Remembering the Dodger’s quintessential quintet in the World Series, 1974 – 1981

Remembering the Dodger’s quintessential quintet in the World Series, 1974 – 1981

Los Angeles Dodger cap and February 1975 Baseball Digest featuring Steve Garvey [David Kramer’s collection]

Like many baseball fans, I live in the past. For example, in the interior imagination of our baseball poet Bill Pruitt, nothing can eclipse Gibby’s nine complete games for his Cards back in ’64, ’67 and ’68 before there was such a thing as the playoffs or a World Series day game.¹ For me, the frozen-in-time golden age was 1969 – 1985, the years comprising my card collection.

I began the collection in 1972 during the era of the dynasties before free agency took full hold. I did not fill my card sleeves with cellar dwellers or even Davids. Instead, my collection is of Goliaths: the Orioles and Yankees in the AL East who combined for 11 division titles during that era; the A’s and Royals in the West combined for 12; the Phillies and the Pirates combined for 11 in the NL East; the Reds and the Dodgers combined for 12 in the West.

The Dodgers now in the World Series for the third time in four years took me back to my card era when Los Angeles won four pennants in eight years. As the Dodgers played on the west coast, I did not follow them closely. Nonetheless, I marvelled at the longevity of what I call the quintessential quintet who played together from 1972 – 1981: Ron Cey 3B, Steve Garvey 1B, Davey Lopes 2B, Bill Russell SS, Steve Yeager C.

Generally attention is mostly paid to the infield quartet who became full time starters in 1973 — Cey, Garvey, Lopes and Russell — but the longevity streak is more impressive when we include Yeager. Although Yeager played in fewer  games than the rest of the quintet, the five were frequently on the field for parts of nine consecutive seasons.

Ultimately, free agency took its toll on the quintet when Garvey signed with the Padres in 1982. Lopes was traded to the A’s the same year. Cey was traded to the Cubs in 1983.  Yeager played the last year of his 15 year career with Seattle before retiring in 1986. Russell spent his entire 18 year career with the Dodgers, retiring in 1986.²

ALL WORLD SERIES ARTICLES AT END

1974

With the quintet on the rise, the Dodger beat out the Reds, winning Los Angeles’ first pennant since 1966 after defeating Pittsburgh 3 games to 1 in the League Championship Series.

The Dodgers lost in five games to the A’s, four of which ended with a 3 – 2 score. The series was marked by three throws: Joe Ferguson nailing Sal Bando at the plate with Yeager holding on; Bill Buckner trying to take an extra base and tagged out by Bando; Mike Marshall picking off pinch running specialist Herb Washington. “Fast Food” Washington would later open McDonald’s restaurants in Rochester and Pittsford.

1975 Topps, Team photo, Walter Alston, Mgr. and the quintet Cey 3B, Garvey 1B, Lopes 2B, Russell SS, Yeager C [David Kramer’s collection]

Dodgers’ Bill Buckner is tagged out by Sal Bando in the final game. His team behind, 3-2, Buckner led off the eight with a single. When the ball bounded by the centerfielder, he ran to second and — not wisely — tried to reach third. His demise was the Dodgers’ last gasp. John Devaney and Burt Goldblatt, The World Series: a complete pictorial history, 1981 [David Kramer’s collection]

Topps 1975, 1974 NL League Championship Series and World Series

(above) Dodgers’ Joe Ferguson skips in front of Jimmy Wynn in the eight inning of first game, after snatching a flyball. He throws to catcher Steve Yeager and Yeager jams the ball into sliding Sal Bando, who tried to score from third after the catch. As Bando looks, Yeager shows he held the ball; (below) Catfish Hunter in his farewell game as an Athletic, decks Davey Lopes. The World Series

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Not a Kodak moment for Oakland’s “designated runner” Herb “Fast Food” Washington who would later open McDonald’s restaurants in Rochester and Pittsford. Picked off by the Dodger’s Mike Marshall in the 1974 World Series. From Royals 4 – Mets 3. An opening day World Series rematch with Eugene Kramer

1977 

After the Big Red Machine dominated the NL West in ’75 and ’76, the Dodgers regained the division title, then defeated the Phillies three games to one to face the Yankees. The Dodgers were done in by Reggie Jackson who hit 4 home runs on four consecutive swings, including 3 in game six.

1978 Topps #413, 1977 World Series

1978 Topps, 1977 NL League Championship Series;  the quintet: Cey 3B, Garvey 1B, Lopes 2B, Russell SS, Yeager C

1977 World Series, The World Series

(above) The Yanks’ Thurman Munson tags out Steve Garvey and holds onto the ball during a collision at home plate, The World Series; (below) Kellogg’s® 1980 3 -D Superstars © Visual Panographics, Inc and Baseball Digest, February 1975

1978

The Dodgers again beat the Phillies in the League Championship, only to fall again to the Yankees. This time the Dodgers were undone by the glove work of Graig Nettles. Jackson played his role when he got in the way a thrown ball, foiling a double-play attempt by the Dodgers. Much to the chagrin of Dodger’s manager Tommy Lasorda, no interference was called.

1979 Topps, Team photo, Tom Lasorda, Mgr. and the quintet: Cey 3B, Garvey 1B, Lopes 2B, Russell SS, Yeager C

1978 World Series, Graig Nettles makes on his diving stabs. This one, in the second games, stopped a shot by Steve Garvey. Result: A sure double became only a single. The World Series

The biggest controversy at this Series occurred in the fourth game when Reggie Jackson got in the way a thrown ball, foiling a double-play attempt by the Dodgers. Dodger manager argues with all the persuasiveness in his rotund body that Jackson intentionally got in the way of the ball and should be called out for interference. To his right, shortstop Bill Russell states the same case — with the same result. The umpires ruled no interference. The World Series

1981

In the 1981 strike season, the Dodgers had to first defeat Houston in the Division Series and Montreal in the Championship Series to gain a rematch with the Yankees. The Dodgers won in six as reliever George Frazier had the dubious distinction as the only pitcher to lose three games in a best of seven World Series.  Lefty Williams lost 3 games in the 8 game 1919 series. However, Williams is widely suspected to have thrown those games as part of the Black Sox Scandal.

A crucial moment came in game six. Unlike in the American League regular season, no designated hitter was used. In the fourth inning, New York manager Bob Lemon removed Tommy John for pinch-hitter, Bobby Murcer, with the score at 1-1 and runners on second.  John’s replacement — the ill fated Frazier — gave up 3 runs in the 5th for the loss. Many say that Lemon — unused to managing without a DH — panicked when he removed John so early in the game.

Having won a legal challenge to Topp’s baseball card monopoly, in 1981 Fleer began producing its own sets.

1982 Fleer, No. 647 Los Angeles Dodgers checklist and the quintet: Cey 3B, Garvey 1B, Lopes 2B, Russell SS, Yeager C

National League Western Division Playoff, The Baseball Encyclopedia, Eighth Edition, 1990

(l-r) Tom Lasorda, Steve Garvey and Jerry Reuss after the Houston series. (imasportsphile.com)

National League League Championship Series, Baseball Encyclopedia

1981 NLCS Gm4. Garvey’s homer breaks tie in eighth (youtube.com)

1981 World Series, Baseball Encyclopedia

Dodgers celebrate. Yankee Stadium,1981 World Series. (Los Angeles Magazine)

NOTES 

¹ I asked Bill if my speculation about his interior baseball imagination was overstated. He responded:

You did exaggerate, but I don’t mind. Gibson’s accomplishments were sterling; but my poetic imagination makes equal room for Sutter striking out Gorman Thomas in 82; and in 2011 the Cards coming back twice after being one out away from losing the series in game six, and David Freese hitting two home runs in that game, to tie and then to win. Then they won game 7. How can anything surpass that?

² In The Durable Dodger Infield (1980), W. R. Bill Schroeder looks at the Chicago Cubs’ famous infield Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker, and Harry Steinfeldt from 1906 – 1910, immortalized by Franklin Pierce Adams’ Baseball’s Sad Lexicon:

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double-
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

— Franklin Pierce Adams, New York Evening Mail (July 10, 1910)

Baseball Almanac

Schroeder concludes that Chicago had a more publicized, but less deserving, infield than the Dodgers for whom he penned a rhyme;

Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey
The Dodger infield that came to stay
Nothing flashy, but steady and true
Dating way back to Seventy-Two

— W. R. Bill Schroeder, 1980

THE WORLD SERIES

1916

Now gone from living memory, the last time the Dodgers (Robins) and Red Sox battled

1969

The wait is over. Adding ’69 to the Series.

1971 

45 years ago when the Pittsburgh Pirates fielded a team of “All brothers out there”

1972 

Baseball was better 45 years ago

1973

On Yogi Berra and Dale Berra and the 1973 World Series and Willie Mays and my father

The Yom Kippur War (1973) and historical memory

1975 

Itching for baseball and the 12th inning home run that Carlton Fisk hit and I missed

 

1981 

The 1981 baseball strike comes to Rochester. When Dave Winfield made 1.3 million a year!

1985

30 years ago when George Brett won the World Series (and Morganna the Kissing Bandit)

1986

30 years ago when Billy Buck broke Rhode Island’s heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author

dkramer3@naz.edu

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, and the CITY.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

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