By Tom Hoffarth
Because we have tape. And some tales to tell. And this convergence of storied franchises just about makes you wonder if the Baseball Gods are watching out for the sport in this Statcast Era.
You decide who takes advantage:
LET THE RECORDS SHOW:
RED SOX: 9,518 wins, 8,830 losses (.519 winning percentage) in 118 seasons starting in 1901. Eight World Championships, last in 2013. Thirteen pennants. Twenty-four playoff appearances. Two nicknames. Ten retired numbers: 1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 14, 26, 27, 34, 45. And 42.
DODGERS: 10,868 wins, 9,762 losses (.527 winning percentage) in 135 seasons starting in 1884. Six World Championships, last in 1988. Twenty-three pennants. Thirty-two playoff appearances. Seven nicknames. Ten retired numbers: 1, 2, 4, 19, 20, 24, 32, 39, 53. And 42. The OG 42.
EDGE: Even. In a country split between red and blue, this helps no one, especially when hosiery comes into play.
RED SOX: Fenway Park. Opened in 1912 in Kenmore Square. Oldest in all of baseball. Accommodates 37,731. Known for its Green Monster, Fenway Franks and “Sweet Caroline.” Subway accessible. Beer sales at seats done seemingly since Samuel Adams was in existence.
DODGERS: Dodger Stadium. Opened in 1962 in Chavez Ravine. Second oldest in the NL. Accommodates 56,000. Known for its palm trees, the San Gabriel Mountain backdrop, Dodger Dogs and “I Love L.A.” Not at all traffic-friendly. Only recently added in-seat beer sales.
EDGE: Dodgers. Ever try to squash your rear end in one those pre-WWI wooden seats, some of which are behind beams? If you get a seat atop the Monster, we’re green with envy. If you get to sit in the red Ted Williams seat in right field, way to go, kid. If you get a seat behind the Pesky pole in right field, you pay top dollar.
For what it’s worth, the Dodgers never got to play in Fenway Park during the 1916 World Series match up because the Red Sox felt the place was too small. They moved it crossdown to the nearby Boston Braves’ home field. Meaning the Dodgers haven’t played at Fenway in October – only during interleague play with visits in 2010 and 2004. Which thrilled Frank McCourt to death.
So about that October meeting 102 years ago …
THE 1916 WORLD SERIES:
RED SOX: Won the series, four games to one. Babe Ruth was the winning pitcher in Game 2, 2-1, after going 14 innings.
DODGERS: It was the franchise’s first World Series. Casey Stengel started in the outfield with Zack Wheat. The notorious Fred Merkle was a backup infielder. Hall of Famer Rube Marquard was a starting pitcher but lost twice.
EDGE: Red Sox. The Brooklyn team was known as the Robins, after manager Wilbert Robinson. Eh … by that line of old-school reasoning and marketing, would we be now watching the Los Angeles Robbers? (C’mon guys, steal us a win … or a base …)
So about that Ruth kid …
RED SOX: Babe Ruth hit 49 HRs with 224 RBIs and even stole 13 bases without being caught for the franchise during his first six big-league seasons (1914-1919), from age 19 to 24. He led the league in homers (29), RBIs (113), on-base percentage (.456), slugging percentage (.657), and runs (103) in his final season before he was traded to New York. Oh, and he had an 89-46 record on the mound with a 2.19 ERA in 143 games, 17 shutouts, four saves, 105 complete games, leading the AL in ERA (1.75), games started (40) and shutouts (9) in 1916 (with a 23-12 record) and in complete games (35) in 1917 (with a 24-13 record).
DODGERS: Became a first-base coach for the franchise in June, 1938, right after the Dodgers were the victims of the second of Johnny Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters at Ebbets Field, which just installed lights. Ruth was led to believe this was an opportunity to some day become a manager with the team, and perhaps finally be taken seriously. That didn’t happen. The team was grooming Leo Durocher to take over for Burleigh Grimes that season.
EDGE: Dodgers. At least they didn’t believe in any curse after they let him walk away.
As for another famous American …
RED SOX: Played third base, shortstop, second base and DH for the franchise for five seasons (265 games) from 1970-’74, hitting .243 with 13 HRs, 78 RBIs and a minus 0.9 WAR
DODGERS: Played third base, shortstop and second base for the franchise for two seasons (229 games) from 1965-66, hitting .193 with 4 HRs, 24 RBIs and a minus 1.2 WAR.
EDGE: Dodgers. Kennedy didn’t ask what the Dodgers could do for him. He put in six at-bats in the ’65 and ’66 World Series, with one hit, one caught stealing, one total base.
Oh, you thought we meant … no, if we were talking about the 35th president of the United States … that would be Edge, Boston. Native son, all that stuff. Except … he did accept his presidential nomination at the Democratic Convention held at the L.A. Coliseum on July 15, 1960 and made his famous “New Frontier” speech.
That included the lines: “I stand here tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch three thousand miles behind us, the pioneers gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build our new West. They were not the captives of their own doubts, nor the prisoners of their own price tags. They were determined to make the new world strong and free — an example to the world, to overcome its hazards and its hardships, to conquer the enemies that threatened from within and without.
“Some would say that those struggles are all over, that all the horizons have been explored, that all the battles have been won, that there is no longer an American frontier. But I trust that no one in this assemblage would agree with that sentiment; for the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won; and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier — the frontier of the 1960’s, the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled threats. ….
“The New Frontier is here whether we seek it or not. Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure? That is the real question. Have we the nerve and the will? Can we carry through in an age where we will witness not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction, but also a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space, and the inside of men’s minds? That is the question of the New Frontier. As we face the coming great challenge, we too, shall wait upon the Lord, and ask that He renew our strength. Then shall we be equal to the test. Then we shall not be weary. Then we shall prevail.”
Whomever is nominated for the Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 might want to crib some of that.
Another famous figure in the franchise formation:
RED SOX: The Boston-born business man specializing in parking lots tried to buy the team, with plans of building a new stadium on the land he owned on the South Boston waterfront. They were sold instead in 2002 to John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. Was sued by a Boston law firm in 2011. Still can claim his grandfather was part owner of the NL’s Boston Braves.
DODGERS: Dug up $430 million to purchase the franchise in 2004 from Fox, using his Boston parking lots as collateral. Fired Ross Porter. A messy divorce with Jamie McCourt occurred in the middle of the 2009 playoffs. A 2011 divorce settlement was contingent on MLB approving a TV contract between the team and Fox Sports West, which the MLB rejected (knowing the implications). Put the team in bankruptcy, had it sold at auction, kept the parking lots around Dodger Stadium.
EDGE: No one wins here. Not even if you enjoyed “Angela’s Ashes” (which he did not write). Now owns a French soccer team. Also still owns the Los Angeles Marathon operation rights, perhaps thinking that it will someday become as popular as the Boston Marathon. Surprisingly, the race in L.A. still begins at his Dodger Stadium parking lot then weaves through traffic to Santa Monica. Which may be the quickest anyone has ever made it between the two points. By running away from Dodger Stadium.
It’s all downhill from here …
RED SOX: A Revolutionary War battle site, taking place on June 15, 1775 during the Siege of Boston. It’s famous for the origin of the phrase, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” There is a place in Charleston, Mass., called Bunker Hill, but that is said to be only peripherally involved in the battle. Most of it happened at nearby Breed’s Hill. It is now marked by an obelisk granite monument on Boston’s famous Freedom Trail. The hill is named after George Bunker, who owned the land before the battle.
DODGERS: A piece of land in downtown L.A. that once separated it from all that was West, until it was tunneled through at Second Street in 1924. Not known for anything except residents saying “Are you sure this thing works?” when seeing the Angels Flight funicular, dubbed the “World’s Shortest Railway” that goes up and down the 33 degree slope. Newer additions to the Bunker Hill area are the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. No secret: The hill was named after Boston’s Bunker Hill by French Canadian immigrant Prudent Beaudry, who bought the scrub-brush area for a reported $51 in 1875 and wanted to honor the 100th anniversary of the famous Boston battle.
EDGE: Red Sox. No one died on L.A.’s Bunker Hill, except perhaps a stray saber tooth cat that got loose from the La Brea tarpits. And today’s trips on Angels Flight aren’t worth the pulleys used today to make it semi-functional.
Speaking of field generals …
THE FIELD GENERALS:
RED SOX: Alex Cora played for the Dodgers for the first seven years of his career, from 1998 to 2004, amassing a .246 batting average as an infielder. Then he played for the Red Sox (2005-’08). Known best for his 18-pitch battle in 2004 with the Cubs’ Matt Clement that included 14 straight fouls balls with a 2-1 count, ending with a two-run homer.
DODGERS: Dave Roberts played for the Dodgers for three seasons (2002-04), then was shipped off to the Red Sox at the July 31 deadline. Played for the Red Sox just 45 regular-season games. Will never buy another dinner in Boston because of his ninth-inning stolen base in Game 4 of the 2004 AL Championship Series against the Yankees at a time when the Red Sox trailed the series 0-3. He eventually scored the tying run in a game the Red Sox would win that one, then three in a row, then win their historic World Series.
EDGE: Push. Roberts wasn’t included on that Red Sox’ 04 World Series roster. They traded him to San Diego a month later. Thanks for nothing. Cora was an Astros bench coach last season when Houston won the World Series against the Dodgers. He knows what their weak spots are. Perhaps, it starts with Roberts’ ability to manage.
RED SOX: Man-Ram strolled into Boston a fit-and-trim free agent for 2001 and somehow lasted eight seasons, putting up 274 homers, 868 RBIs and a .312 batting average. But he was known for being a bit eccentric for someone who made $20 million, $22.5 million, $22 million, $18.2 million, $17 million and $18.9 million in his final six seasons with the team. He asked to be traded after the 2005 and ’06 seasons, but was denied. All that tension came to a head in 2008 when he got into a dugout shoving match with teammate Kevin Youkilis and knocked down team traveling secretary Jack McCormick, 62, to the ground.
DODGERS: Mannywood exploded in L.A. after a three-team trade orchestrated at the July 31, 2008 deadline, only costing the Dodgers Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris. Wearing No. 99, he hit 17 homers and drove in 53 runs in 53 games to push the Dodgers into the playoffs, and then hit .500 (5 for 10, 2 HRs) in the NLDS against the Cubs and .533 (8 for 15, 2 HRs) in the NLCS against the Phillies. He spent two and a half seasons with the team, putting up 44 homers, 156 RBIs and a .322 average in 223 games. It cost them $23 million in 2009 at age 37 and $18.7 million in ’10 at age 38.
EDGE: Red Sox. The Dodgers’ dumpster dive cost them. A bad steroid test surfaced in May, 2009, with suspensions and tours of shame as he tried to explain why he always wore baggy pants. It’s too bad. Because when Manny Machado came to L.A. to try to recapture that scene, it just wasn’t the same.
THAT TRADE OF 2012:
RED SOX: Unloaded Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers’ payroll (throwing in Nick Punto, and $11 million cash).
DODGERS: Gave up James Loney, minor leaguers Allen Webster and Ivan De Jesus Jr., and two players to be named later (Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands).
EDGE: Dodgers. This was the stamp that the new Guggenheim ownership was not Frank McCourt, and could pull this off not at the trade deadline, but at the pre-September roster deadline, forcing all these players to go through waivers. No one but the Dodgers could absorb this mess. They just missed the playoffs that season. But from 2013 through this current season, they have won the NL West title with six straight first-place finishes, winning at least 92 games each season, and appearing in the World Series the last two years. The Red Sox won the 2013 World Series and were fifth in the NL East for two seasons afterward. They have own the NL East the last three seasons with at least 93 wins each time, and a team-record 108 this season.
Of the players from deal who have not been released or retired: Webster, 28, spent 2018 in the Cubs organization and was called up in September; De La Rosa, 29, is in the Diamondbacks organization (winning 14 games in ’15 but spending ’18 in the minor leagues after a second Tommy John surgery); Sands, 31, played last season in Japan; DeJesus, 31, played last season at the Red Sox’s Triple-A affiliate, hitting .261 in 91 games at second base.
RED SOX: NoooooMaaaaah, a native of Whitter, signed with Boston after playing at Georgia Tech, won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1997 with a league-best 209 hits, was second in the AL MVP voting the next season (35 HRs, 122 RBIS, .323 average), won the batting title in 1999 (.357) and 2000 (.372). A five-time All-Star shortstop. A WAR of 38.3 in Boston. Perhaps the city’s most beloved player based on chanting.
DODGERS: Garciaparra came back home to L.A. in 2006 as a free agent. Hit .289 in three seasons. Fittingly, he was the NL Comeback Player of the Year and made the 2006 All Star Game, mostly now as a first baseman. A WAR of 2.4 in L.A. Perhaps the prince of the city after hitting a game-winning homer against the Padres in mid-September, ’06, an inning after the Dodgers tied the game on four straight homers in the bottom of the ninth.
EDGE: Dodgers. The Red Sox felt it was about time to cut him loose at the 2004 trade deadline, sending him to the Cubs in a four-team deal that gave them Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera. How could he be the one that was keeping the Red Sox from the promised land? Apparently, it was the case. He remains a broadcaster with the Dodgers, which still freaks people out in that, as prickly as he was a player, he isn’t a half-bad communicator on SportsNet LA after doing a few years of personality rehab at ESPN. Lives now in Manhattan Beach and doesn’t have to hear those people imitating a “Saturday Night Live” skit.
IN THE NAME OF PROGRESS
RED SOX: Added Pumpsie Green to the roster in 1959. The final MLB team to sign an African-American player.
DODGERS: Called up Jackie Robinson to the big leagues on April 15, 1947. The first MLB team to sign an African-American player.
EDGE: Don’t make us say it. Green, by the way, alive at age 84 in Oklahoma. Tend to think he’s pulling for JRobinson’s team.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
A bet of $100 on the Red Sox will net $74 if the win, and $115 for the Dodgers if they prevail. The Red Sox may have four of the seven games at their place, but that should include some nasty weather, including a possible Game 7 on Halloween night. L.A.’s hosting role for Games 3, 4, and 5 project to 89, 86 and 82 degrees.
And if you need an engraved invitation to pay attention to this event: