Sunday, October 2, 2011

1977 Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers were right in the thick of an impressive run where the team either finished first or was near the top.  From 1974-1988 The Dodgers had a period of sustained excellence, which included 5 pennants and 2 World's Championships.  LA made the post season in 1974, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1983, 1985 and 1988.  In 1977 the Dodgers finished 98-64 and easily won the NL West by 10 games over the pitching starved Reds.  Next up the faced the Phillies in the NLCS and won 3 games to 1.  After winning game 5 vs the Yankees the series headed back to NY with the Bombers up 3 games to 2.  LA needed to win both remaining games to become World Champs.  Reggie's famed 3 home run game snuffed out any chance of that happening.

The team featured 4 players who hit 30 or more homers for the first time in MLB history.  Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Dusty Baker and Reggie Smith teamed up for the record, which was even more impressive when you take into consideration that they played half of their games in pitching friendly Dodger Stadium.  Speaking of pitching the staff lead the league with a 3.22 ERA.  All five starters pitched 200+ innings.  Tommy John gets the nod as the ace based on his 20-7 record and 2.78 ERA.  Don Sutton and Doug Rau each won 14 and Rick Rhoden won 16 and Burt Hooten "only" won 12.  If the starters faltered, which didn't happen too often the bullpen trio of Charlie Hough, Elias Sosa and Mike Garman were formidable in their own right.  Even the bench (Lee Lacy, Johnny Oates, Ted Martinez & Company) were strong.  This is as solid a pennant winning team as you are ever going to find and just like their Boys of Summer counterparts 25 years earlier their only weakness was not being able to beat a group of men wearing pinstripe suits.

In total I needed to create 18 cards in order for the Dodgers to have a complete 1977 Topps set.

Downing was at the end of an up and down career.  He started out in the early 60's as a phenom with the Yankees, but arm trouble let to him never being the star he was touted to be up in the Bronx where expectations always run high.  In his first season (1971) in Dodger Blue Downing finally put it all together with a 20-9, 2.68 season that landed him 3rd in the Cy Young Award voting.  After that it was back to injuries and ineffectiveness.  He will most be remembered as the answer to the trivia question:  "Who gave up Hank Aaron's 715th homer, which broke Ruth's record?"  1977 was the end of the line for Al, who got into 12 games and sported a 6.75 ERA.  The photo for this card came from the 1976 SSPC set and was taken @ Shea.

Castillo spent parts of 5 seasons working out of the Dodger pen. '77 was his first crack at the big leagues.  He pitched in 6 games and had a 1-0 record with a 3.97 ERA.  The photo used for the updated card came from his 1979 Topps card and was taken @ Vero Beach during Spring Training.

Oh what a difference 7 years can make in the life cycle of a ballplayer.  In 1970, Powell was the AL MVP and a World Champion with the Baltimore Orioles.  Fast forward 7 years and he gets cut at the end of spring training by the Cleveland Indians and gets picked up as a bench player by the Dodgers, who were looking for a lefty bat with some pop.  Powell's pop was pooped.  After hitting just 9 homers the previous season the big man would hit just .244 with no extra base hits at all.  By August 31st he would be released and so would end one of the more prolific baseball careers of the modern era.  This card features a picture taken at Candlestick.  Powell just looks so uncomfortable in Dodger Blue.  Secretly he was hoping all the while to get back to Baltimore and open a Rib joint.

Lewallyn shuttle back and forth between LA and their AAA affiliate in Alberqurque for the better part of 5 years.  He's what they call in the industry a AAAA player, which means he was too good for Triple A, but not good enough for the majors.  In just 17 games he finished 3-1 with a 4.24 ERA.  In November of 1977 he was sold to the Twins, who subsequently sent him back to the Dodgers during spring training of the following year.  He would eventually be dealt to Montreal for Pepe Frias in 1980.

Webb was a lefty version of Lewallyn.  He spent the better part of his time shuttling between Tidewater and Shea before being dealt to the Dodgers for the immortal Rich Auerbach.  He would pitch 8 innings in 5 games and have a low 2.25 ERA for the National League Champs.  He would not make the post season roster and would never pitch in the majors again.  This is actually an airbrushed version of his 1976 Mets card that I found on a blog called  garveyceyrusselllopes.blogspot.com/

Leonard's fame would come in the 80's as a member of the hated Giants.  Leonard played in 11 games, and had 10 AB's and did hit .300.  With Baker, Monday and Smith patrolling the outfield in Chavez Ravine Leonard had no choice but to ride the pine and wait his turn.  He was dealt to the Astros after the season as the player to be named later in a deal that allowed the Dodgers to reacquire catcher Joe Ferguson.  The photo used for this update card came from the garveycelyrusselllopes blog as well.

When asked years later during an interview about Jerry Grote Johnny Bench, the preeminent catcher during the 1970's said, "I would have played 3rd base if we were teammates".  Grote was about as good as it gets defensively.  Known for having the strongest arm and the strongest temper in the league, Grote bullied his starting staff as well as opposing baserunners.  After spending the first 5 months of the season backing up John Stearns and Ron Hodges on a Mets' team that was heading nowhere fast, Grote got a new lease on life with an Aug 31st trade to LA.  Brought on board to back up Yeager Grote got into 18 games in the final month of the season and even made the post season roster for his tidy defense.  This picture for this card was a unique find on ebay.  An autographed Jerry Grote Dodgers picture is a rare find indeed.  Topps used an airbrush Mets head shot for his '78 card, which once again shows how lazy their staff could be.

Simpson was a punchless corner outfielder who hit .174 in 29 games of part time service for the Dodgers.  He would be sold to the Mariners after the '79 season and play regularly for 4 years up in the Pacific Northwest.  The photo for this card came from the garveycelyrusselllopes blog as well.

Oates hit almost .270 in 60 games as Yeager's primary backup before getting bit by the injury bug and being replaced in the rotation by the veteran Grote.  This photo was a team issue glossy that was autographed.  In his 11 seasons in the "biggs" Oates never played in more than 100 games.  After leaving the Dodgers he would find his way to the Yankees, where he would end his career after the 1981 World Series.

Lance was a 24 year old rookie who worked exclusively out of the pen that year.  His 4-1 record with a 4-35 ERA in 25 games shows that the team would score runs late and comeback while he was on the hill.  He would have a great year in '78, but fall off the hill in '79 and never get back to the majors again after being dealt to the pitching starved Brewers.  This card photo comes from his '79 Topps card.

Garman had an excellent year out of the pen going 4-4, 2.73 with 12 saves in 63 innings of work.  This would be his only full year in LA.  Even though he had a great year in '77 Dodger fans still can't forget that they dealt Bill Bucker and Ivan DeJesus for him.  Garman was out of baseball after the '78 season, while those two went on to have great careers.  Some solace can be gotten from the fact that Rick Monday arrived along with Garman.  I used his '78 card and airbrused out the position ball that was located on the top right.

Landestoy hit .278 in 18 AB's as a 24 year old hoping to get a chance.  Playing behind Russell and Lopes meant that he would collect a Social Security long before he could push either of those two out.  LA dealt him to the Astros in '78 as one of the players to be named later in the Joe Ferguson deal.  He would eventually return to LA in the mid 80's to finish up his career.  The picture used for the card came from the '77 Dodger Yearbook.

Monday arrived along with Garman in a trade as the "missing piece" for the Dodger outfield.  At the age of 31 and with plenty of miles on his legs he still had two more seasons left as a starting centerfielder.  Monday hit only .254 in his Dodger career, but he was known more for his big moments in big spots.  None would be bigger than his pennant winning homer vs the Expos in Game 5 of the 1981 NLCS in the cold rain.  The picture that I used for this updated card came from a team issued photo.  I liked the fact that it looked kind of blurry, which is very reminiscent of the type of action shots that Topps used during the 70's.

Known today as the cerebral manager of the Texas Rangers, Ron Washington was another one of those middle infielders that the Dodgers stockpiled and used eventually as trade bait.  In 19AB's he had 7 hits for a .368 average.  He is the ultimate baseball sim outlier.  After the '77 season he returned to Albuquerque and didn't resurface until 1981 when he was dealt to the Twins where he had a solid 6-7 year career as a middle infielder.  The photo used here for the updated card came from the ESPN website.  They did an article on him last year centered on his drug issue and how he and the team worked together to overcome it.  If he wasn't managing the Rangers today this photo would never have come to light.

 After spending 5 seasons with the Mets and Bud Harrelson's "caddy" Martinez moved over to STL and OAK for a year then was out of baseball for all of 1976.  The Dodgers gave him a call and he spent the next 3 seasons backing up Russell, Lopes and Cey.  Martinez hit .280 in his 3 years in LA and played just enough to spell the starters and keep them fresh.  He also made youngsters like Washington and Landestoy trade-able.  This photo is a spring training shot that I found on ebay.  It was a signed 8x10 glossy.

After an above average 12 year career Davalillo left major league baseball and headed to the Mexican League where he played at an All-Star level for 3 seasons.  The Dodgers coaxed him back into major league baseball at the age of 40 to be their primary left handed pinch hitter to compliment Manny Mota, who was their primary right handed pinch hitter.  How talent rich is a team that can tout two professional hitters like those two coming off their bench late in games ?  Davalillo responded by hitting .313 in '77 and .312 in '78 in his accepted role.  He would play 2 more seasons, then retire at the age of 44 in order to head back to Mexico for 3 more years in the Mexican League.  The photo here is a team issued shot from batting practice @ Dodger Stadium

The Dodgers realized early on that Pasley was not going to be their catcher of the future, nor their backup of the present.  He was sold to the Mariners for cash and quite possibly some livestock early in the season.  He appeared in 2 games and had 3 AB's with 1 hit.  He had two cups of coffee in '74 and '76 with the big club.  This picture comes from his 1977 rookie panel card, which for a while was worth a lot of money.  I'm guessing it was because one Dale Murphy also grace that card with his presence.

After spending part of the '76 season with the big club, Burke received a full fledge promotion in '77 and fit comfortably into the role of "4th outfielder".  With all 3 starters well in to their 30's Burke logged a lot of time as a defensive replacement late in games and as a spot starter to save those "old legs".  He responded with a .254 average and some fine defense.  He was dealt in may of the following season to Oakland for centerfielder Bill North, who turned out to be a collasal bust in LA.  Burke didn't do much either in Oakland and was out of baseball after a sub par season in '79.  The picture used here came straight from his '78 Topps card.  I just had to airbursh out the position ball located in the top right corner.  That entailed building up some fake seats that were covered in the grand stand.  The photo looks to have been taken @ Candlestick, which still had astroturf during the 70's.

1 comment:

  1. nice work, and thanks for mentioning my blog. i am going to be doing some 77's of my own - downing, powell, oates, monday, grote - in the near future.
    would you send me the ron washington image? i'd like to update my 1978 card that should have been. please and thanks.
    gcrlATcomcastDOTnet

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