Baseball is a game of numbers. Let's start with these, shall we: 1974, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1995, 2008 and 2009, the numbers corresponding to years A.D. in which the Los Angeles Dodgers have been crowned champions of the National League West.
As of precisely 3:50 p.m. Thursday, you can add 2013 to the list. They have done it. Los Angeles has finally done it. The Dodgers beat the second place Diamondbacks before 22,763 fans, a fair percentage of them wearing nothing but blue, eliminating Arizona from contention in comeback fashion, 7-6, at Chase Field in Phoenix.
It will go down in the record books as a win for reliever J.P. Howell, with Brian Wilson pitching a perfect eighth inning, and Kenley Jansen matching him in the ninth for his 26th save of the season. Hanley Ramirez blasted two home runs among his four hits, Michael Young and Scott Van Slyke drove in runs with base knocks, and A.J. Ellis hit a dramatic eighth inning homer to send the Dodgers into the postseason for the first time in four years.
The headline is an homage to one which ran in the LA Times on October 2, 1974 (see below). The Dodgers had just won their first ever NL West, and were days away from their first NL pennant since Sandy Koufax retired prematurely in 1966. Eight years between World Series appearances seems like a breeze compared to the quarter of a century the current generation of fans has been waiting, and we shall see if Don Mattingly can be the manager to end the streak.
L.A. goes to San Diego for a three-game weekend series with the Padres beginning tomorrow at 7:10, Edinson Volquez versus Robbie Erlin. From there it's onto San Francisco for games Tuesday through Thursday and then a final three-game set with the Rockies at home next weekend.
The Dodgers open the National League Division Series Wednesday, October 3, with opponent, time and city to be determined. Win that one and get set for the National League Championship Series, which is scheduled to open October 11, and Kershaw-willing, the City of Dodgers' ' first Fall Classic in 25 years, which begins in the home of the American League champions, October 23.
The lead from Jeff Prugh's 1974 game story goes like this: '"My eyes burn like hell,' said manager Walter Alston, who was showered by champagne in Tuesday night's delirious clubhouse celebration, but I'm proud right now...proud of every one of these kids...and all the coaches too."'
"'We've got to be the favorites now,' [Bill Buckner] said, looking ahead to Saturday's playoff opener against Pittsburgh or St. Louis." Interesting, no?
"'We've still got another step,' said Willie Crawford, relaxing quietly in a corner with 20-game winner Andy Messersmith. 'It's just a beginning for us -- we've got to win the next one, too.'"
From Mike Marshall: "I don't give a damn who we play. Bring em all on, right now!" Exactly, Professor.
And what a perfect passage from the writer, as fitting for a bunch of Dodgers 39 years ago as it is for today's group: "All around the room, it was whoop-and-holler, laughter and handclaps, an outpouring of emotion by a team often criticized for not showing enough emotion during the long season."
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Well, maybe not the showing of emotion part; not with this 2013 team. But like the '74 Dodgers, these guys know their job is not complete, not by a longshot. But celebrate tonight, Boys in Blue. Los Angeles celebrates with you.