The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Blue Movies Trivia Answers

Congratulations to Justin Liu, Schuyler Dombroske, and Lance Golden on winning the Dodger World Series DVD sets reviewed here. Here are the answers:

1. Several Dodgers won multiple World Series rings as a member of the club, but only one player appeared in four of the team's winning World Series. Who is he?

Jim Gilliam appeared in the 1955, 1959, 1963, and 1965 World Series victories for the Dodgers (and the '53, '56, and '66 defeats). Sandy Koufax and Johnny Podres both played for all four editions of those champions, but Koufax didn't appear in the '55 Series, and Podres didn't appear in the '65 Series.

Gilliam wasn't much of a hitter; his .265/.360/.355 career line plays out to a .266 Equivalent Average, so he wasn't a total liability thanks to his speed. But he was an incredibly versatile player; from 1953 to 1966, he served as the Dodgers' equivalent of Tony Phillips or Chone Figgins, slotting in mainly second base, third base, or leftfield. In 1962 he made 113 appearances at second base, 90 at third, and 11 in left -- an average of 1.34 positions per game.

Gilliam served as a Dodger coach after his playing career ended, but in that capacity he's mostly remembered because he collapsed and died on the eve of the 1978 World Series. The Dodgers wore black patches on their sleeves for the Series, and team captain Davey Lopes, who hit two homers in an emotional Game One victory, dedicated his performance to Gilliam (you can read Thomas Boswell's fine Washington Post writeup of that game in a PDF here). Just eight years old at the time, I remember Lopes saying as much in a TV interview, and if I'm not mistaken, that soon followed with a lesson from my Dad about Jackie Robinson and his role in baseball history.

As I learned from Jon Weisman and Rich Lederer when I attended a game at Dodger Stadium earlier this summer, Gilliam is the only Dodger with a retired number (#19) who's not in the Hall of Fame.

2. Everybody remembers Bob Lemon's decision to pinch-hit for former Dodger Tommy John in Game Six of the '81 Series, but what other dubious decision did he make in that series regarding John?

In the seventh inning of Game Four, with the score tied 6-6, bases loaded, and nobody out, Lemon summoned John (who was on his throw day between starts) instead of Goose Gossage to replace George Frazier. The Yankee manager could have been looking for the double play, since John was an adept groundball pitcher, or he could simply have been looking to get the platoon matchup with lefty Mike Scioscia, who was due up next.

Either way it was an odd choice to tap John instead of Gossage, who in addition to being used to working out of the bullpen, was much more likely to get a strikeout and hold the runners in place. Tommy Lasorda countered Lemon's move by pinch-hitting for Scioscia with righty Steve Yeager, who broke the tie with a sacrifice fly. Steve Howe (RIP) sacrificed the remaining runners to second and third, and Lopes drove in another run before John could get the final out of the inning. Had Lemon simply called Gossage's number, he might have fared better than John, who allowed two out of the three inherited runners to score.

3. Which former World Series MVP comes off the bench to play a key role in one of these World Championships?

1983 World Series MVP Rick Dempsey was Scioscia's backup on the '88 team. Scioscia had to leave Game Four of the series after hurting his knee on a stolen base attempt that was the result of a busted hit-and run (batter Danny Heep took the pitch). Dempsey caught the remainder of the series for the Dodgers, hitting an RBI double in the decisive Game FIve.

Dempsey (shown there in a picture I took at Vero Beach in 1989) was already a favorite of mine when he came to the Dodgers; his rain-delay antics were legendary and his postseason performances totally clutch (.303/.370/.515 in six series, including the MVP award), so I loved that the Dodgers picked him up as a backup. I always thought of him as the exemplar of the light-hitting, defense-first catcher and am still surprised he never won a Gold Glove despite throwing out 40 percent of baserunners.

I'm even more surprised Dempsey's not managing a big-league club today. He's currently the Orioles' first base coach -- one of the team's few tangible links to the Earl Weaver era -- and has served as their third base and bullpen coach as well. He also coached the Dodgers for a couple of years and even managed in their system, winning a PCL title at Albuquerque in 1994. He may well be the heir apparent when Sam Perlozzo finally gets put out of his misery, but c'mon, the guy deserves better than the decrepit franchise the O's have become.

Speaking of which, my weekly whipping of the O's is up at Baseball Prospectus, along with the rest of the Hit List.

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