History. Joining the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs in 1890 — a time when Brooklyn, NY was still an independent City prior to its fusion into the Five Boroughs comprising The Big Apple — were the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. As decades passed it was often noted that home town fans needed to “dodge” oncoming streetcars in making their way to Ebbets Field in Flatbush. The franchise would adopt the name Brooklyn Streetcar Dodgers, eventually dropping the middle name in 1932. By any name it has compiled a storied history. Second only to the Yankees and tied with the St. Louis Cardinals are its 19 pennants. The first of six (6) World Series flags was earned in 1955. Endless financial disputes between the O’Malley ownership family and New York City politicians combined with the emergence of trans continental jet air travel to stun the baseball world with the team’s move to Los Angeles following the 1957 season. The final piece was O’Malley’s success in inducing Horace Stoneham of the then New York Giants to join forces on the Pacific Coast, in the latter case San Francisco.
An Earlier, More Pioneering Step. A decade prior to the franchise move, O’Malley’s inspired ownership undertook an even more dramatic step. Men of Native American descent had played for Major League teams for decades. But a “color” barrier stood — no one of African-American lineage had graced the uniform of any Major League club as World War II came to its merciful end, returning life in America to something resembling normal. Negro Leagues, as they were called, flourished throughout much of the first half of the 20th Century with stars whom everyone knew had the skill sets to compete at the Major League level. Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and Leroy “Satchel” Paige are prime examples. O’Malley and General Manager Branch Rickey’s shared determination in upgrading the Game was always tempered by a realization — namely that not only was the right athlete needed, but the right man, he of a steely temperament that would constantly be summoned.
The chosen candidate was found in the person of 26 year old Jack Roosevelt — Jackie — Robinson, a multi-sport star at UCLA and WW II Army commissioned officer. And so it was that on April 15, 1947 Major League Baseball became racially integrated. Not only did Robinson’s inner strengths enable his rejection of racist taunts that were to accompany the ride, but his infield and hitting skills garnered Rookie of the Year honors, followed in seasons to come with batting titles and League Most Valuable Player accolades. He was especially productive as a base stealer, and in 1962 became the first Black man voted into the Hall of Fame. Fifteen years later, 1997 marking the 50th Anniversary of his promotion to the Dodgers, Major League Baseball formally retired Jackie Robinson’s 42 uniform number, in an unprecedented move a ban applicable to all teams. Now with a singular exception: as April 15 is known annually as Jackie Robinson Day, all players, coaches and field managers wear #42 in games played that day.
Recent Year Spending Binge. The Guggenheim Baseball Management Group has been at the helm since 2019, featuring among its members Billie Jean King and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, each of whom has
earlier in life attained championship notoriety in other sports. General Managers Farhan Zaidi and more recently Brandon Gomes have been on a free agent signing binge, as All-Star talent rotates in and out of Dodger Blue. The most recent to capture headlines is Freddie Freemen, lured over from the Atlanta Braves where he last year left the yard 32 times and slashed .299/.396/.555 — at or near the NL’s peak. He and other prominent free agents prepare under Manager Dave Roberts for the April 8 Season Opener at Colorado’s Coors Field. Huge question marks remain over the head of right handed starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, another free agent pick up with a respectable lifetime ERA of 3.69, but who more recently has been stamped with behavioral missteps. Sexual assault claims were filed against him last Summer, and although Pasadena County prosecutors announced last month that criminal charges are not now in plan, MLB continues its own investigation. Until it concludes neither it nor the Dodgers will offer any public comment. For the time being Bauer is on “Administrative Leave” — so no Spring Training and an April 16 return at the earliest.
Good Recent Past. Near Term Future? Three National League pennants have been rung up over the recent five seasons, but only in the Covid shortened 2020 campaign would the Dodgers bring home the World Series crown. Looking ahead into 2022, what on paper seems a powerful starting lineup headed by outfielder Mookie Betts — another free agent acquisition — and featuring Freeman in the #3 hole should well serve the Dodgers in run production. The rotation will likely be headed by 27 year old right hander Walker Buehler, who in five previous MLB seasons all with the Dodgers has compiled a sparkling 2.90 ERA. He is regarded as likely a serious contender for2022 NL Cy Young Award honors. Not far removed is 34 year old southpaw Clayton Kershaw, a 14 year Dodger veteran who will bring 17 season average wins and a 2.49 ERA resume along with him.
When all is blended the Dodgers have been installed by odds makers as overwhelming Division and League favorites. Injuries, trades and dozens of other unknowns will have roles to play in reaching those outcomes. Suffice it for now to believe this is a team worthy of attention as Opening Day approaches.