Off Base
It's Official: Dodgers Now Playing Second Fiddle to Lakers

June 16, 2009, 11:07 p.m. By a ton. So congratulations to L.A.'s best and brightest. Ladies and gentleman, your Los Angeles Lakers.

These things are rarely permanent, and the baseball team may well make it a 2009 two-fer for the city come October, but the Dodgers have already blown an opportunity to grab the civic top spot. To add insult to injury, the Dodgers no longer have sole possession of the song, "I Love L.A."

While it's not simply a matter of which is the more successful team, and one might conclude that it's the increased longing (or in this case the downright aching) for a crown that makes the Dodgers favorite sons, let's review the records anyway.

The Lakers have 15 championships as a franchise, the Dodgers have six. The Lakers have 10 championships while calling Los Angeles home, the Dodgers five. The Lakers have collected four of their sport's top trophies in the last 10 years, the Dodgers have zero in 20.

But up until as recently, I'd have argued that Los Angeles was available for the Dodgers taking no matter how far in the playoffs this year's Lakers ended up going. I've had this feeling for years, actually, and since we don't do here, perhaps that's no big surprise to you.

I really do believe that the Dodgers are embedded more deeply into the psyche of their fans then the Lakers are into theirs, and that more of those with allegiance to both teams, if asked under penalty of perjury, would put the Dodgers first. I still believe there are more Dodgers fans worldwide than there are Lakers fans, and that baseball pulls at the heartstrings more than does basketball, and that history matters much more to baseball's fans than basketball does to theirs.

And I absolutely think the Dodger fans are the more discerning. They're certainly hungrier, what with the long years of agony between rings and all. You know, like 1884 to 1955, 1965 to 1981 and 1988 to at least 2009.

Up until recently, I'd have argued a lot of things about the matter. Up until recently, it was a simpler discussion. Up until recently, the Dodgers were pure, purveyors of goodness and niceness, a team capable of bringing together our megalopolis like no other entity, sports or otherwise. Dodger Stadium was the singular meeting place in Los Angeles, the one place where literally all sections of the city, and all of its peoples, were represented, albeit some represented in finer parts of the park than others.

Up until recently, there was no Manny Ramirez performance enhancing drug nightmare to mar the effort.

After being called, and not completely without merit, a "one note harangue," by a particularly baseball savvy reader, I'd kept the level of Manny-lamenting to a minimum the past few weeks, and focused on enjoying the Dodgers current way of playing baseball. An easy to team to root for, to be sure.

But more and more I found myself compelled by everything Lakers, to a degree I've never experienced before, and certainly not in a year in which the Dodgers were so solidly in first place this close to summer.

The Lakers have no Manny, no bad guy, no reason to turn away in disgust. There's no blemish on an otherwise clear-as-a-baby's skin season. Just a beautiful, hard-fought, honest world championship. Emphasis on the word "honest."

And I think the Dodgers have some understanding of the mixed-feeling sentiment that's out there. They have the communications wizardry, and they're wasting no time. Can you say, "Abracadabra, Joe Torre on The Tonight Show," 24 hours post-Lakers champagne celebration?

Of course, the Lakers don't even need the slight-of-hand. They win, and poof, June gloom ends instantly.

Count on a second shot at an apology from Manny Ramirez. That's coming. It won't be the full mea culpa some of us are hoping for, but it'll be scripted and rehearsed, very much supervised by professionals, and a bleepload better than "I didn't rape nobody."

Until that time, and probably until Los Angeles' baseball team wins 11 games in a postseason, the Lakers have the city all to themselves…

Talkback: I can't be the only person who feels this way. Your comments are always encouraged…

Trivia: Who scored the final bucket in the Lakers championship-winning game against the Knicks, in 1972?

Trivia Part Deux: What do the Orlando Magic and the San Diego Padres have in common?

Coaching Records: In addition to passing Red Auerbach with his 10th NBA championship Sunday night, Phil Jackson matched Pat Riley's record four professional sports titles in Los Angeles, surpassing Walter Alston's three. John Wooden, of course, holds the all-time city record, college or pro, with ten.

Great Baseball Names: Yes, I keep track of these things. And while I love the idea of a pitcher named Outman, it's too early to give Athletics starter Josh Outman the Baseball Name of the Year Award. Maybe if he were a reliever, Outman would have it sewn up by now, but should, coulda, woulda.

Here's the list I've compiled so far. Antonio Bastardo, Yorman Bazardo, Reid Brignac, Rex Brothers (too bad for Jim Rome this is only one guy), Slade Heathcott, Gorkys Hernandez, Warner Madrigal, Tony Sipp, Justin Smoak, Donald Veal (a better spelling than Bob Veale) and Outman. Please send in your favorites
Trivia Answer: Current Lakers assistant coach, Jim Cleamons, then known as "Jimmy." My brother, Don, taped the final minutes of Chick Hearn's radio call on an old reel-to-reel (old then, actually). We must've listened to it a hundred times, and there are a couple of things I remember distinctly, the final Cleamons garbage-time layup being one of them.

And, as he counted down the moments to the Lakers first championship in L.A., Chick, in his excitement, said, "…seventeen season, seconds left in the season."

And, among the attendees in the victorious Lakers locker-room who found his way in front of a microphone was Karl Malden. This was pre-Streets of San Francisco, and I hadn't yet seen On the Waterfront, so this was the first I'd heard of Malden, and I couldn't fathom why Chick would fawn all over the guy. I think Chick made some sort of comparison to the Lakers and Malden both being champions.

Jack Kent Cooke, giddy as anyone, told Chick he was the greatest announcer in the world, following up by calling Lynn Shackelford the "greatest colorman in the world, don't ya know."

Trivia Part Deux Answer: Orlando's 1-8 mark in NBA Finals games matches San Diego's 1-8 World Series number. In the Padres case, the .111 winning percentage is the lowest in Series history, for teams who have participated more than once. Thanks to the Baltimore/Washington Bullets 0-8 championship series winning percentage of .000, the Magic have no such distinction on basketball.

Jackass of the Week: By a ton. Andruw Jones. Double-entendre intended. Jones was challenged this week, what with the Manny "it's in the past," rape slash murder comments, but cowboy-up Andruw did. You go girl. From Dylan Hernandez, and the Los Angeles Times.

Media Savvy: Speaking of the LAT, please read this great piece by former Times columnist J.A. Adande, Secrets of the Sky Hook, on…

Rhetorical Question of the Day: Sandy Koufax never won a championship without Don Drysdale, or without Alston, or Jim Gilliam or Johnny Podres, for that matter. What does that say about Sandy, or about anything at all?

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

U.S. Open: I'm going with Tiger Woods against the field this week at Farmingdale. And I still stay the Tiger Slam sounds like a breakfast at Dennys…

Remember, glove conquers all….

June 1, 2009, 6:05 p.m. No, he's not dead. You can celebrate a man's accomplishments with the word "remembering" without the guy being dead. And that we shall.

Bunch of anniversaries in the news lately. Just noted last week, the golden anniversary of Harvey Haddix's "near perfect game," May 26, 1959 in Milwaukee. More on Haddix in a minute. Across the globe in China, a far more serious occurrence, twenty years ago to the day Thursday, Tiananmen Square, June 4, 1989.

For me, each year around this time, when Tiananmen rears its ugly head, and the anniversary talk begins, I think of Jeff Hamilton pitching his heart out in a 22-inning loss in Houston. Same exact day, June 4, 1989. At least, that's when the seven-hour affair ended.

This wasn't Jose Canseco taking one for his Texas Rangers club, and it wasn't Mark Grace doing his best Mike Fetters impersonation and serving up career home run numero uno to David Ross. This was the Dodgers trying every way possible to eke out a gut-wrencher of a baseball game. And serious hardball by a third baseman.

The Dodgers started Tim Leary, and followed with seven actual pitchers, before finally turning to Hamilton. Orel Hershiser pitched seven shutout innings in relief, Fernando Valenzuela played first base and John Shelby went 0-10 in center field. The game also featured a home run by Kirk Gibson, three hits and two RBIs from Hamilton, and an appearance at third base for Eddie Murray.

The Astros went with Bob Knepper for six innings before turning to a mild-by-comparison six relievers, with Jim Clancy getting the win.

Vin Scully called the entire game on television, with Ross Porter flying solo on radio. Jerry Crowe summed it up well for the Los Angeles Times.

Hamilton took the ball for the 21st, and there's no other way to describe it, mowed down the Astros, one-two-three, with a strikeout. He was throwing hard, he threw strikes, and it was one of the coolest things I've ever seen in a Dodger game. Houston didn't come close to touching him.

There had been years of talk about how Hamilton lacked a certain something the Dodgers thought would help him develop into the third baseman they hoped he could be. Call it balls, grit, fire, or whatever you like; he showed it all on the mound that night in Houston.

Hamilton got two more outs, adding another strikeout, before succumbing to the inevitable, and taking the 5-4 loss in 22. His line for the game, and for a career: 1 2/3 innings pitched, two hits, a walk, one earned run, two Ks and an ERA of 5.40. Absolutely the thing he should be remembered for. And celebrated for. Here's the box score...

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Now, back to poor old Harvey Haddix, he of the non-no-hitter half a century ago. I've never been one of those guys to argue that Haddix should be credited with a perfect game, and there's no point trying to sway me now.

There were baserunners, plural, in the game, a ball landed safely in the game, and runs were charged to the guy. An incredible performance, obviously, historic yes; but perfect, no.

On the other hand, David Palmer pitched a five-inning, rain-shortened perfect game, which he completed and won, but has an asterisk next to his name in the record book. I've harped on it before, and this seems like an apt opportunity to do so again.

Andy Hawkins once pitched a losing no-hitter for the New York Yankees, but didn't face batters in the bottom of the ninth because he was on the road (and for those of you keeping score, home teams bat eight times while winning). It's a complete game, which he got credit for, there were no hits by the opposing team, and because his team erred on one play, which led to the game-decider, it's not an official no-hitter. It was actually, but it isn't. Same deal for Palmer.

Let's recall that then-commission Fay Vincent led a group which voted to change the no-hitter rule in 1991. Vincent was the last independent commish, and deserves universal praise for his work in baseball, with the notable exception of this one thing.

Before 1991, a performance like the one turned in by Angels Jered Weaver and Jose Arredondo last year at Dodger Stadium, in which the Dodgers, leading 1-0 on an unearned run after 8 1/2, therefore not needing to hit in the ninth, was tabbed a no-hitter. But really, that was a no-hitter. Plain and simple. It was a no-hitter.

Rain-shortened no-no's which are complete games should be too. Vincent and baseball went out of their way to diminish the accomplishments of men, who in some cases, had made history over a hundred years earlier. Hawkins and Palmer are two of the guys who stand out for me. Haddix fans, on the other hand, should get over it.

On the plus side, in the very same Vincent-chaired meeting which produced the revised no-hitter designation, a decision was made to remove the official asterisk next to Roger Maris' name. So let's give them that. One thumb up, one down…

Media Savvy: Another nice entry from Jerry Crasnick , veteran columnist of

And from old standby, "After hearing before the game that he was heading to the bullpen, Sean Marshall was lit up for eight runs -- seven earned -- in 4 1/3 innings by the Dodgers on Sunday night. Way to go, Lou. Maybe when you give Marshall the ball for his next relief appearance, you can tell him his dog died. Marshall had allowed more than three runs in just one of his starts this season and that one time was a direct result of two inherited runners scored in the eighth inning of an outing last month against the Giants..."

Basketball Savvy: Raise your hand if you envisioned Trevor Ariza the way he is today, and where he is today, when he left UCLA after one season in 2004. Raise both hands if you thought Ariza would turn out to be anything more than the second coming of Tommy Maddox. Raise both hands and both legs if thought you'd be rooting for him ever again. Be honest now…

Art Savvy: Check out (and purchase) some beautiful baseball paintings by Dwight Baird

Congratulations: to friend of the family and Calabasas native, Brett Hayes, on his first call-up to the Marlins. We'll be watching your progress with great interest, and are proud to sponsor your player page on

Props to Me: If there was another writer in America who called Clint Hurdle's firing almost right down to the hour, I missed it. Obvious conclusion? I'm bleeping brilliant…

Last Add Anniversaries: Check out the Motion Picture Academy's Exhibition on the movies of 1939. I'm going to miss Hiroki Kuroda's comeback tonight, in favor of "Stagecoach." Ah, to be back home in Los Angeles…

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….








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