Losers of six of eight, the Dodgers pull into the Bronx today for a pair of interleague games with their long-time World Series rivals, the New York Yankees.
And much to the dismay of the City of Dodgers, it's going to be 48 hours of Don Mattingly-inspired reminiscing, with a laser-like focus on his accomplishments in pinstripes. In other words, it'll be about the individual and the Bronx Bombers, rather than about team and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Well, excuse me if I don't play along. I've made my case for the dismissal of the incumbent skipper in this space more than may be appropriate, I'll readily admit, so I'll hit the pause button on that one for the moment. But while Mattingly and his East Coast admirers are celebrating his time there, all I'm thinking about is the Dodgers escaping from New York with a couple of wins in their pocket, and all noses and hamstrings accounted for. If it goes any other way, I'm expecting to be nauseated, along with my L.A. brethren, watching the Donnie Baseball lovefest unfold before me.
Yes, the Yanks have the 27 World Series championships to their name, and yes, they've beaten the Dodgers in eight of 11 Fall Classics between the two clubs. And sure, the NYY is in the thick of the American League East race, three back of the Boston Red Sox at 38-31, while the LAD is in the National League West basement, 29-39 and seven out.
But the last time the teams met in the World Series — and the last time the Dodgers appeared in a place called Yankee Stadium (or “old Yankee Stadium,” as it's referred to now) — Ken Landreaux squeezed the final out, a fly ball off the bat of Bob Watson, Steve Garvey ran into the waiting arms of Steve Howe as Los Angeles won Game Six, 9-2, earning its first championship since 1965. October 28, 1981.
Below is the cover of Esto Organizacion Editorial Mexicana, October 29, 1981 edition. I bought it at a Westside newsstand and it's been sitting in a box, along with some other great L.A. sports-related keepsakes, since that very day.
Highlights of the '81 Series include the Dodgers coming back from losing the first two in New York to win the next four, with three classic one-run victories in Dodger Stadium; a gutty complete Game Three performance from Fernando Valenzuela; a dropped fly ball courtesy of Reggie Jackson in the fourth game; and Jerry Reuss outdueling Ron Guidry, 2-1 in Game Five, with back-to-back home runs from the extremely-clutch Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager. Guerrero, Yeager and Ron Cey won co-World Series Most Valuable Player honors, the first and only time three teammates have shared the award.
The 1963 World Series was something else indeed. Prior to Brooklyn's breaking through against them in 1955, the Yanks had won the previous five World Series meetings and won again the following season for good measure, behind among other things, Don Larsen's perfect game on October 8, 1956.
While the Dodgers finally beating their then-crosstown rivals for their only title in Brooklyn was beyond cathartic, sweeping them at any time was unthinkable. But it happened in 1963, with Series MVP Sandy Koufax beating Whitey Ford in Games One and Four, and the middle two games won by 1955 Series hero Johnny Podres and Don Drysdale, respectively. Koufax set a then-Series record by striking out 15 Yankees in the opener, fifty years ago on October 2.
Perhaps less remembered about the '63 Series was the New York Post's outing of Koufax as adopted, that he was “not a Koufax — not born a Koufax.” That's from the writer who broke the story, Maury Allen, as described by Jane Leavy in her book, Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy. See pages 127-129 of this excerpt or pick up a copy of Leavy's great book — if you can get past the sacrilegious and serial use of “world series” instead of the proper-noun form, “World Series” — for details. It's extremely interesting stuff.
For more on the New York historical perspective, check this article in the New York Times by Dave Anderson, who is presumably no relation to the former Dodger shortstop of the same name. And props to Anthony McCarron for his New York Daily News piece highlighting the teams' World Series matchups, and for putting the one and only Brooklyn championship of '55 first, but shame on him for the reverse alphabetical order (and vulgar) employment of “Yankees-Dodgers,” as opposed to the always-correct Dodgers-Yankees.
Hyun-Jim Ryu versus Phil Hughes on the MLB Network and KCAL at 4:05 p.m. today and fresh-off-the-disabled-list Chris Capuano opposite former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda on ESPN2 and Prime Ticket at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday.
Expect both networks to spend an inordinate amount of time on the Mattingly-Yankees angle, with the local shows focusing a bit more on the Blue, which is as it should be. My suggestion is to keep a trained eye on between-the-lines baseball as much you possibly can, which may be the only way you can stomach it.