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Oh, For Those Glory Days of Yesteryear
Peter Gammons
August 10, 1987
The Dodgers have lost the way that Branch Rickey laid out for them, and the future could be threadbare
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August 10, 1987

Oh, For Those Glory Days Of Yesteryear

The Dodgers have lost the way that Branch Rickey laid out for them, and the future could be threadbare

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In 1982 the Dodgers began looking to the future by trading Davey Lopes to Oakland for Lance Hudson and letting Steve Garvey sign with San Diego as a free agent. The next year they sent Ron Cey to the Cubs for Dan Cataline and Vance Lovelace. As bad as those deals were, the Dodgers have done worse. Imagine how the '87 team might look if they hadn't made these moves with homegrown products.




1. Jeffrey Leonard


Traded with Rafael Landestoy to Astros for Joe Ferguson

2. Mitch Webster


Left unprotected and drafted by Blue Jays

3. Charlie Hough


Sold to Rangers

4. Don Sutton


Granted free agency; signed with Astros

5. Rick Sutcliffe


Traded to Indians for Jorge Orta and two minor leaguers

6. Ted Power


Traded to Reds for cash and Mike Ramsey

7. John Franco


Traded with Brett Wise to Reds for Landestoy

8. Dave Stewart


Traded to Rangers for Rick Honeycutt

9. Sid Fernandez


Traded to Mets for Carlos Diaz and Bob Bailor

10. Candy Maldonado


Traded to Giants for Alex Trevino

You may have read the book; you may even have bought the videotape. They are both titled The Dodgers Way to Play Baseball, and they explain the rules of order as handed down from Branch Rickey to Walter Alston to Tommy Lasorda.

The Dodgers considered their minor league system to be baseball's equivalent of the playing fields of Eton, with results that showed up favorably on the major league battlefields. Not only did they win six division titles, 12 pennants and five World Series in the 30 years from 1952 to '81, but they did it right, even with the change of venue from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Current major league managers Gene Mauch, Dick Williams, Sparky Anderson, Roger Craig, Bobby Valentine and Lasorda were Dodgers bred and born, nursed on Rickey lore and raised in the belief that theirs was the best organization in baseball. Dodger Blue represented three million customers at Chavez Ravine, Vin Scully on the transistor, the club's own private plane on the runway and a wealth of good pitching on the mound. The line of hard throwers backed up all the way to Bakersfield.

But as the 1987 Dodgers finished their latest home stand on July 29 with a 6-7 record, the realization was settling in that Dodger Blue is now the Dodger blues, a different state of mind entirely. That span ended with a humiliating 16-2 loss to the Giants, and at the end of last week Los Angeles was in fourth place, 10 games under .500 and 8½ games out of first. The Dodgers figure to have back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in 19 years and finish under .500 for the third time in the last four years. That's as many losing campaigns as the franchise suffered in the 25 seasons from 1959 to '83.

What has happened to the Dodger way? What would Rickey say if he were around to witness this year's departures from the straight and Blue? On June 11 Dodger guns Pedro Guerrero and Mike Marshall almost came to blows in the locker room. In a July 6 rainout, Cardinal pitcher Joe Magrane stole home while the infield tried to run down Jim Lindeman between first and second. The reason? St. Louis players were told to run home any time Steve Sax gets the ball because of his hesitancy to throw. Sure enough, Sax held the ball as the 6'6" Magrane lumbered toward the plate.

Two weeks ago shortstop Mariano Duncan made three errors in an inning, doffed his cap to the fans and told Lasorda he had to come out because of a migraine headache. Two days later he was on his way to the Albuquerque Dukes. Last Wednesday, Guerrero took himself out of a game because he was being booed. The night before, three pitchers were trying to warm up on only two mounds in the bullpen.

The infield defense is in such a sorry state that the Dodgers recently signed Julio Cruz—out of baseball since March—and sent him to Albuquerque to get ready. Laugh if you will at the Padres, but since June 1 they have had a better record than the Dodgers. Indeed, Los Angeles has scored the fewest runs and has made more errors than any other team but the Padres in the National League this season.

And those are just the on-field problems. Vice-president for player personnel Al Campanis had to resign after 44 years in the organization because of his racial blunders on national television. Unanswered questions about the front office abound. Things are so bad that when Lasorda recently sat down to discuss possible trades with the manager of a last place team, that manager told him, "Other than Pedro Guerrero and Mike Scioscia and a couple of your pitchers, there's no one on your club that I'd be interested in." And a small but telling point: Scouts are under orders to find the cheapest airline tickets whenever possible.

Nor does the future look much better. The first pick in the 1986 draft, outfielder Thomas White, quit baseball. The No. 1 in '87, pitcher Dan Opperman, blew out his arm in his first professional warmup. And you can forget the farm. "It's only going to get worse," says a scout who, after watching Albuquerque for a week, noted that almost half the players on the Class AAA Pacific Coast League club were rejects from other organizations, including six players who had been flat out released. So much for the excitement of the Dukes' first-half division title. Old hands such as Jack Perconte, Brad Wellman, Shanie Dougas, Jaime Cocanower, Dennis Burtt, George Hinshaw, Bill Krueger and Orlando Mercado are not going to be at the forefront of a Dodger renaissance.

When teams hit the skids, there is usually trouble at the top, which is where you will find Peter O'Malley. Critics say the Dodger owner has erred by not establishing a line of succession for his aging top executives. Indeed, when O'Malley had to replace Campanis he tabbed Fred Claire, who had spent his 18 years in the organization on the public relations, promotion and marketing side.

The Dodger Blue tradition was created by Rickey and turned into a money-making machine by Peter's father, Walter. As long as the club was winning and drawing all those fans to the park, the intellectual, eminently decent Peter was content to concern himself with such matters as defending Bowie Kuhn from other members of the owners' fraternity. The O'Malleys were first and always businessmen, and the bottom line was something to behold. And still is. The Dodgers are averaging better than 38,000 fans per game this year, first in the major leagues.

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