R.I.P. Frank Robinson. He was a force on the field for the Reds and then for the Orioles. Even at age 36 he had a slash line of .251/.353/.442 with 19 HR and 59 RBI in one season with the Dodgers. I remember hearing Dodgers-Reds games in the early 1960s and worrying when he was about to come up. The 1961 team which won the NL pennant had F Robby, Wally Post and Vada Pinson in the outfield and Joey Jay, Bob Purkey and Jim O’Toole in the rotation with a young fireballer named Jim Maloney in the bullpen where he was joined by wily veteran Jim Brosnan. They were good and Robinson was the best of them.
How tough was he?
Robinson was hit with a pitch 198 times in his career, an outlandish amount for such a great player. Nobody else hit that often ever had even 350 home runs. Aaron was hit only 32 times, Clemente 35 and Mays 44.
He was so much more than just one of the greatest players of his era, though. He was a tough hard-nosed field manager and executive in the Commissioner’s office after his playing days were done. Let this be his epitaph:
Pioneer, Hall of Fame player, manager, executive … yes, Robinson excelled in multiple capacities like very few ever did. His greatest role, however, may have been as a role model in what it means to compete fully and relentlessly. In that vein, Frank Robinson forever is in nobody’s shadow.
Changes at ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball: Curt Schilling moves to Monday Night Baseball, John Kruk goes back to Baseball Tonight, and Jessica Mendoza and Aaron Boone move into the chairs next to Dan Shulman for the Sunday game.
Monte Irvin has died at 96. He joined the NY Giants from the Negro League Newark Eagles in 1949 (the second black player on the team behind Hank Thompson) and played left field next to Willie Mays. In the 1951 World Series those three men formed the first all-black starting outfield in World Series history. Jay Jaffe has more.
Erik Bedard will start it against the White Sox. He’ll probably go only two innings or so.
Thursday Clayton Kershaw will start, also against the White Sox. Friday is a split-squad day.
In much sadder news, Minnie Minoso passed away today. He was the first black player on either team in Chicago after he was traded to the White Sox in 1951, two years after he came up with the Cleveland Indians. Young people remember him, if they do at all, as the guy who kept getting active long enough to appear in a game or two in the Seventies and Eighties after his 40th birthday as an owner’s gimmick. That’s a shame, as he was a great ballplayer, a nine-time All Star who had nearly 2,000 hits and a career .298 batting average in his 15 years as a regular outfielder in the big leagues.
The San Diego State University held a memorial service for Gwynn at the Student Union on campus today. There were a lot of current and retired big leaguers there (Adrian Gonzalez attended from the Dodgers, although probably representing himself as an ex-Padre more than the team), and many of them were pretty teary.
Who was there? Trevor Hoffman. John Kruk. Garry Templeton. Dave Winfield. Ozzie Smith. Rod Carew. Cal Ripken Jr. Steve Finley. Joe Carter. Jerry Royster. Bip Roberts. Padres TV analyst Mark Grant. Padres coaches Bobby Tolan and Rob Picciolo. Barry Bonds. Tony Clark. Bud Black. And more.
The Rockies pitch a kid making his second big league start, Tyler Matzek. The Dodgers counter with southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is 7-3 with a 3.33 ERA on the season. Young Mr. Matzek is a native of Mission Viejo and a 2009 first-round pick (11th overall) out of Capistrano Valley High School. He will be taking on the Dodgers in front of friends and family.
The Rockies have won five straight, including three come-from-behind wins against the Giants in San Francisco over the weekend, while the Dodgers took two of three from the D-Backs.
#Dodgers lineup vs. Rockies:
Van Slyke 1B
In case you missed it, Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn died earlier today of cancer of the salivary gland. The cancer first appeared in 2009 and then came back in 2012.
My first memory of Gwynn is as a point guard for San Diego State. When he played for SDSU the school was in the WAC, as was the U of Hawaii. You know how some guys do their best against particular teams? Gwynn seemed to be on top of his game whenever UH played SDSU, as did Marshall Faulk for the Aztecs in football.
Josh Beckett (3-3, 2.57 ERA) goes for the Dodgers against Mike Leake (3-5, 3.29 ERA) of the Reds. In five career appearances (four starts) against the Dodgers, he is 2-2 with a 4.80 ERA. Another thing: in the last eight games the two teams have played, each team has won four. Six have been one-run affairs.
Bob Welch, who won 211 games in the major leagues for the Dodgers and As, died yesterday. He was only 57. Here’s Jon Weisman’s appreciation of the former pitcher.
Gordon and Puig are both in the lineup, so hopefully their respective hips are fully recovered.
#Dodgers lineup at Reds:
“A 2013 study found that 124 active pitchers, about one-third of those in the majors, had undergone Tommy John surgery at some point in their careers.” The man who invented that surgical procedure died today at the age of 88. Here’s the NYT obituary.
Promoted from the comments to the last post: Dodgers’ Aviation! As in so many other things, the Dodgers and Walter O’Malley were the first to travel via airplane on road trips.
This is a wonderfully well-researched story with beautiful pictures, so go read it!
Update: Some very sad news today from San Diego: Jerry Coleman passed away at the age of 89. Coleman was a Yankee second baseman, a US Marine in both World War II and Korea, and a broadcaster for the Yankees and then the Padres. In 1980 he even managed the Padres for a season. He received the Ford C. Frick Award in 2005.
One hopes that he greeted St. Peter at the Pearly Gates with his pet phrase “Oh Doctor!” and that Peter in turn said “You can hang a star on that one, baby!”
Here’s a video of Dodgers VP for planning and development Janet Marie Smith talking about the stadium renovations.
At ESPN LA Mark Saxon points out that on the day camp opens the Dodgers have six veteran relief pitchers, four utility/bench players, eight starting position players and seven starting pitchers. That’s a far cry from the last few years when there were deals for starting pitchers being done seemingly up to Opening Day. Presumably they’ll deal a starter, hopefully for a fourth outfielder. Saxon gets off a good line, noting that there are a bunch of players whose health is best described as “improving.”
Trainer Sue Falsone might have more interesting media sessions than manager Don Mattingly.
Should we start getting excited yet?
Update: ESPN has released the Sunday Night Baseball schedule through July 21, and the May 5 Dodgers – Giants game at AT&T Park is included on the list. As David Pinto points out, there’s only one Yankees – Red Sox game on the schedule, which is a welcome change as far as I’m concerned. The Angels have two games scheduled, at Texas and the White Sox.
Update: Jon has some parting thoughts about both Stan Musial and Earl Weaver at the old site.