This is the first article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In this installment are catchers and managers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have had very few controversies in their long and storied history, save for a cross-country move and some recent ownership troubles. The Dodgers have had relatively few owners and the fewest number of managers of any team that has been in existence since before the age of expansion. Even in the broadcast booth, the team has had little change, with play-by-play man Vin Scully calling the team’s games for 68 years from 1949-2016.
The franchise was founded by New York realtor Charles Byrne along with a group that included George Taylor, the editor of the New York Herald newspaper, and casino owners Ferdinand Abell and Joseph Doyle (Byrne’s brother-in-law). The “Brooklyn Base Ball Club” began play in the minor Inter-State Association of Professional Baseball Clubs in 1883, winning the championship before joining the American Association the following year. The Inter-State Association was reorganized and merged with other leagues multiple times through the years and is now known as the International League, which functions as a Triple-A entity for Major League Baseball.
Brooklyn’s team kept its original name as its official moniker while also using unofficial nicknames such as the Grays, Atlantics, and Trolley Dodgers, which came from the fact that fans had to weave their way through a maze of trolley tracks to get to Washington Park, which was in the Park Slope neighborhood of the city. During the early days of the franchise, Byrne brought in Charles Ebbets to be the club’s bookkeeper, and he would eventually work his way up in the organization.
After four underperforming seasons, Brooklyn finished in second place in 1888 and won a pennant in each of the next two years. In 1889, the club took on the name Bridegrooms due to several of their players getting married over the course of the previous two years. They were the American Association’s representative in the “World Series” that year, losing to the New York Giants (the first of MANY rivalry games between the clubs).
Realizing the American Association was on thin ice financially, Byrne and Brooklyn joined Cincinnati in jumping ship to the National League in 1890, with the Bridegrooms topping their new league and then tying with the American Association champion Louisville Colonels, 3-3-1. After both the American Association and Player’s League folded, Louisville would join the National League and played there from 1892-99.
Eventually, Byrne, Doyle, and Abel continued to run the Brooklyn club (and had shortened the name to Grooms) but Byrne died in in 1898 and Abell took control. He sold some of his stock to Ned Hanlon and Harry Von der Horst, the owners of the Baltimore Orioles, a team that was consistently near the bottom of the American Association. Once they joined the National League, things picked up, with the Orioles winning three straight pennants from 1894-96. Hanlon and Von der Horst had a 50-percent stake in both teams, with Abel owning 40 percent and Ebbets holding 10 percent. Most of the best Baltimore players were moved to the bigger market in Brooklyn, and the now-Superbas won pennants in 1899 and 1900, the last two seasons before the American League began play. Baltimore folded in 1899 and the four owners kept their shares of the team in Brooklyn.
In the early 1900s, many teams and owners were suffering financial losses, and the Superbas were no exception. Abell and Von der Horst sold their shares in the team to Ebbets, who now owned 75 percent, but still got into a power struggle with Hanlon, who was also the team’s manager. Ebbets found financial backing from furniture dealer Henry Medicus and finally bought out Hanon in 1905. The team shortened the old Trolley Dodgers moniker to Dodgers and made the name official in 1911.
Ebbets ran into financial difficulty when building a new stadium in 1913 that would bear his name, so he sold shares of the team to friends Edward and Steve McKeever, who made a fortune as construction contractors. The three of them bought out Medicus and renamed the team the Robins after manager Wilbert Robinson, who was also a former player with the National League’s Orioles. Also, the business dealings were split into two entities, one that controlled the team and the other that controlled Ebbets Field and the land on which it sat.
Ebbets and Edward McKeever both died within a week of one another in 1925, leaving Steve McKeever to run the team. He made Robinson the club president, but the two began to feud, with the boards of both business entities split between them. The National League appointed a counsel to mediate the matter, with Robinson resigning in 1931 and the team going back to the Dodgers name for good the following year.
When Steve McKeever got in financial trouble and declared bankruptcy on the Dodgers, the National League got involved again, allowing Larry MacPhail to run team operations. McKeever died in 1939, passing his 25 percent ownership to his daughter. MacPhail brought in Leo Durocher to manage the team and Branch Rickey Jr. to run the farm system, moves that would help change the face of baseball in the near future.
In the meantime, Brooklyn won pennants as the Robins in 1916 and 1920, but rarely made it out of the bottom half of the National League during the team’s era of financial woes. “Dem Bums” (a nickname derived from a newspaper cartoon) won the National League in 1941 but fell to the Yankees in the World Series. New general manager Branch Rickey Sr., Brooklyn Trust attorney Walter O’Malley, and Andrew Schmitz, a representative for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, bought out most of the shares held by McKeever’s daughter and Ebbets’ heirs, giving the three of them each a 25 percent stake in the team.
Thanks to the Rickeys, the Dodgers began building a top-notch farm system and even tapped into the Negro Leagues for players, with the most famous being Jackie Robinson, a young star with the Kansas City Monarchs. Brooklyn’s formidable lineup won six pennants in the 10-year stretch from 1947-56. However, five of those times, the Dodgers ran into the Yankees in the World Series. After years of fans saying, “Wait ’til next year,” the “Boys of Summer” finally broke a 71-year title drought by beating New York in seven games in 1955.
However, it was one of the times Brooklyn didn’t win that may have been the most memorable. The Dodgers and Giants were rivals dating back to 1889, but 1951 was a special year. New York trailed by 13½ games in mid-August but won 37 of their final 44 games to tie Brooklyn on the final day of the season. The teams played a three-game playoff to decide the top spot in the National League, with Bobby Thomson hitting a two-run home run in a 3-1 victory in the first game. The Dodgers evened the series with a 10-0 victory in Game 2, but Thomson struck again, hitting another game-winner homer, this one a three-run shot, to give his team a 5-4 win while announcer Russ Hodges screamed “The Giants win the pennant!” Years later, suspicions were confirmed when several Giants players admitted to a sign-stealing scandal during the season that included a telescope being stationed in the Giants’ clubhouse behind center field.
Despite the on-field success, the Dodgers were struggling financially. Ebbets Field was in structural decline (especially the scoreboard), parking and seating were inadequate, and attendance was down. Brooklyn refused to devote enough land for a proper new stadium, so O’Malley moved the team across the country to Los Angeles for the 1958 season, with the Giants following their old rivals and heading to San Francisco. O’Malley purchased the land and stadium rights, as well as the minor league franchise the Cubs had in the area (Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field would host the expansion Angels in 1961 after a territory dispute with O’Malley). The Dodgers played their first four seasons on the West Coast in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before moving into their new home, Dodger Stadium, in 1962.
In the first decade in their new home, Los Angeles won four National League pennants and three World Series, including a sweep of the Yankees in 1963. After division play was established in 1969, the Dodgers went to the playoffs seven times in 20 seasons, which included five visits to the Fall Classic and two more titles, in 1981 over the Yankees and the memorable 1988 series victory over the Athletics (complete with Kirk Gibson‘s game-winning home run in Game 1).
O’Malley’s son, Peter, sold the club, plus the stadium, the surrounding 300 acres of land, the team’s spring training facility in Vero Beach, Florida, plus the training center in the Dominican Republic, to Rupert Murdoch and the Fox Group (NewsCorp) for $311 million in 1998. Murdoch’s tenure was short, and the Dodgers were sold again t[in 2004 to real estate developer Frank McCourt.
While there was some on-field success for Los Angeles in the McCourt era, the team was overshadowed by the sordid relationship between the owner and his wife, Jamie. News of the pair separating took over the news cycle on the day before the Dodgers were set to start a battle with the Phillies in the 2009 NLCS. Over the next two years, the pair would fight over control of the team, with Frank paying his ex-wife $130 million to drop her ownership claim.
Baseball once again stepped in, with commissioner Bud Selig taking control of the day-to-day operation of the team in April 2011, and McCourt locking the league up in court battles to keep control. Selig was especially perturbed that the owner filed for bankruptcy on the team yet was going to divert a payment from a new television deal to himself rather than the Dodgers. The league responded by forcing McCourt to sell the team, which he did in early 2012 to Guggenheim Baseball Management, led by Mark Walter and NBA legend Magic Johnson.
Although the Dodgers have gone to the playoffs 17 times in 35 years since their 1988 title, the club went through an extended title drought that included five losses in the National League Championship Series and two more in the World Series, including 2017, when they were on the losing end against the Astros, another team who was found to be stealing signs. Los Angeles finally won another championship in 2020, but the team’s detractors will note that this was during the COVID-19 pandemic when the season was only 60 games.
The Dodgers went a league-best 43-17, then swept the Brewers in the Wild Card round and the Padres in the Division Series. Los Angeles edged Atlanta in the NLCS before dispatching Tampa Bay in the World Series, 4-2. Since then, the Dodgers lost to the eventual champion Braves in the 2021 NLCS and have fallen in the Division Series in each of the past two years, including the pennant-winning Diamondbacks in 2023.
The Best Catchers and Managers in Los Angeles Dodgers History
Honorable Mentions – Tom Haller earned three straight All-Star appearances, two with the rival Giants and one with the Dodgers in 1968. In addition to the .285 average and 53 runs batted in that season, he led the league in runners caught stealing and double plays by a catcher. Haller batted .276 with 399 hits, 25 home runs, and 171 RBIs in 474 games over four seasons with Los Angeles (1968-71). He retired after spending 1972 with Detroit.
The Dodgers had a quality catcher in their starting lineup for more than half a century. Paul Lo Duca started his career with seven seasons in Los Angeles (1998-2004), earning two All-Star selections. His best season was 2001 when he posted a .320-25-90 stat line, and he also led the National League in putouts, assists and runners caught stealing in 2002-03. Lo Duca batted .287 with 612 hits, 122 doubles, 57 home runs, and 275 RBIs in 588 games. He was traded to the Marlins and also spent time with the Mets and Nationals before retiring in 2008.
After Lo Duca was Russell Martin, who was a two-time All-Star selection in six seasons with the Dodgers (2006-10 and ’19). His best season was 2007 when he was an All-Star and won both a gold glove and a silver slugger after hitting 19 home runs and setting career highs with a .293 average, 87 runs, 158 hits, 87 runs batted in, and 21 stolen bases. He batted .268 with 376 runs, 684 hits, 120 doubles, 60 homers, and 320 RBIs in 750 games. Martin appeared in 20 postseason games with the Dodgers, totaling 11 runs, 17 hits, two home runs and 13 RBIs.
Yasmani Grandal came to the Dodgers after three seasons with the Southern California rivals, the Padres. He was an All-Star in 2015, but his best season in Dodger Blue was the following year, when he hit 27 home runs and drove in 72 runs. The 2012 MLB Futures Game participant with San Diego led the league in putouts by a catcher twice. In four seasons with Los Angeles (2015-18), Grandal had 386 hits, 89 home runs, and 245 RBIs in 510 games. He appeared in two World Series, totaling three runs, eight hits, two home runs, and six RBIs in 32 playoff games with the Dodgers. Grandal also was behind the plate for the team’s combined no-hitter against the Padres in 2018.
Will Smith took over for Grandal for the team’s current run of success. Smith just finished his fifth season with the Dodgers (2019-present) and made his first All-Star team in 2023. He also won a fielding title in 2020 and led the league in putouts the following years. Smith has batted .261 with 272 runs, 436 hits, 91 home runs, and 306 RBIs in 484 games with Los Angeles so far. He was the starter for the team’s World Series title victory against the Rays and, in 41 career playoff games, he has 16 runs, 34 hits, nine doubles, five homers, and 21 RBIs, including seven against the Braves in the 2020 NLCS.
5. Steve Yeager – He spent 14 of his 15 big-league seasons with the Dodgers (1972-85) but split starting duty with the next player on the list for the final six years of his tenure. Yeager was a good game manager, helping Jerry Reuss throw a no-hitter in 1980 and leading the league in putouts in 1975 and assists the following year. He totaled 816 hits, 118 doubles, 102 home runs, and 410 RBIs in 1,219 regular season games. In the playoffs, Yeager appeared in 37 games, amassing 12 runs, 27 hits, five home runs, and 14 runs batted in. He played in four World Series and was the MVP of the 1981 victory over the Yankees after totaling four hits, two homers, and four RBIs. Yeager finished his career with the Mariners in 1986.
4. Mike Scioscia – The two-time All-Star was part of a pair of championship teams with Los Angeles during the 1980s. Scioscia was also a defensive standout, leading the league in putouts three times and assists and runners caught stealing twice each. His best season was in 1990 when he was an All-Star after batting .264 and setting career highs with 12 home runs and 66 runs batted in. That year, he caught Fernando Valenzuela’s no-hitter at the end of June, and he was behind the plate for one by Kevin Gross in 1992.
Scioscia spent his entire 13-year career with the Dodgers (1980-92), producing 1,131 hits, 198 doubles, 68 home runs, and 446 RBIs in 1,441 games. He had seven runs, 20 hits, two homers, and six RBIs in 29 postseason contests. After his playing career, Scioscia stayed in Southern California and led the Angels to a 1,650-1,428 record and a title in 2002. He also won a pair of Manager of the Year awards during his 19-year run with the franchise (2000-18).
3. Johnny Roseboro – The Dodgers had a 20-year stretch in which they made the World Series 10 times. Roseboro was the starter for the latter half of that period, earning five All-Star selections and two gold gloves in his 11 seasons with the franchise (1957-67). “Gabby” helped his team get to four World Series and win three. He led the National League in putouts four times and double plays by a catcher twice, and he also caught the first two of Sandy Koufax’s four no-hitters.
Roseboro drove in 50 or more runs four times and arguably his best offensive season came in 1961, when he set career highs with 18 home runs and 59 runs batted in while being selected to both All-Star Games held by Major League Baseball that year. He totaled 441 runs, 1,009 hits, 92 home runs, and 471 RBIs in 1,289 games. Roseboro appeared in 23 postseason contests with the Dodgers, amassing 12 hits, one home runs, and seven RBIs. He played two seasons and earned an All-Star selection with the Twins and spent his final year with the Washington Senators (soon to become the Texas Rangers) in 1970.
2. Mike Piazza – While catcher has historically been a defense-focused position, that is certainly not the case here. Piazza came out of Miami Dade College as a pitcher and was drafted in the 62nd round by then-manager Tommy LaSorda, who was friends with his father. LaSorda arranged a tryout for Piazza with the Dodgers, and he was sent to the Dominican Republic to convert to catcher. He was the second of five straight Dodgers to with the Rookie of the Year Award after hitting .318 with 35 home runs and 112 RBIs in 1993.
Piazza earned All-Star and silver slugger recognition while finishing in the top 10 of the MVP voting, in each of his five full seasons in Los Angeles (including back-to-back second-place finishes). He had his best season in 1997 when he finished as the MVP runner-up after setting career highs with a .362 average, 104 runs, 201 hits, 40 home runs and 124 runs batted in.
Piazza finished his seven-year Dodger career (1992-98) with a .331 average, 443 runs, 896 hits, 115 doubles, 177 home runs and 563 RBIs in 726 games. He appeared in six playoff contests, totaling two runs, six hits, one home run, and three RBIs. His one drawback was defense, especially his throwing arm. Although he was a decent game-caller who led the league in putouts four times and assists twice in his career, he also led the league in errors four times, passed balls twice and stolen bases allowed an incredible 10 times. Piazza was also behind the plate for two no-hitters, one by Ramon Martinez in 1995 and another by fellow Dodgers Rookie of the Year winner Hideo Nomo the following year.
After a salary dispute, the 1996 All-Star Game MVP was traded to the Marlins two years later in a deal that brought Gary Sheffield to the Dodgers. His tenure in South Florida lasted just eight days before he was sent to the Mets. Piazza’s time in New York included playing in a Subway Series (and a showdown with Roger Clemens), as well as hitting an emotional home run to give his team a victory over the Braves in the first game back after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
His 16-year career also included stints with the Padres and Athletics. Despite being the baseball’s all-time leader in home runs by a catcher (399). Piazza took four tries to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame before finally getting the call in 2016.
1. Roy Campanella – He started his career in the Negro National League, playing six games with the Washington Elite Giants in 1937 at the age of 15. He moved on to Baltimore, winning a batting title (.388 in 1944) and earning three Negro League All-Star selections, but he also went to Mexico for two seasons due to a salary dispute. During a barnstorming tour, Campanella caught the eye of Dodgers manager Chuck Dressen and general manager Branch Rickey, who signed him to a contract.
After stints with Montreal (where Jackie Robinson got his minor league start) and St. Paul (becoming the American Association’s first black player), Campanella joined the Dodgers in 1948 and quickly became the best catcher in the league. During his 10 seasons in Brooklyn (1948-57), he won three MVP Awards, earned eight All-Star selections, and hit 20 or more home runs seven times. “Campy” drove in at least 100 runs in each of his MVP seasons, but his best was in 1953 when he hit .312 with 162 hits, set career highs with 103 runs and 41 home runs, and led the league with 142 runs batted in.
Campanella batted .276 with 627 runs, 1,161 hits, 178 doubles, 242 home runs, and 856 RBIs in 1,215 regular season games. He played in five World Series, all against the Yankees, winning just once in 1955. Campanella totaled 14 runs, 27 hits, five doubles, four home runs, and 12 RBIs in 32 postseason contests. He was also stellar on defense, winning two fielding titles and leading the league in putouts six times, double plays and runners caught stealing twice apiece and assists once. “Campy” also caught three no-hitters in his career, two by Carl Erskine and one by Sal Maglie.
The Dodgers were getting set to move across the country to start play in Los Angeles in 1958 and Campanella was doing his usual off-season work, tending to a liquor store he owned in Harlem. On the way home, he lost control of his rental car on an icy road, hit a telephone pole, and flipped over. The crash pinned him under the steering wheel, which broke his neck, severed his spinal cord, and left him paralyzed in both arms and legs. Although he never got to play in Los Angeles, the wheelchair-bound Campanella came to a benefit exhibition game between the Dodgers and Yankees in 1959 that drew more than 93,000 fans to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Campanella eventually regained some use of his arms and kept busy at the liquor store, hosting a radio sports program and holding several positions in the Dodgers’ front office throughout his post-playing career. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 and passed away in 1993 at age 71 after suffering a heart attack.
Honorable Mentions – Bill McGunnigle brought the Brooklyn team its greatest success in the American Association. After a second-place finish in 1888, the newly christened Bridegrooms went 93-44 to win their first pennant, although they lost the title to the National League champion Giants. Brooklyn moved to the N.L. and won the pennant in 1890 before playing to a stalemate with their previous league’s champion the Louisville Colonels. McGunnigle went 267-139 in three seasons at the helm, and his .658 winning percentage is the highest in franchise history.
Ned Hanlon won three National League pennants in seven seasons with the Baltimore Orioles in the mid-1890s, then became a part-owner of both Baltimore and Brooklyn. He took over as manager of the Superbas and led them to back-to-back pennants in 1899 and 1900, including a 101-47 record in his first seasons. He lasted seven years with the franchise (1899-1905) before the feud between him and co-owner Charlie Ebbets became too much, and furniture dealer Henry Medicus helped buy him out. Hanlon finished with a 511-488 record with Brooklyn.
The phrase “When one door closes, another opens” was first coined by Alexander Graham Bell. However, the first person to patent the telephone had no idea how often that statement would be applied by others. Burt Shotton became the Dodgers manager in 1947 after Leo Durocher got suspended for associating with some less-than-savory characters from the gambling world. Brooklyn had a 94-60 record but fell to the crosstown rival Yankees in the World Series.
Durocher came back the following year, but friction between him and Branch Rickey led to him being let out of his contract in July so he could manage the Giants. Shotton (who was the original target of New York owner Horace Stoneham) took over again, but the Dodgers finished in third place. Shotton managed for two more years, leading the team to another World Series (and another loss to the Yankees) in 1949 and a second place finish the following season. He finished with a 326-215 record in four seasons with Brooklyn (1947-50).
In addition to pointing out Roy Campanella to Rickey, Chuck Dressen won two National League pennants in three seasons leading Brooklyn (1951-53). After losing a heartbreaking three-game tiebreaker series to the Giants (complete with sign stealing) in 1951, Dressen and the Dodgers earned the top spot in the National League in each of the next two seasons before falling to the Yankees both times. He finished with a 298-166 record (a .642 winning percentage) in three years with Brooklyn. Dressen also had stops in Cincinnati, Washington, Milwaukee, and Detroit, amassing a 1,008-973 record in 16 seasons on the bench.
After a 14-year playing career that included an MVP, nine gold gloves, six All-Star selections, three silver sluggers, a batting title, and a debilitating back injury, Don Mattingly tried his luck as a manager. He was a hitting coach with the Yankees and a finalist when Joe Torre left the team in 2007. When New York gave the job to Joe Girardi, Mattingly went across the country, becoming the Dodgers’ hitting coach in 2008.
Mattingly led the Dodgers to a winning record in each of his five seasons at the helm (2011-15) and took the team to the playoffs in each of his final three seasons. Los Angeles made it to the NLCS in 2013 but fell 4-2 to the pitching-rich Cardinals. Mattingly and the Dodgers parted ways with the former first baseman amassing a 446-363 record in Los Angeles. Mattingly moved on to manage the Marlins for seven seasons and spent 2023 as the bench coach for the Blue Jays.
5. Leo Durocher – He led the Dodgers to some of their most prosperous seasons but also brought quite a bit of negative press to the team. Durocher came to Brooklyn as a player in 1938 and became the team’s bench boss the following year. The Dodgers had winning records in each of the next five seasons, although the team only won a single pennant, thanks to a 100-54 record in 1941. The next year, the Dodgers won 104 games but finished two behind the champion Cardinals. When players started returning home from duty in World War II, Durocher retired as a player and focused solely on managing.
Known as “The Lip” for his incessant talking and antagonizing opponents, Durocher cursed nearly incessantly and was mistakenly credited as coining the phrase “Nice guys finish last” (actual quote: “The nice guys are all over there [meaning the Giants], in seventh place”) in 1946. The saying was used mainly against Mel Ott, a Hall of Fame outfielder who was manager of the rival Giants. Sometimes, his anger was directed at his own team, as it was the following spring training when several of his players opposed Jackie Robinson joining the Dodgers.
In 1947, his mouth finally got the better of him. Durocher and Yankees co-owner Larry MacPhail had a feud in which the Yankee boss hired away two of Durocher’s coaches and the two of them accused one another of associating with gamblers and having them in their clubhouse. While Durocher received repeated warnings from baseball commissioner Happy Chandler, MacPhail remained unscathed because he was a friend of Chandler’s and was instrumental in getting him elected to his position.
Durocher “wrote” a column about the double standard (which was actually written by the team’s traveling secretary) in a local newspaper and the commissioner responded by suspending him for the season. Burt Shotton led the Dodgers to the pennant in Durocher’s absence, but they fell to MacPhail’s Yankees in the World Series.
Durocher used part of the time off to focus on his less-than-stellar personal life. After two divorces, he married actress Laraine Day in January 1947. The problem was that Day was still technically married. She signed a divorce agreement in California that required her to wait one year before remarrying. Instead, she tried to circumvent the system by going to Mexico the following day to file for divorce, then traveling to El Paso later that same day and marrying Durocher. The California judge ruled that the Mexico divorce was invalid and threatened Day with charges if she didn’t wait the full year.
The manager returned to his post the following year, but quickly got on the nerves of his boss Branch Rickey and was let out of his contract in July. Durocher replaced Ott as manager of the Giants soon after his departure from the Dodgers. He ended his nine-year run in Brooklyn (1939-46 and 48) with a 738-565 record and a pennant in 1941. Durocher spent eight seasons with the Giants, winning two pennants and the 1954 World Series. He also managed the Cubs and Astros and posted a 2,008-1,709 record in 24 seasons (his win total ranks 12th in history). The four-time All-Star skipper passed away in 1991 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee three years later, with Day accepting the award on his behalf.
4. Wilbert Robinson – He was the starting catcher on a Baltimore Orioles team that won three straight National League pennants from 1894-96. He also caught two no-hitters, one with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association in 1888 and one with the Orioles five years later. Robinson came back to Baltimore as a business partner of a new Orioles team in the American League in 1902 (no relation to the modern Baltimore team or the entity from the previous decade) and became manager after former teammate John McGraw left to lead the Giants.
After the Orioles ceased operations, Robinson joined McGraw in New York, where he served as pitching coach and occasional third base coach from 1903-13. The two got into an argument after the Giants lost the 1913 World Series to the Athletics, beginning a feud that lasted for nearly two decades. Robinson joined the Dodgers the following season and two years later, he joined Napoleon Lajoie in an exclusive club of baseball people to have a team named after them when the Brooklyn franchise was named the Robins in his honor.
“Uncle Robbie” spent 18 seasons on the bench (1914-31), amassing a 1,399-1,398 record. Included in that mark are eight winning seasons, posting 90 victories three times and winning pennants in 1916 (losing to the Red Sox in the World Series) and 1920 (falling to the Indians 5 games to 2). He led the team to a 92-62 record in 1924, but the Robins finished 1½ games behind McGraw’s Giants.
Although he was good-natured, Robinson did have one incident where the joke was quite literally on him. In 1915, the Robins were training at Daytona Beach. At the time, Ruth Law, a female aviator, dropped golf balls from a plane to drum up business for a local golf course. The team thought of the idea to have her do the same thing for them, only with her dropping a baseball. When the day came, Law forgot the baseball and substituted a grapefrui. Robinson caught the “ball,” but it exploded in his glove. Thinking he was covered in his own blood, the manager called out for help, only for the players to laugh at him when they realized what happened. According to legend, this situation is where the phrase Grapefruit League originated.
Robinson’s happy-go-lucky attitude won many members of the Brooklyn team’s business boards to his side, but he found himself in a losing feud with owner Steve McKeever, although he mended his relationship with McGraw during this time. The manager and team president left after the 1931 season and the team reverted to the Dodgers name the following year. Three years later, Robinson was managing the Atlanta Cracker of the Southern Association. He fell in his hotel room, hitting his head on the bathtub and breaking his arm. Eventually, he developed a brain hemorrhage and died on August 8, 1934, five months after his friend and rival McGraw.
Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Old Timers Committee in 1945, but due to World War II, he and 11 other legends never were officially inducted. Lou Gehrig was a part of that group after contracting ALS and being honored in a special election in 1939. The Hall held a ceremony in 2013, finally giving Robinson his due nearly seven decades after his original induction and almost 80 after his death.
3. Dave Roberts – He was a speedy outfielder who enjoyed a 10-year playing career with five teams. Roberts was traded by traded by the Dodgers to the Red Sox in late 2004, helping Boston win its first World Series in 86 years (although he did not play during the sweep against St. Louis). He retired as a player in 2008 and, after a brief stint as a Red Sox broadcaster, he joined the Padres organization, first in the Baseball Operations department, then as a first base and bench coach.
Roberts left San Diego to become a manager in Los Angeles in 2016. His 753-442 record includes a winning record in each of his eight seasons at the helm and 100 or more wins five times. Under Roberts, the team posted the three highest win totals in franchise history, going 111-51 in 2022 (which ended with a loss to the Padres in the Division Series) and 106-56 in both 2019 (a loss to the Nationals in the Division Series) and 2021 (a loss to the Braves in the NLCS).
The Dodgers have won three pennants with Roberts on the bench. They won 104 games in 2017 but fell to the Astros (and their sign-stealing) in the World Series. The following year, Los Angeles lost to Boston in the Fall Classic. Finally, the team broke its 32-year championship drought thanks to a league-best 43-17 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, then beat the Rays in the World Series.
2. Tommy Lasorda – He had a short pitching career with the Dodgers and Athletics before helping the next generation of players. Lasorda spent five years as a scout before managing in throughout Los Angeles’ minor league system. He joined the big-league Dodgers as third base coach in 1973. After four years at that spot, Lasorda was given a trial managing the team for the final four games of the 1976 season before taking over for the departing Walter Alston.
The Dodgers won three pennants in his first five full seasons thanks to a roster that included several home-grown players that Lasorda managed in the minors. Los Angeles fell to the nemesis from New York in the World Series in 1977-78 before finally defeating the Bronx Bombers in the strike-shortened 1981 season. Lasorda proved adept at handling pitchers and helping players to focus on their strengths.
After NLCS losses in 1983 (Phillies) and ’85 (Cardinals), the Dodgers broke through in 1988, with Cy Young winner Orel Hershiser leading the way to wins over the Mets in the NLCS and Athletics in the World Series. Although the club was just 58-56, Los Angeles was leading the N. L. West in 1994 when the lockout started. The Dodgers fell in the Division Series the following year and Lasorda was forced into retirement after suffering a heart attack and undergoing angioplasty.
Lasorda had a 1,599-1,439 record in 21 seasons as Dodgers manager. His tenure included seven seasons with at least 90 wins, seven playoff appearances four pennants, and two titles. Lasorda was a fighter as a player and combative as a coach and manager but was fiercely loyal to most of his players. The two-time Manager of the Year (1983 and ’88) and four-time All-Star skipper was also known for his profanity-laced tirades (none of which can be posted here).
Lasorda was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1997. His final managerial job was in 2000, when he led Team USA to a gold medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, winning the championship after beating Cuba for the first time. While he was working as a special adviser to chairman Mark Walter, Lasorda suffered a heart attack in 2012 that required a pacemaker to be implanted. He was in attendance when the Dodgers beat the Rays in the 2020 World Series and died less than three months later at age 93.
1. Walter Alston – He gave up a job as a science teacher to play baseball with the Cardinals and struck out in his only major league at-bat in 1936. When St. Louis released Alston, Brooklyn snapped him up to be a player-manager in the minor leagues before becoming a full-time skipper. He won titles at three levels before owner Walter O’Malley named him manager of the big-league club in 1954.
Alston found success almost immediately, winning 94 games and finishing five games behind the Giants in his first season. The following year, he led “The Boys of Summer” to 98 wins, the National League pennant, and their first World Series title (over their old nemesis the Yankees). Things returned to “normal” with a loss to the Bronx Bombers the following year.
Things seemed to change once the franchise moved to the West Coast. The Dodgers focused heavily on pitching, with Alston being perfect to handle a staff that included stars such as Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Johnny Podres. Los Angeles won four pennants and three titles in an eight-year stretch. In arguably their best season, the Dodgers won 101 games in 1962 but finished tied with the Giants in the standings. As was the case 11 years ago (only in different cities), San Francisco won the three-game playoff and went to the World Series.
The Dodgers had one final playoff appearance during Alston’s tenure. They won 102 games in 1974 and won the N. L. West by four games over the Reds. After disposing of Pittsburgh in the NLCS, Los Angeles fell to Oakland in the World Series. Alston was at the helm for two more years before handing the reins over to Lasorda at the end of the 1976 season.
Alston’s 23-year career included 20 winning seasons, reaching at least 90 victories on 10 occasions, seven pennants, and the franchise’s first four championships. He also was a three-time Sporting News Manager of the Year, led the National League All-Stars nine times and co-wrote a book about baseball strategies and techniques.
Alston’s 2,040-1,613 record ranks him 11th all-time in managerial victories, one spot ahead of Durocher. “Smokey” was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983 and passed away the following year at age 72. His home of Darrtown, Ohio, erected a statue of him in the town square in 2000.
Los Angeles Dodgers Catchers and Managers
Los Angeles Dodgers First and Third Basemen – coming soon
Los Angeles Dodgers Second Basemen and Shortstops – coming soon
Los Angeles Dodgers Outfielders – coming soon
Los Angeles Dodgers Pitchers – coming soon
A look back at the Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Angels Catchers and Managers
Los Angeles Angels First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Los Angeles Angels Second Basemen and Shortstops
Los Angeles Angels Outfielders
Los Angeles Angels Pitchers
A look back at the Kansas City Royals
Kansas City Royals Catchers and Managers
Kansas City Royals First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Kansas City Royals Second Basemen and Shortstops
Kansas City Royals Outfielders
Kansas City Royals Pitchers
A look back at the Houston Astros
A look back at the Detroit Tigers
A look back at the Colorado Rockies
A look back at the Cleveland Guardians
Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Outfielders
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers
A look back at the Cincinnati Reds
A look back at the Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox Catchers and Managers
Chicago White Sox First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Chicago White Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago White Sox Outfielders
Chicago White Sox Pitchers
A look back at the Chicago Cubs
A look back at the Boston Red Sox
A look back at the Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers
A look back at the Atlanta Braves
A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers