MLB Top 5: Los Angeles Dodgers Middle Infielders

This is the third article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In this installment are second basemen and shortstops.

The list of best middle infielders in Los Angeles Dodgers history includes several long-tenured stars from all successful eras in team history. Topping each position is a Hall of Famer who combined for many double plays and one of baseball’s most indelible images.

The Best Second Basemen and Shortstops in Los Angeles Dodgers History

Second Basemen

Honorable Mentions – Hubert “Hub” Collins was a starter with Brooklyn during its waning years in the American Association. Although he only lasted five seasons with the Bridegrooms (1888-92), He played in two World Series and set a team record. In 1890, the team’s first in the National League, Collins finished with 85 stolen bases, which is fifth in team history and scored 148 runs (in just 129 games), which not only led the circuit but set a franchise record that has stood for more than 130 years. In 407 games with Brooklyn, he scored 402 runs and rapped 450 hits.

George Cutshaw played about 20 years after Collins but was a similar singles hitter with speed. He had 150 or more hits three times in six seasons with the Dodgers and Robins (1912-17) and set career highs with 72 runs, 158 hits, 13 triples, seven home runs, 80 RBIs and 39 steals in 1913. Cutshaw appeared in five games in the loss to the Red Sox in the 1916 World Series, totaling two runs, two hits and a run batted in.

Charlie Neal was a three-time All-Star during his six-year stint with the Dodgers (1956-61), which encompassed the franchise’s final seasons in Brooklyn and its first few in Los Angeles. He was selected to both All-Star Games in 1960, but his best season was the year before, when he was an All-Star and a gold glove recipient after setting career highs with a .287 average, 103 runs, 177 hits, 30 doubles, 19 homers, 83 RBIs and 17 steals, to go with league-leading totals of 11 triples and 21 sacrifices. Neal played in two World Series, including the win over the White Sox in 1959. He amassed four runs, 10 hits, two home runs and six RBIs in seven games.

While the Dodgers’ long-tenured infield from the 1970s gets the accolades, Jim Lefebvre was part of a productive infield of his own a decade earlier. He went to the World Series in 1965-66, hitting .400 to help the Dodgers beat the Twins in the first of those years. His performance followed a Rookie of the Year season in which he hit .250 with 12 home runs and 69 runs batted in. The following year, he earned his only All-Star selection after setting career highs in each portion of his .274-24-74 stat line. After his eight-year playing career (1965-72) spent entirely with the Dodgers, Lefebvre spent six seasons as a manager with the Mariners, Cubs and Brewers, amassing a 233-253 record.

Jeff Kent was not quite as dangerous by the time he got to the Dodgers, but he still gave them four solid years at the end of his career (2005-08). The 2000 MVP with San Francisco earned his only All-Star and silver slugger honors in his first season with Los Angeles, hitting .289 with 29 home runs, 105 RBIs and 100 runs. Kent batted .291 with 281 runs, 551 hits, 122 doubles, 75 homers and 311 RBIs in 521 games with the Dodgers. He appeared in nine playoff games with the club and had two runs, eight hits, a homer and two RBIs in the 2006 NLDS loss to the Mets.

Steve Sax spent eight seasons with Los Angeles (1981-88), earning three All-Star selections. He earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1982 after batting .282 with 180 hits, 47 runs batted in and 49 stolen bases. Sax had his best year at the plate in 1986 when he set career highs with a .332 average, 201 hits and 43 doubles to go with 91 runs, 56 RBIs and 40 steals. He helped the Dodgers win titles in his first and last years with the club and totaled 11 runs, 24 hits, four RBIs and seven stolen bases in 26 playoff games. Sax joined the Yankees in 1989 and also played with the White Sox and Athletics before retiring in 1994.

5. Tom Daly – He started his career as a catcher and played all over the field before settling at second base with the Bridegrooms in 1893. His best season with Brooklyn may have been his last. Daly batted .315 in 1901 with 164 hits, a league-leading 38 doubles, a career-high 90 RBIs and 31 stolen bases. In 1,095 games over 11 seasons with Brooklyn (1890-96 and 98-01, with the better part of 1897-98 spent with the minor league Milwaukee Brewers), he batted .295 with 788 runs, 1,182 hits, 190 doubles, 614 RBIs, 298 steals (fourth in franchise history) and 76 triples (tied for ninth). Daly played in the 1890 World Series and led the league in putouts by a second baseman in his final season with the then-Superbas. He played with the White Sox and Reds before retiring in 1903.

4. Billy Herman – While he was known mostly for his 11-year run with the Cubs, he spent four war-interrupted seasons with the Dodgers (1941-43 and ’46). Herman was quite productive for a player at his position, earning two All-Star selections in Brooklyn and posting a .330 average, 193 hits, 41 doubles and a career-high 100 RBIs in 1943. After that, Herman enlisted in the Navy and spent most of the next two years playing baseball in Hawaii and other islands in the Pacific. He returned to find Eddie Stanky occupying second base for the Dodgers, so he was traded to the Braves. Herman retired after being released by the Pirates in 1947. He went 1-for-8 in the 1941 World Series, led the league in putouts by a second baseman the following year and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1975.

3. Jim Gilliam – The Dodgers had success with the Jackie Robinson experiment, so they started bringing in more players from the Negro Leagues. One of those was Gilliam, who was an All-Star with the Baltimore Elite Giants as a 19-year-old in 1948. He took to his new league nicely, winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1963 after batting .278, setting career highs with 125 runs and 63 runs batted in, and leading the league with 17 triples. In 14 big league seasons, all with the Dodgers (1953-66), Gilliam was a two-time All-Star, scored at least 100 runs in his first four seasons and topped 150 hits six times.

All of this was done while Gilliam switched positions multiple times during his career, including stops at third base and all three outfield spots. In 1965, he joined first baseman Wes Parker, second baseman Jim Lefebvre and shortstop Maury Wills to form the first infield of switch-hitters in Major League history. Gilliam ranks second in franchise history in walks (1,036), fourth in runs (1,163), fifth in games (1,956), seventh in doubles (304), eighth in hits (1,889) and ninth in total bases (2,530) to go with a .265 average, 65 home runs, 558 RBIs and 203 stolen bases. He appeared in seven World Series, winning four and amassing 15 runs, 31 hits, two homers and 12 RBIs in 39 games.

Gilliam retired in 1966 and spent the next decade as first base coach under Walter Alston, but he never got the chance to manage, mostly because of the stigma of former black players not being good manager material. He was retained after Tommy LaSorda in 1978. In mid-September, the Dodgers were on their way to another division title and Gilliam drove LaSorda to the ballpark and went home to rest. However, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, went into a coma and never woke, passing away at age 49 on October 8, one day after Los Angeles won the pennant.

2. Davey Lopes – He spent 10 seasons at second base for the Dodgers (1972-81), including eight with third baseman Ron Cey, first baseman Steve Garvey and shortstop Bill Russell on either side of him. Lopes was the speedster of the group, stealing at least 30 bases in seven straight seasons and leading the league twice, with a high of 77 in 1975. The following year, he stole 63 despite missing time with rib and neck injuries. He was selected to four consecutive All-Star Games and won his only gold glove in 1978. The following year, he had arguably his best season at the plate, batting .265 and setting career highs with 109 runs, 28 home runs and 73 runs batted in.

Lopes ranks second in franchise history with 481 stolen bases and batted .262 with 759 runs, 1,204 hits, 165 doubles, 99 home runs, 384 RBIs and 1,744 total bases in 1,207 games. He appeared in four World Series with the Dodgers, with the only win coming in the strike-shortened 1981 season. Lopes played in 45 postseason games, amassing 28 runs, 43 hits, six homers, 22 RBIs and 19 stolen bases.

The fifth captain in Dodgers history was traded three times later in his career, first to the Athletics, then the Cubs and Astros before retiring after the 1987 season. Lopes spent time coaching with the Rangers, Orioles and Padres in the late 1980s and throughout the 90s before earning a managerial job with the Brewers in 2000. He went 144-195 with Milwaukee but was fired just 15 games into the 2002 season. Lopes returned to the Padres, and he was a coach and instructor with the Nationals and Phillies before returning to the Dodgers, where he was first base coach from 2011-16. He closed out his career as a coach with Washington alongside former Los Angeles teammate Dusty Baker in 2017.

1. Jackie Robinson – Not only was he a really good baseball player, but he had the fortitude and attitude to succeed when many others in his situation may have failed. Robinson was seen as a “troublemaker” throughout his early life, simply because his family had the audacity to buy a home in a white neighborhood in Pasadena. When he was drafted into the Army, he faced more racism and responded by winning concessions for black troops (angering white higher-ups), refusing to sit in the back of a military bus (years before Rosa Parks was famous for doing the same thing), and beat the court martial hearing before officers had enough and honorably discharged him.

Robinson returned to baseball and was an All-Star shortstop with the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey thought he was the right age and had the right mindset to test baseball’s color ban. Robinson spent all of 1946 with Brooklyn’s triple-A team in Montreal, hitting .349 in 124 games. While many fans and players thought he would play with the United States Baseball League, a potential six-team testing ground for black players before trying to integrate.

Throughout his career, Robinson faced racism, including the Phillies (led by manager Ben Chapman) trying to bait him into a fight on the field and death threats from all over the country. When Rickey called Robinson up to Brooklyn (after hurling profanity and racial insults in his office to see if he could take it), some of the white Dodger players threatened to revolt before then-manager Leo Durocher put the situation to rest with a heated team meeting in the middle of the night. Players on other teams threatened to boycott taking the field with Robinson (much like Cubs star Cap Anson had done in the 1880s when segregation first began in baseball), but any unrest was quelled when National League President Ford Frick threatened any striking player with a permanent ban.

On the field, Robinson won the Rookie of the Year Award as a first baseman after batting .297 with 125 runs, 12 home runs, 48 runs batted in and a league-best 29 stolen bases. The following year, he converted to second base, earning four All-Star selections over his five-year run as starter at the position. His highlight year was 1949, when he took home the MVP Award and won the batting title with a .342 average, scored 122 runs, hit 16 homers, set career highs with 203 hits, 12 triples, 124 RBIs and 37 steals (which also led the league).

Over his 10-year career (1947-56), Robinson started games at all four infield positions as well as left and right field. The six-time All-Star ranks fourth in team history in on-base percentage (.409), sixth in walks (740) and seventh in runs (947). He also batted .311 with 1,518 hits, 273 doubles, 137 home runs, 734 RBIs, 197 steals and 2,310 total bases in 1,382 games. Robinson played in six World Series (including a victory in 1955) and amassed 22 runs, 32 hits, seven doubles, two homers, 12 RBIs and six stolen bases in 38 games.

Robinson became increasingly frustrated with the Dodgers, especially manager Walter Alston and owner Walter O’Malley, who got rid of Rickey, and with the racially charged nature of society, which he spoke out against more and more. Robinson gave an interview to Look magazine in 1956, in which he bashed teams that were still segregated and announced his retirement. The Dodgers traded him when they found out, but threatened legal action when he considered the Giants’ lucrative offer. Robinson’s stubbornness took over and he officially retired.

Robinson was a three-time fielding champion at second base, led the league in putouts and assists in 1951 and topped the circuit in double plays turned four times. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 and spent his post-career crusading for civil rights, being the vice president of the Chock Full o’Nuts coffee company, serving as Chairman at the Board of Freedom National Bank, plus writing several books and hosting a radio show. Robinson suffered from diabetes later in life and suffered a fatal heart attack in 1972. After his death, he was the subject of a Broadway musical and in 1997, on the 50th anniversary of his debut, Major League Baseball retired his number 42 for every team.

Shortstops

Honorable Mentions – George “Germany” Smith spent seven seasons in Brooklyn (1885-90), encompassing almost all of the franchise’s tenure in the American Association as well as the first year in the National League. He was a decent fielder for the time who led the league in assists in 1885 and won a fielding title two years later. At the plate, Smith had his best season in 1887, when he hit .294 with 128 hits, 72 runs batted in and 26 stolen bases in 103 games. He also played in two World Series, amassing five runs, 13 hits and nine RBIs in 16 games. After a six-year run in Cincinnati, Smith returned to Brooklyn in 1897, but his skills were in decline, and he retired after spending the following season with St. Louis.

Bill Dahlen played in Brooklyn for eight of his 21 seasons (1899-1903 and 10-11), batting .266 with 381 runs, 645 hits, 365 runs batted in and 137 stolen bases. The 1903 fielding champion amassed 60 runs and RBIs in five straight seasons. After stints in New York (where he won the World Series with the Giants in 1905) and Boston, Dahlen returned to the Superbas as a player-manager, appearing in just four games in his final two seasons and producing a 251-355 record in four years on the bench. Known as “Bad Bill” for his temperament, he was ejected 65 times in his career.

Rafael Furcal was a speedy leadoff hitter who set the table for the start of the Dodgers’ resurgence during his six years with the franchise (2006-11). He was a 1999 Futures Game participant and won the Rookie of the Year the following season with the Braves. With Los Angeles, Furcal had his best year in 2010, when he earned an All-Star selection after batting .300 with 66 runs, 115 hits, 43 RBIs and 22 steals in 97 games, while missing time with a lower back injury. He had 12 runs, 19 hits, one home run and seven RBIs in 19 playoff games with the Dodgers.

5. Ivan “Ivy” Olson – He spent 10 seasons with the Robins (1915-24), eight as the primary shortstop. His best offseason was 1919, when he had 73 runs and 38 RBIs, led the league with 164 hits and set career highs with a .278 average and 26 stolen bases. The hard-nosed Olson batted .261 with 486 runs, 1,100 hits, 134 doubles, 51 triples, 11 homers and 297 RBIs in 1,053 games. He helped Brooklyn reach two World Series, totaling three runs, 12 hits and two RBIs in 12 career playoff games. Olson’s weak spot was fielding, as he led the National League in errors twice.

4. Corey Seager – Although he played a prominent role in the Rangers winning this year’s World Series, his best work came with the Dodgers, where he spent his first seven seasons (2015-21). Seager appeared in the 2014 MLB Futures Game and, after a callup the following year, he took home the Rookie of the Year Award (as well as the first of two straight All-Star selections and silver slugger honors) in 2016, thanks to career highs with a .308 average, 105 runs and 193 hits, to go with 26 home runs and 72 RBIs. He also led the league with 44 doubles in 2019.

In total, Seager batted .297 with the Dodgers, amassing 394 runs, 718 hits, 164 doubles, 104 homers and 364 RBIs in 636 games. He was just as clutch of a performer in the playoffs, appearing in 61 postseason contests and totaling 37 runs, 55 hits, 11 doubles, 13 home runs and 36 RBIs. He was named MVP of both the 2020 NLCS (eight runs, nine hits, five homers and 11 RBIs) and World Series (seven runs, eight hits, two homers and five RBIs), helping the Dodgers win their first title since 1988.

Seager joined the Rangers in 2022, earning All-Star selections in both seasons so far while also being named a silver slugger this past year. He went on a tear in the playoffs, posting 18 runs, 21 hits, six home runs and 12 RBIs in 17 games. Seager was named World Series MVP, hitting three homers and driving in six runs to help Texas win its first championship.

3. Bill Russell – Much like Pee Wee Reese before him, Russell was a leader who did all the little things well, including bunting and hitting behind runners. He was part of the Dodgers starting infield that stayed together a record eight straight years from 1974-81. While Davey Lopes, Steve Garvey and Ron Cey all either left or were traded, Russell stayed in Los Angeles his entire 18-year career (1969-86).

A three-time All-Star, Russell led the league in assists in 1973 and double plays four years later. He also had five seasons with at least 60 runs and 150 hits. Russell ranks second in franchise history in games (2,181), sixth in hits (1,926) and tenth in total bases (2,417) to go with a .263 average, 796 runs, 293 doubles, 57 triples, 46 home runs, 627 RBIs and 167 stolen bases. “Ropes” appeared in 49 playoff games with Los Angeles, totaling 14 runs, 57 hits and 19 RBIs while helping his team with the World Series in 1981.

Russell suffered a broken finger when he was hit by a pitch in 1980 and was not the same fielder in his final seasons. After his playing career, he spent the next two decades as a coach and manager, mostly in the Dodgers’ minor league system. Russell did have a stint as manager in Los Angeles from 1996-98, posting a 173-149 record and a playoff appearance in 1996.

2. Maury Wills – Although he was signed by the Dodgers in 1951 as an 18-year-old, he spent eight full seasons in the minor leagues, spending time at all nine positions on the field. He was called up as a shortstop in 1959 and stood out with speed that made him look like a player from a bygone era. Wills led the league in stolen bases his first six full seasons (swiping 50 or more four times), and he also earned seven All-Star selections and two gold gloves.

Wills’ best season was 1962, when he won the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award after posting 130 runs, 208 hits, 48 RBIs and a .299 average and leading the league with 10 triples and 104 steals, which is a Dodgers record and the most in the major leagues since 1891. Wills stole 94 more bases in 1965, leading to a third-place finish in the MVP voting.

Wills is the all-time franchise leader in stolen bases (490) and ranks tenth in runs (876) and hits (1,732). He also batted .281 with 150 doubles, 56 triples, 374 RBIs and 2,045 total bases in 1,593 games over 12 seasons (1959-66 and 69-72). Wills won three titles in four chances with Los Angeles, totaling six runs, 19 hits, four RBIs and six steals in 21 postseason games. He was traded to the Pirates in 1967 and spent two seasons there before being taken by the Expos in the expansion draft. Montreal traded him back to Los Angeles in 1969, and his skills declined over his final four years. After retiring in 1972, Wills spent time as a broadcaster, as well as a minor league coach and manager.

In 1980, he was hired by the Mariners as the second black manager in Major League history. His tenure was not good, with the lasting moment being a game against the Athletics the following year in which the manager had the groundskeepers fix the batter’s boxes to add a foot to them in order to give his players an advantage against Oakland pitchers. When the error was found out, Wills was ejected, fined, suspended for two games and ultimately fired after posting a dismal 26-56 record in Seattle.

1. Harold “Pee Wee” Reese – Shortstops in previous eras of baseball were not expected to be run producers such as Cal Ripken Jr. or Alex Rodriguez. Instead, many of them were fast contact hitters and excellent fielders. Reese had all that plus the added element of leadership, as well as an ability to hit behind runners or execute the hit-and-run play. Originally a Red Sox prospect, future Hall of Fame player-manager Joe Cronin convinced owner Tom Yawkey to trade Reese (mostly because Cronin wanted to keep his starting spot and was afraid Reese would take it from him).

After two inconsistent seasons, Reese earned the first of 10 straight All-Star selections in 1942, which would have been more had he not lost three years to military service in World War II. He returned in 1946, continuing his stellar play, which resulted in eight top 10 finishes in the MVP voting. Despite his solid on-field accolades, Reese led the league in an offensive category just three times: 104 walks in 1947, 132 runs in 1949 and 30 steals in 1952. He posted 150 or more hits seven times in his career, stole at least 20 bases five times, drove in more than 70 runs four times and scored more than 100 runs twice.

However, Reese’s most memorable moment came in Cincinnati in 1948 (although some sources claim it was the previous year, the story makes less sense because Robinson played first base at that time), when he walked over to Jackie Robinson and put his arm around him. The gesture quieted the fans, who had been showering Robinson with racist threats, and eased the tension between the second baseman and his fellow players.

Reese spent his entire 16-year career (1940-42 and 46-58) with the Dodgers, ending his career after the team’s first season in Los Angeles. He is the all-time franchise leader in runs (1,338) and walks (1,210), ranks second in hits (2,170), third in games (2,166), fourth in doubles (330), fifth in total bases (3,038), seventh in RBIs (885) and strikeouts (890), eighth in triples (80) and tenth in stolen bases (232). Reese and the Dodgers appeared in seven World Series, all while the team was in Brooklyn, but they only won once, in 1955. The captain of “The Boys of Summer” batted .272 in 44 career postseason games, amassing 20 runs, 46 hits, two home runs, 16 RBIs and five steals.

After his playing career, Reese was a Dodgers coach, spent more than a decade in the broadcast booth and worked for the Hillerich & Bradsby Company, the maker of Louisville Slugger bats. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1984 and faced several medical issues in his later years, including prostate cancer, a tumor in his lung and a broken hip. Reese passed away in 1999 at age 81.

Upcoming Stories

Los Angeles Dodgers Catchers and Managers
Los Angeles Dodgers First and Third Basemen
Los Angeles Dodgers Second Basemen and Shortstops
Los Angeles Dodgers Outfielders – coming soon
Los Angeles Dodgers Pitchers – coming soon

Previous Series

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

Houston Astros Catchers and Managers
Houston Astros First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Houston Astros Second Basemen and Shortstops
Houston Astros Outfielders
Houston Astros Pitchers

A look back at the Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers Catchers and Managers
Detroit Tigers First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Detroit Tigers Second Basemen and Shortstops
Detroit Tigers Outfielders
Detroit Tigers Pitchers

A look back at the Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies Catchers and Managers
Colorado Rockies First and Third Basemen
Colorado Rockies Second Basemen and Shortstops
Colorado Rockies Outfielders
Colorado Rockies Pitchers

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 Cubs Catchers and Managers
Chicago Cubs First and Third Basemen
Chicago Cubs Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago Cubs Outfielders
Chicago Cubs Pitchers

A look back at the Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox Catchers and Managers
Boston Red Sox First and Third Basemen
Boston Red Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Boston Red Sox Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Boston Red Sox Pitchers

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

Atlanta Braves Catchers and Managers
Atlanta Braves First and Third Basemen
Atlanta Braves Second Basemen and Shortstops
Atlanta Braves Outfielders
Atlanta Braves Pitchers

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

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