Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Giants-Dodgers Rivalry

The story goes that after the 1957 Brooklyn Dodger season, owner, Walter O'Malley decided to move the team to Los Angeles, for financial reasons, among others.

Meanwhile, Horace Stoneham, New York Giants' owner, was looking to move his team to Minnesota, home of his Triple A affiliate, Minneapolis Millers. But Walt convinced Hore, the move to California was in the best interests of both teams. Not to mention the continuation of baseball's greatest rivalry.

In 1957, the New York Giants swapped ownership of their top farm team, the Minneapolis Millers, with the Boston Red Sox top farm team, the San Francisco Seals. This enabled the Giants to move west and use Seals Stadium until they could build a new, modern stadium. (The restaurant Connecticut Yankee has history because the Bosox were a top notch minor league team in San Francisco, just up the street.)

The Dodgers would play at the Los Angeles Coliseum, home of the Olympics and USC/UCLA football. Somehow they would configure this into a baseball stadium. Due to the odd configuration of this West Coast Coliseum, left field was only 250' from home plate. Newly acquired Wally Moon quickly learned the benefits of lofting lazy fly balls over the 40' screen and he earned the nickname of "Moon Shots" because of this gift.

In the Giants' move to San Francisco came the Baby Bull. Also known as Cha Cha, Orlando Cepeda was the rookie of the year in 1958, having hit 25-HR, 96-RBI, with a batting average of .312.

The future Hall-of-Famer did the San Francisco Giants right. Compiling impressive numbers each and every year and then, in 1961, the year the Cincinnati Reds went to the World Series, lost his bid for the MVP to Frank Robinson. (I say this because it has always seemed to me, Golden Gloves have a tendency to be given to the fielder with the better offensive numbers...MVP is a post-season thing, I guess.)

In 1961: Orlando had 46-HR, 142-RBI, .312-AVE.
Frank Robinson had 37-HR, 124-RBI, .323-AVE.

The two players had something else in common. Both were involved in trades that were considered the worst ever in major league history.
And darned near at the same time. (5 months apart, almost to the day.)

On December 9, 1965, Frank Robinson was traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the Baltimore Orioles for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun, and Dick Simpson. In 1966, Frank Robinson won the Triple Crown.
(In 1967, Carl Yastrzemski, a former Minneapolis Miller, won the last Triple Crown.)

In 1966, the Baltimore Orioles swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, 4-0.

This was a World Series of very few runs and record setting futility by #3, center fielder for the Dodgers, Willie Davis.
I can still remember the cameraman's purposeful focus on Davis' jersey with it's #3, after he made his third error in the 5th inning. (It was a camera shot from the seats in center field.)

Games 3 and 4 were both 1-0 victories by the Orioles.
Game 3 belonged to Wally Bunker, a graduate of Westmoor High School. (He came in second to Tony Oliva, Twins-OF, for rookie of the year for 1964. (Upstart Wally was 19, Tony was 25. Still, Tony had credible numbers: 32-HR, 94-RBI, .323 AVE to Young Wally's 19W 5L, 2.69 ERA...tough call. Perhaps, if Wally gets numero viente-20, it changes things.)

Game 4 was a win for Dave McNally. The celebratory "W" is a victory all twirlers should experience. Being on the field before the champagne pours, WOW, that's something.

On May 8, 1966, Orlando Cepeda was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, straight up, for Raymond Sadecki. The Baby Bull would win the 1967 MVP, and his Cardinals took the World Series from a Dick Williams managed Boston Red Sox.

Whether it was the individual play or team play, somehow, the Giants and Dodgers are always hooked up in some memorable battles.

Baseball came our way from New York and we are all grateful.

-Kevin Marquez