Monday, June 24, 2013

Garvey, Lopes, Russell, Cey: The Eternals

Just in case you missed it, there was a nice piece over the weekend by the LAT's Gary Klein, looking back at the Dodgers' historic infield of the 1970s-1980s, and the fact that the four infielders played together so well on the field, but also had their share of differences:

The infielders trotted gingerly onto the diamond, Dodger Stadium suddenly taking on a 1970s vibe.

Steve Garvey stood at first base, Davey Lopes at second, Bill Russell at shortstop and Ron Cey at third — as if they'd never left.

A Dodgers infield that played together for more than eight seasons — a major league record — reunited for an inning during a recent old-timers game.

On June 13, 1973, Garvey entered a game at Philadelphia as a defensive replacement at first base. It marked the first time the quartet played collectively at the positions that would define them.

Ten days later, 40 years ago Sunday, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium, they all started.

By the time the Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the 1981 World Series at Yankee Stadium, the foursome had combined for 21 All-Star game appearances, four National League pennants and a World Series championship.

It wasn't always a smooth ride, but the disco-era Dodgers infield endured like no other in baseball history.

Free agency and the sport's evolving financial structure make it improbable that any group will equal its longevity.

"I wouldn't think," former manager Tom Lasorda said, "it could ever happen again."

So that was the lead. About that latent discord? That's where it gets fun:

Garvey, who scuffled with pitcher Don Sutton in the Shea Stadium locker room in 1978, says the four infielders developed a "professional friendship" and that "probably the best thing is not to be too close."

Lopes, citing Lakers championship teams that featured feuding stars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, said pro athletes don't have to like each other. But they must be able to put aside whatever is bothering them about a teammate and perform.

"I'm sure I was an ass," Lopes said, laughing. "I'm sure they were asses too, at times. But when push comes to shove and someone knocks them or something happens during a game, we were right there."

Cey said the infield was "probably close," but after spending months together in the clubhouse, on the field, on airplanes and in hotels, players were naturally happy to get a break from one another each winter.

"We respected each other and knew each other's ability," Russell said. "You knew all the intimate stuff — some of the stuff you probably shouldn't know."

Albeit discord, it still worked, and brought us one of our six franchise championships. It's hard to think that we'd even want to see the same longevity of today's infield, not with Juan Uribe / Jose Cruz over at third. Man, we had it good.

photo: Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times (June 8, 2013)


BJ Killeen said...

They were the greatest. No doubt.

Paul said...

My first memory at a live Dodger game was watching these four on the infield during batting practice on the last game of the season in 1982 at Candlestick park. I can still hear my dad naming them out to me.

I didn't realize I was watching the curtain fall on a great run but I did realize that being a Dodger fan is something special.

Steve Sax said...

Dodgers drop three spots to 23rd in's power rankings. That's it, throw in the towel right here.

Hideo Nomo said...

@Sax: They were actually ranked HIGHER before?!

QuadSevens said...

Reading the comments in the power rankings is fun.

Angels moved up one spot:
"After being swept by the Pirates this weekend, the Angels are in the midst of their eighth losing streak of three or more games. They might find themselves as sellers entering trade season."

Paul said...

Top 25! I think we get an automatic berth to the Beef O'Brady Bowl.

Steve Sax said...

@Paul: nice