Lefebvre - followed by a long slow decline. Dodger minor leaguers, many of whom had been considered absolute blue chippers when first signed, seemed to peak early, and time and time again the club seemed to rush players to the majors a year before they were ready.

The system did a good job identifying talent, but was not adept at projecting future performance. Like the Yankees as few years earlier, the Dodgers signed prospects who looked like ballplayers instead of the real thing. While the Dodgers were the first system to put into place the now standard numeric grading system which rates skills on a point scale from 20 to 80, the Dodgers also looked for what they called "the good face," a ballplayer who looked the way they expected a ballplayer to look. The result was a good looking team, but not a whole lot of talent.

Fresco Thompson took over for Bavasi, although many thought he was really just a stopgap hire to prevent him from jumping to Montreal, but in the 1968 free agent draft held a few weeks later, the Dodgers hit the jackpot. Either Bavasi had been the problem or maybe it was just time for the Dodgers to get lucky. After all, if Drysdale could hit a batter with a pitch with the bases loaded and still pitch a shutout, anything was possible. Among the players they selected were unknown kids named Bobby Valentine, Steve Garvey, Bill Buckner, Ron Cey, Tom Paciorek, Joe Ferguson and Doyle Alexander. Lee Lacy would be selected the following February. None would stay unknown for long and few teams have ever had a more productive draft. These "good faces" also had some skills.

For now, the face everyone was interested in was still Don Drysdale's. On June 8 he took the mound against the Phillies in pursuit of a record seventh shutout in a row.

An overflow crowd filled Dodger Stadium, and Drysdale was the big story in baseball. For the first time, his nerves betrayed him. He had other things on his mind. A supporter of Robert F. Kennedy, Drysdale was shaken by his assassination on June 5– in 1968, it was hard to play baseball without taking into account the madness that seemed to be breaking out all over the country. Of his first eight pitches, seven missed the plate and with one out he walked John Briggs. But Versalles then made a great stop and Drysdale settled down.

He passed Johnson in the third, inducing Roberto Pena to ground out to Ken Boyer and set his sights on the shutout.

But now that Drysdale had the record, Phillies manager Gene Mauch wanted to win the game. He went out and spoke with umpire Augie Donatelli, and as Drysdale walked off the field, Donatelli stopped him, examined his wrist and then had Drysdale take off his cap. The umpire ran his fingers through his hair and found what later referred to as "greasy kid stuff." Donatelli suspected Drysdale was doctoring the ball, using Vaseline rubbed in his a hair, which he then transferred to his fingers between pitches. That enabled him to throw a pitch like a spitball, one that would squirt out of his fingers with little spin and drop sharply. Then, to emphasize the point, when Drysdale took the mound to start the fourth, Donatelli told him not to touch his head with his hand. If he did, he'd be thrown from the game.

The admonition bothered Drysdale. In the fifth, Tony Taylor and Clay Dalrymple singled. With Taylor on third, pinch hitter Howie Bedell, just up from the minors, hit a fly ball to left. Taylor tagged and scored, giving Bedell the second and last RBI of his career. After 58 2/3 innings, Drysdale had finally given up a run.

Now that he had, he couldn't stop. The Phillies added another in the sixth and one more in the seventh before Alston took him out. The Dodgers, however, hung on to win, 5-3, their sixth victory in a row, lifting them into second place behind St. Louis.

That's as close to first place as they would come. Drysdale, Vaseline or not, returned to mortal status. Over the remainder of the season, he'd only collect one more shutout on his way to a 14-12 record, and the Dodgers soon slipped from their lofty perch, falling all the way to tenth place before a late surge lifted them into a tie for sixth, 76-86. They hit a collective .230 for the season, and scored only 470 runs, worst in the majors. Despite the big crowds that had come out to see Drysdale, attendance continued to tumble to just over 1.3 million.

Change was coming. Desperate to create more offense across the board, major league baseball lowered the pitcher's mound and banned pitcher's from licking their fingers. The National League added two teams in 1969, the San Diego Padres and the Montreal Expos, split into two divisions, and decided to play night games during the World Series. Jim Murray joked that in one fell swoop "baseball has eliminated the second division, the home run, the spit ball, day games [and] the shirtsleeve World Series." Overnight, there were suddenly two more teams even worse than the Dodgers. Now they had only five other teams in their division to overtake. It was almost as if the league decided to make things easier on one of its flagship franchises.

There were also more changes in the Dodger organization. Walter O'Malley installed his son Peter as club vice-president and began to loosen his grip on the franchise. And in the off-season, Fresco Thompson died of cancer. Al Campanis became the new general manager.

He was no Bavasi. Campanis had actually played the game in the major leagues – albeit briefly – as a Dodger catcher in 1943. It was time, finally, for the Dodgers to rebuild. He was in a hurry, as eager to make trades as Bavasi had been loath to. That winter the Dodgers were more active than they'd been in years - Campanis even traded away his own son, Jim, a minor league catcher.

In the spring, rookie Ted Sizemore took over at shortstop and Bill Sudakis at third. Willie Crawford, a local product and perennial contender for a starting job, took over one outfield spot. The other went to Andy Kosco, obtained in a trade with the Yankees. Rookie Bill Russell made the team as a backup. With LA's pitching – and the presence of both San Diego and Montreal in the National league – the club had to improve.

They did, and by mid-season the Dodgers were in the midst of the fight for the division title in what the press called, not too inventively, as "the wild, wild West.'

But in early June, Willie Davis broke his cheekbone. Everyone expected the Dodgers to fall off, but Campanis pulled a shocker – he made a mid-season trade that meant something, an occurrence that hadn't been seen in Los Angeles, well, ever.

Incredibly, it had been more than a decade since the Dodgers had picked up an impact player in midseason - 1956, when they had purchased Sal Maglie. Since then, Bavasi hadn't made a single important deal. Campanis did, and even better, it was for a player Dodger fans already knew and loved, and even better than that, needed desperately.

Since the spring, shortstop had been a problem. Sizemore didn't have the range and had been moved over to second. Rookie Bill Grabarkewitz simply couldn't hit. And now, with Davis hurt, the Dodgers needed not only speed but also veteran leadership. They were, after all, in a pennant race of sorts.

Campanis had been pestering O'Malley to let him bring back Maury Wills. After two decent years in Pittsburgh, he been made available in the expansion draft and picked up by Montreal, where his talents were wasted and he hated playing. He finally just stopped, and said he was going to retire, only to come back after he learned that if he quit, the Expos couldn't trade him. He'd been awful in Montreal, but Campanis thought he'd come alive back in LA. O'Malley, although still disdainful of Wills for his perceived "disloyalty," finally caved in. Campanis shipped Paul Popovich and Ron Fairly to the Expos for not only Wills, but also Manny Mota, a bonafide hitter who for much of the next decade would be the best pinch hitter in baseball.

Wills was thrilled and called it "The greatest thing that has ever happened to me." Now, somewhat incredibly and improbably, the Dodgers had a chance again. In the NL West, the divisional split worked perfectly as the Giants, Braves, Reds and Dodgers all scrambled for first place.

There was just one problem – Drysdale. Until 1969 he had never missed a start –ever - pitching despite broken ribs, shin splints, shingles and god knows how many sore arms, propped up at times by taking the same assortment of medication as Koufax. And while he hadn't enjoyed his counterpart's spectacular level of success, Drysdale had been as dependable as the California sunshine, and was the Dodger career leader in just about every pitching category worth mentioning.

But in May he'd blown out his shoulder, gone on the disabled list, came back, went back on, came back off after the All-Star break and was terrible, yielding more than a run an inning. And like Koufax, to Drysdale the pain wasn‘t the worst part. "I can't take any more medication," he said. "Sometimes I honestly felt I was becoming dopey. I was afraid the police would pick me up on a corner. I can't sleep. I roll over on this arm and the pain wakes me up. This morning I had to use my left arm to brush my teeth." In early August, he retired.

Campanis didn't give up. He pried veteran Jim Bunning from the Pirates on August 15 for the stretch run as Willie Davis, healthy again, went on a tear and set a club record with a 31-game hitting streak. Although the Dodgers lacked punch, base hits weren't a problem. But the Dodger just couldn't get into first place, and over the last two weeks, the Braves pulled away as LA fell to fourth, eight games back at 85-77.

Yet as the Dodgers watched the division title slip away, fans got a glimpse of the future. In the waning days of the season the Dodgers brought up a host of rookies to give them a taste of life in the major leagues, including Bobby Valentine, Steve Garvey, Bill Buckner and Von Joshua. None were ready for the big leagues yet, but they were getting closer.

Peter O'Malley took over as club president in 1970, another sign of change, as Walter O'Malley took on the more ceremonial title of "Chairman of the Board." In the spring there was optimism that glory days were about to resume.

One week into the season, those thoughts were gone. Cincinnati swept the club three in a row to open the season and then they dropped two to the woeful Padres. Alston reamed everybody out and called the club's performance, "The worst exhibition of baseball in Dodger Stadium for a long, long time."

The season was effectively over. The Reds went wire to wire and even though the Dodgers finally got on track, it was far too late. The "Big Red Machine" was starting to rev its engine and the Dodgers didn't have enough horsepower. The finished second, 87-74, but 14 ½ long games behind the Reds. The difference between the two teams was obvious. The Red had clubbed 191 home runs. The Dodgers had hit only 87.

The Dodgers hadn't had a consistent power threat since Frank Howard. Since he'd been traded, only one Dodger, Jim Lefebvre in 1966, had hit more than twenty home runs in a season, and he never came close again.

The talent bubbling up from the farm system was giving the team some flexibility. Campanis saw what was on the horizon and felt confident enough to start trading away the surplus and making room for the new recruits.

In October he dropped a bomb and dealt Ted Sizemore and highly touted catcher Bob Stinson to the St. Louis Cardinals for problematic slugger Dick Allen. With the farm system full of infielders and Joe Ferguson making his mark as the catcher of the future, the Dodgers weren't worried about finding replacements. And Allen was a slugger of the highest order. In fact, he was one of the most talented players in the major leagues when he chose to play.

That was the problem, because he was also one of baseball's new breed, an individual who had no need or desire to go along to get along. The press had killed his career in Philadelphia, and after being traded to the Cardinals in 1970 he looked as if he had found a home and gotten off to a great start, earning All-Star honors at first base over Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks and Orlando Cepeda – all eventual Hall of Famers. But in August he tore a hamstring, and instead of staying in St. Louis to heal, he went home to Philadelphia. Despite knocking in more than 100 runs in only 122 games, the Cardinals decided Allen wasn't worth the trouble.

Observers were surprised that the Dodgers went after him. He had everything but the "good face," and simply didn't fit their mold. Players in the organization were schooled in the "Dodger Way" and individualism in the increasingly conservative organization was frowned upon. The Dodgers, after all, were a lot closer to Orange County than Haight-Ashbury. Other trades delivered veteran catcher Duke Sims and pitcher Al Downing.

The influx of veterans allowed the Dodgers to take more chances, and they opened the year with three youngsters in the lineup – Steve Garvey at third, Bill Buckner in right, and Bill Russell, a former outfielder who the Dodgers not only made an infielder but a switch hitter to boot, at second base. Bobby Valentine was pressing for playing time if anyone faltered. Allen was installed in left field. In the spring one LA headline gushed, "Dodgers So Good It's Scary!"

But the kids were the ones who were scared. They weren't quite ready. They all had trouble hitting. Garvey kept throwing the ball into the first base stands and broke his hand. Grabarkewitz and Sudakis were also injured. And Alston couldn't seem to decide exactly who he wanted to play where - the only players with set position were Willie Davis in center and Wes Parker at first base. That made the other veterans were angry and the kids confused.

By the time Alston finally figured out who could play and who couldn't, the season looked to be over. The Giants jumped out to a huge lead, starting the season 37-14, and seemed likely to go wire-to wire, just as the Reds had the previous year. Meanwhile the Dodgers struggled. At the end of May they trailed by 10 ½. Although they pulled close several times, drawing to within 3 1/2 games on both June 6 and August 11, each time, as Dodger pitcher Bill Singer put it succinctly – "We died." With twenty-four games left to go on September 5, they trailed the Giants by 8 ½ games and needed a miracle.

They almost got one. The Dodgers had five games remaining with the Giants and won all five as San Francisco went into near total collapse. LA pulled to within one game of the Giants with only four games left and looked to be closing.

But the Giants finally woke up, and with two days left in season the Dodgers suffered a devastating loss. Al Downing, with a new screwball, had emerged as the staff ace. He'd won twenty games on the season, including six in a row, and in September had an ERA of 0.88 ERA. But the Astros drubbed him 11-0 while the Giants beat San Diego to clinch a tie for the division lead. On the final day of the season, although the Dodgers beat the Astros 2-1, the Giants won behind Marichal to capture the division.

Under Campanis and Peter O'Malley, the Dodgers didn't stand pat. Dick Allen, despite hitting .295 and leading the team with 23 home runs and 90 RBIs, hadn't fit in and had angered the club by speaking out before the last game of the season, telling Jim Murray he viewed his performance as "Money well-earned." When asked if he wanted to play another year with the Dodgers saying he was non-committal. "We [players] go where they tell us to go," he said. "If they want me, I'll stay, if they don't, I'll go."

That kind of talk didn't fit the increasingly important Dodger image. PR had become almost as important as RBIs. A show business, glad-handing atmosphere had taken hold within the organization. Players were supposed to be at the park at 5:00 p.m. for night games, but Allen didn't see the need to greet celebrities and sign autographs and often wouldn't arrive until much later.

Peter O'Malley didn't want Allen around anymore. After a couple of minor deals, on December 7 Campanis pried Frank Robinson away from the Orioles for a package of kids, none of them top shelf. That made Dick Allen a spare part and he was simultaneously shipped to the White Sox for pitcher Tommy John.

But it almost didn't matter what the Dodgers did in 1972. The Reds, after a year off-track, were back, and Frank Robinson, at age 36, was no longer the player who had won MVP awards in each league. With the Dodgers holding a narrow lead going into June, Robinson, with 7 home runs and 27 RBIs, pulled a hamstring and all of a sudden the Dodgers couldn't score runs again. He never got untracked after that and the Reds slowly pulled away. The Dodgers finished tied with Astros for second place, 10 ½ games back.

The Dodgers hadn't won anything since Koufax anchored the staff six long seasons before. Dodger Stadium had ceased to be a special place – that had been one of Dick Allen's complaints. The fans were too laid back, arriving late and leaving early. "It was baseball as theater," he said later, complaining that Dodger fans watched baseball like they were at the movies, "polite." And despite some improvement on the field the past few seasons, the organization seemed stuck, unwilling to commit fully to a youth movement that was beginning to look overdue.

Part of the problem was Alston. Living contract-to-contract had become a way of life and he wasn't willing to risk failure for a year or two. He tried to win as many games as possible every year, even after it became apparent that the Dodgers weren't going anywhere. All those Dodger kids had been shuffled in and out of the lineup so much it was hard for them to get in a groove. A generation before the Dodgers had ruined a host of minor leaguers by rushing them to the big leagues. Now the opposite was happening.

Down in the minor leagues, former Dodger pitcher Tommy Lasorda had been working wonders as a manager. In eight years in the organization his ballclubs had finished no lower than third. Campanis liked him. His draft picks had thrived under Lasorda. He was the polar opposite of Alston, whose "iron-hand" style didn't have the impact it once had – younger players were different. Lasorda, on the other hand, was a pal, a pied piper, an enthusiastic advocate, as if by his own will and belief he could get his players to what he could not as a player – reach the major leagues to stay. Many older players and longtime baseball men looked at Lasorda and rolled their eyes, but his players – at least those he played - seemed to buy it.

He had his eyes on the Dodger manager's job and everyone knew it. Several years before, at a press conference when Walter O'Malley announced Lasorda's promotion to Triple-A, Lasorda said " I want to continue working for the Dodgers even when I'm dead and gone." Amused, O'Malley asked him just how he proposed to do that. Said Lasorda, "Just put the Dodger schedule on my tombstone." Alston was also getting up in years – he couldn't manage forever. In 1973 the Dodgers brought Lasorda up to the Dodgers as a coach and the youth movement was put into full effect. Tellingly, his appointment was an organizational decision, not one made by Alston. In recent years, the responsibility to select his own coaches had been taken away, a not-so-subtle message that the organization believed Alston's clock was beginning to wind down.

There was no turning back. Lasorda's appointment as third base coach was a visible signal that the direction of the organization was about to change. Campanis, with the support of Peter O'Malley, was the key figure now. Personnel decisions were primarily his, and not Alston's.

In the off-season, he broke the logjam. Frank Robinson was traded, sent to the Angels along with Bobby Valentine and Bill Singer for established starter Andy Messersmith. Maury Wills finally retired, as did Wes Parker.

By spring, the Dodger roster had turned over, with a deep, experienced pitching staff anchored by Osteen, Sutton, John and Messermith backing up a team of unknown kids.

What would someday become the best-known infield in baseball was about to take shape, and the Dodgers were on the precipice of entering a new era. But not on opening day. Lee Lacy won the second base job and started the season as the Dodger's leadoff hitter. Bill Buckner played first. Veteran Ken McMullen was the third baseman. Bill Russell started the season at shortstop.

That configuration didn't hit and the Dodgers got off slow, despite a pitching staff that was strong from top to bottom. Alston started shuffling the lineup, looking for the right combination.

On June 13, finally, he found it. Suddenly everything snapped into place according to a kind of infallible logic. He moved Bill Buckner to the outfield. That opened up first base for Steve Garvey, who the Dodgers had finally decided just couldn't cut it at third. Davey Lopes pushed Lacy off second base and Ron Cey played third after Ken McMullen hurt his back. With Joe Ferguson supplying power behind the plate, all of a sudden the Dodgers had their best hitting team in years, and Willie Davis, Willie Crawford and Lopes could all run. Defense was a concern at first, for of the four infielders only Cey was playing his natural position, but Russell, who'd been booed for his defense in 1972, suddenly settled down, Garvey was fine at first base and Cey was a vast improvement at third, where in 1972 the Dodgers had made an incredible 52 errors.

That group would remain together for the next eight and a half years, as productive and sure as any core of players the Dodgers have ever had. And for the next eight and half years they made the task of the Dodger organization simple and clear cut. All the front office had to do was supply complementary parts. It was not unlike the situation in Brooklyn from 1947 thru 1955, when Robinson, Reese, Hodges, Campanella and Snider had formed a similar core group. All they lacked was experience – and a leader.

Although the Dodgers lost that day to Philadelphia,16-3, in late June they won fourteen of sixteen to vault past the Giants and take over the lead in the National League West by an incredible 11 ½ games. The Dodgers appeared as if they would run away with the division title and big crowds were again the norm at Dodger Stadium.

But they weren't the only club coming together. The Cincinnati Reds rebounded from a slow start and in July began to take off. Still, in late August the Dodgers had the look of division champions.

But they hadn't been there before - the Reds had. Pennants are won and lost in September and as soon as the calendar turned the Dodgers couldn't win as the kids stopped hitting. It didn't help that nagging injuries chipped away at the pitching staff.

On September 3 the in Candlestick Park the Giants reminded the Dodgers that even though they were out of the race, they could still have a say in who won. The Dodgers led 8-1 entering the seventh inning, then collapsed. Bobby Bonds cracked a grand slam home run in the ninth and the Dodgers fell, 11-8, falling into a tie with the Reds. "I never saw anything like it," moaned Alston. Then he made a huge error, telling the increasingly jittery club that maybe they needed to lose a few more before they could straighten themselves out.

That destroyed their confidence. The Reds took over first place good the next day as the Dodgers went on to lose a total of nine in a row, and ten of twelve, including two to the Reds. The division title went to the Cincinnati. LA finished 95-66, three and a half games back.

In the off-season Campanis got busy again, although with the infield settled his task became much easier. Willie Davis, the club's senior statesman, had been named captain before the 1973 season, taking over from Wills. But he'd clashed with Alston, who wanted him to set the table for the Dodgers younger hitters. Fresco Thompson had once complained that Davis never learned to use his speed, that "you couldn't get Willie to bunt if the third baseman used a cane and was a certified alcoholic." Ever since he'd reached the majors, the Dodgers had expected him to become the next Willie Mays. He wasn't, but as the first Willie Davis he'd been pretty valuable. Now, they decided that wasn't enough. On December 5 Campanis dealt him to the Montreal Expos for eccentric reliever Mike Marshall, then we went after power, trading Osteen to Houston for slugging outfielder Jim Wynn and picking up one-time Mets star Tommy Agee.

Marshall was the key. The screwball-throwing right-hander was studying for his doctorate in the science of human movement at the University of Michigan and was convinced that he could pitch everyday. So far, it seemed as if he could – in 1973 he had pitched in 92 games for Montreal. In baseball circles, his vocabulary alone made him a certified flake – Jim Murray aptly described him as a "prig," for the haughty pitcher considered most ballplayers far below his intellectual level. He called Dodger pitcher Jim Brewer's grasp of the screwball "infantile," but the Dodgers realized that despite his personality quirks he was unlike any other pitcher in baseball.

Nineteen seventy-four was a cakewalk – for a while. Even when the Dodgers lost they won. They opened the season by sweeping the Padres, outscoring them 25 –2, then Al Downing allowed Hank Aaron's record breaking 715th home run and the Dodgers lost, 7-4, as if it were a sign or respect. As soon as history was out of the way, the club resumed its March through the NL West, opening up a 10 ½ game lead over Cincinnati by July 10. Five Dodger players made the All-Star team and Steve Garvey, who had emerged as both a power threat and the most popular player on the team, became the first write-in candidate ever elected to the game.

In the second half, the Reds started stalking them, and it appeared as if 1974 would be a repeat of 1973. Yet this team was a year older, and didn't collapse. In early September they stopped the Reds by taking two of three as Mike Marshall, on his way to a record 106 appearances, pitched in all three games. They finally clinched the division on October 1. For the first time in eight seasons they were going to play baseball after the first week of October.

The Dodgers faced NL East champion Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS and swept to victory in four games, completely outplaying the Pirates as Don Sutton won twice, Mike Marshall didn't give up a run in two relief appearances, and Steve Garvey, who would later be named NL MVP, cracked two home runs and knocked in five. All that stood between them and a world championship were the defending champion Oakland A's.

In terms of personality, the two teams seemed polar opposites. The A's were all swagger and bravado, fighting amongst each other, hating owner Charlie Finley, grappling for headlines and beating up on the rest of the league as if they were some kind of minor distraction that got in the way of their own internal turmoil. They were like a huge, extended disfunctional family that used their own crises to create an "us against the world" mentality. In contrast, the Dodgers were quiet and restrained, businesslike and professional. The A's were baseball's equivalent of the Weather Men - the Dodgers were the Young Republicans. But in the way they played the game on the field, the two clubs were not dissimilar. Each was anchored by a strong set of starting pitchers. The A's triumvirate of Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue and Ken Holtzman compared favorably to the Dodgers' Don Sutton, Andy Messersmith and whomever else Alston chose to pitch, for Tommy John, after a great first half, had elbow surgery. And while the Dodgers had Mike Marshall, the A's had Rollie Fingers. He didn't pitch as often as Marshal, but was nonetheless as effective.

Offensively the two clubs were near mirror images, each with ample portions of power and speed. But the A's, with their experience, were heavily favored and Oakland exuded confidence. Before the Series one unnamed Athletic player said of the Dodgers, "I'd like to know who they've beaten." Moreover, on the precipice of the Series, the A's seemed to be ready for battle. Before a Series workout at Dodger Stadium, Fingers and A's pitcher John Blue Moon Odom fought – Odom emerged on crutches while Fingers had five stitches on the back of his head. For any other team such a fight might have been devastating. For the A's, it was an announcement that they were primed for action.

And the Dodgers were not yet ready for prime time. After the two teams split the first two games at Dodger Stadium, Oakland winning game one 3-2 and the Dodgers winning game two 5-2, the Series moved north to Oakland.

In more ways than one, the A's won the Series in game three, or rather after it. After the A's dispatched the Dodgers with a workmanlike 3-2 win, Dodger outfielder Bill Buckner, whose eighth inning home run had been the first Dodger score of the game, spoke out of turn.

"I definitely think we have the better ballclub," he said, despite being down two games to one. "The A's have only a couple of players that could play on our club. Reggie Jackson is outstanding. Sal Bando and Joe Rudi are good and they have a good pitching staff, other than that . . . if we played them 162 times we'd beat them 100."

As far as the A's were concerned, those were fighting words. They needed little motivation anyway, but Buckner's quip fired them up. Before game four Oakland owner Charley Finley had the comments pasted to a card and read them to his team. "What Buckner is saying, "he said, "is that twenty-two of you aren't worth (Bleep)." The A's then went out and won game four 5-2, and Buckner upped the ante afterwards by making a disparaging comment about light-hitting Oakland center fielder Bill North.

Although the final score of game five was only 3-2, it wasn't that close. The A's and their fans were able to extract not only a world championship, but a measure of revenge.

At the start of the seventh inning, with the score tied 2-2, a raucous A's crowd, which had been taunting Buckner all game, got ugly. The outfielder was hit in the head with a whiskey bottle. He got the umpire's attention and threatened to walk off the field.

The game was delayed for several minutes as Alston and several Dodgers, including pitcher Mike Marshall, on in relief of Don Sutton, discussed the situation with umpires and Marshall consoled Buckner. When play finally resumed, it had been several minutes since Marshal had thrown a pitch. When he finally did, Joe Rudi sent the ball into the stands to give the A's a 3-2 lead.

The Dodgers had one more chance. In the eighth Buckner singled to center. A's center fielder Bill North misplayed the ball and it squirted past him. Buckner, the tying run, raced to second. But instead of stopping, he kept going, ignoring third base coach Tommy Lasorda's stop sign, and trying for third. Reggie Jackson gunned him down.

That ended LA's chances. Rollie Fingers set down the next six hitters and the A's captured the world championship. The Dodgers took the loss hard. After the game Buckner said he'd make the same play again. North chortled that it was "stupid." When Mike Marshall was asked if it had been a mistake not to stay warm during the delay, he responded, "If I don't answer your question, that means I'm not interested in it."

Before the Series there had been some speculation that if the Dodger won, Alston, who would soon turn sixty-three, would retire after twenty years as Dodger manager. Privately, there were many in the organization wishing he would do so, for he had the team in something of a fix. Although his contract only went year-to-year, in a sense that made it the most secure contract in the game. He was an institution, almost above reproach, impossible to fire. Tommy Lasorda was in line for the job and getting impatient. Other teams were interested in Lasorda but the only job he wanted was Alston's. While older players generally looked upon Alston favorably, the younger guys, most of who had played for Lasorda in the minors, were starting to tune out the old manager. And while Lasorda wasn't overtly undermining Alston, his actions were having the same effect. Lasorda was all over the field in spring training and before regular season games, throwing batting practice, talking non-stop, playing the press and the crowd. Every day he made Alston look a little older in comparison.

In the end, the Cincinnati Reds forced a change. For in 1975 and 1976, while the Dodgers were very, very good, the Reds were the best team in baseball. In both seasons the Cincinnati pulled past the Dodgers in May and never looked back, winning the division by twenty games in 1975, and by ten in 1976, and winning the world championship in back-to-back seasons as the Dodgers finished second. Nothing the Dodgers did – trading Mike Marshall, picking up for sluggers Dusty Baker and Reggie Smith, adding pitcher Burt Hooten, the emergence of pitchers Charlie Hough, Doug Rau, and Rick Rhoden – not even the miraculous comeback of Tommy John from the groundbreaking elbow ligament transplant surgery that now bears his name - was able to break Cincinnati's stranglehold on first place.

And as the Dodgers grew accustomed to also-ran status, the squeaky clean veneer that the fans and media had built around the team began to become unglued. Steve Garvey had become Mister Dodger, a status, although earned by both his play and fan-friendly behavior, was something that also appeared premeditated and something some teammates found disingenuous. One guy's "Mister Dodger" was another man's "Mister Fraud."

Garvey had the ultimate "good face," and projected the precise image the organization loved - a clean cut, hard-working family man. That was something that helped Garvey immensely both during contract talks and in off the field endorsements opportunities. He and wife Cyndy appeared to be the perfect California couple, and Garvey's persona was making him rich, something that wasn't happening to the same degree to many of his similarly talented teammates. Both Ron Cey and Davey Lopes, for example, were every bit as important to the Dodger lineup. Cey was as good a hitter as n Garvey and a much better defensive player, while Lopes was one of the first middle infielders to have both power and speed. Yet their contributions were overlooked as all the attention went to Garvey. LA was a city that loved a little scandal and inside dirt, and in 1975 and 1976 Dodger watching – looking for cracks in the faηade – became something of a cottage industry. And something that made Alston seem even more removed from the inner workings of his ballclub.

In the waning days of the 1976 season, as the Dodgers played out the string, there were rumors that Alston wouldn't receive one-year contract number twenty-four. But neither he nor the Dodgers wanted to go through the indignity of a public ousting.

Alston, not altogether willingly, opted out when it became clear his ongoing status was in doubt and no one on the Dodgers would tell him otherwise. There was no sense waiting until the end of the season. On September 27, the Dodgers held an uncomfortable press conference and announced Alston's retirement. Both Walter and Peter O'Malley attended, but it was the son who did most of the talking, saying "It was not until this afternoon that Walter told me he wanted to retire." When asked if he had been prepared to offer Alston another contract, O'Malley parried the question by saying "That question is hypothetical since our discussion never got that far."

Alston looked tired and sounded bitter and resigned, "I'm not retiring because of criticism," he said, and went onto list a few other reasons he wasn't retiring, including "the times," which made the contemporary ballplayer, in Alston's estimation, far less deferential and appreciative of being in the big leagues. What he didn't do was say why he was retiring, and brushed off questions about his relationship to Campanis. He left with a record of 2,040 wins, 1,613 losses, and four world championships, one in Brooklyn and three in LA. Since 1955 no team in baseball had won more.

Although coach Jim Gilliam, who had once been touted as Alston's likely successor, was blunt and said, "Do I want to manage? Yes, of course. The O'Malley's know where to find me," he also knew they wouldn't come looking. Forty-nine year old Tommy Lasorda was the only candidate.

The Dodgers made it official on September 29. "This is the greatest day of my life," said a beaming Lasorda, "to be selected as manager of an organization I love so deeply. To wake up and learn I had inherited a post being vacated by the greatest manager in baseball, is like being presented the Hope diamond." Baseball writers around the country would soon become accustomed to such hyperbole.

Alston didn't wait around, but stepped aside and allowed Lasorda to take over immediately. In his first game, Lasorda's Dodgers won the old-fashioned way, 1-0.

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