“So you need to put your golf balls in the oven and heat ‘em up,” Charlie explained to me back in
Jon Weisman has to be among the most passionate Dodger fans in the organization's rich history. Weisman, a well-regarded editor for Variety magazine in Hollywood, created the very popular Dodger Thoughts blog in 2002. His book, “100 Things Every Dodger Fan Should Know and Do Before They Die” is an excellent, breezy read, about as comprehensive a look at the organization from both coasts as you will find, an informative guide to the Dodgers for both the home viewer as well as the fan seeking inside scoops on the ballpark experience. With the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic “42” coming out next week in theaters across the country, I thought it made sense to explore the highlights of bleeding Dodger blue through the years.
What began as a simple Q&A got out of hand real fast. Much like the monster Q&A we conducted with Marty Appel on his Pinstripe Empire mega-book, just about every question corresponds to a chapter in the book. Some queries relate specifically to Jon’s life as a Dodger fan, some hit upon nostalgia, a few discuss advanced stats in the context of historical Dodger benchmarks, some questions are simple bar-stool speculation. We’ve added a number of Easter Eggs-style clips & pics as well for you to enjoy. The organization's proximity to the entertainment community has allowed for many players' making cameo appearances on random television shows, mostly sitcoms, many of which occurred during the 1960's. We will be showcasing a few of the more obscure clips here as well.
So go grab a sandwich. Make that two sandwiches. And a bag of Muchos. This might take awhile.
INSTREAM: What’s your all-time Dodger lineup look like?
Jon Weisman: Robinson 2B, Wheat RF, Snider CF, Campanella C, Guerrero LF, Hodges 1B, Cey 3B, Reese SS, Koufax P
INSTREAM: Did Jackie Robinson have anything left after 1956, if he did decide to continue? (Chapter 1)
Jon Weisman: He had a .382 on-base percentage in his final season, so I'm gonna say yes.
INSTREAM: Have you ever met Vin Scully? (Chapter 2)
Jon Weisman: I interviewed Vin in 2008 and it was every bit the dream I thought it would be. My experience going to the interview can actually be seen in the movie "Bluetopia" – you can see how kind of dazed I was feeling.
INSTREAM: Besides Koufax, which other Dodgers have had their numbers retired? (3)
Jon Weisman: Reese, Lasorda, Snider, Gilliam, Sutton, Alston, Koufax, Campanella and Drysdale.
INSTREAM: What was the first time you saw Fernando pitch in person? (7)
Jon Weisman: It would have been in his rookie season, though I can't remember the exact game. I more clearly remember being out of town for his debut and being shocked by the result, and later listening on the radio when he took his first loss.
INSTREAM: Did O'Malley make the smart move going to Los Angeles? (10)
Jon Weisman: Given how difficult Robert Moses was making it for him in Brooklyn, I don't know how staying there could have been smarter. It can't be emphasized enough how hard O'Malley tried to make Brooklyn work before he left.
INSTREAM: Looking back at Walter Alston and obviously considering Bobby Cox's tenure with Atlanta, what elements (on/off the field) today do you believe have to be in place for a manager to last 20+ plus years in the dugout? (15)
Jon Weisman: Winning, a good relationship with the media and ownership, a lack of wanderlust, luck and more winning. Mike Scioscia would be the most recent local example, but he might be on the ropes this year.
INSTREAM: How do you like your Dodger Dogs, grilled or boiled? (20)
Jon Weisman: Grilled, by a factor of a trillion.
INSTREAM: How many more years do you think Roy Campanella had left assuming the car accident didn’t happen? (21)
Jon Weisman: He was fading but still tolerable for a catcher, but I imagine he wouldn't have done much more than a couple of years in Los Angeles.
INSTREAM: You wrote about the night you showed up at the park in the 12th inning to watch a game. Did you have to pay to get in? (27)
Jon Weisman: No, they typically open the gates in the later innings.
INSTREAM: Does Steve Garvey have any chance at all of resurrecting his baseball legacy or returning to the game in some capacity? (30)
Jon Weisman: I don't entirely buy the premise. He didn't become a Hall of Famer or a senator, but he's hardly in baseball jail. People make their jokes, but he's still very loved in Los Angeles and he's around Dodger Stadium often enough.
INSTREAM: It's one of the great baseball moments I watched as a child. Do you remember where you were when Bob Welch struck out Reggie Jackson? (33)
Jon Weisman: I was in the kitchen watching on our 5-inch (if that) black-and-white TV and was mesmerized.
INSTREAM: MLB and A&E have produced a wonderful collection of World Series broadcasts on DVD. I can’t believe the 1981 series is not yet available – which victory brought you more pleasure, ’81 or ’88? (34)
Jon Weisman: Winning that first series, after losing twice to the Yankees in recent years, was joy combined with relief and might have meant more. The '88 series certainly had its pleasurable moments, though.
INSTREAM: How much Brooklyn Dodgers history do you see walking around Chavez Ravine?
Jon Weisman: The Dodgers are pretty great with honoring their history at Dodger Stadium, I'd say. In particular, there are often historical exhibits on the club level.
INSTREAM: Did you ever get a chance to meet any of the Brooklyn Dodgers?
Jon Weisman: I interviewed Carl Erskine but other than that, haven't had much contact.
INSTREAM: What's the one element that, more than all others, has contributed to the overall success of the franchise?
Jon Weisman: They've had some great periods of lassoing a lot of talent at once. Tougher to do in recent years, and management hasn't always been up to the task. But despite the World Series drought, they have rarely been barren for long since about the 1940s.
INSTREAM: In hindsight, with Tudor's fine pitching in '88 & Guerrero's amazing '89 campaign in St Louis - he enjoyed a 24% RBI Percentage (more on this stat soon), which is almost otherworldly, as a Dodgers exec, would you still make that trade? (40)
Jon Weisman: I love Pedro Guerrero too much to have ever made that trade.
INSTREAM: Was there any attempt to retain Don Sutton after the 1980 season? Granted the Dodgers had allowed Tommy John to depart after the 1978 season. Was the organization’s philosophy not to negotiate with high-profile free agents? (42)
Jon Weisman: I can't speak to how hard they tried to keep Sutton, but he was a 15-year veteran, and the philosophy of "better to let someone go a year too early than a year too late" still held a lot of sway. The Dodgers were also somewhat reluctant free agent participants in those first few years and had recently been burned by the Dave Goltz and Don Stanhouse signings.
INSTREAM: This is more a comment than question, but one of the more vivid memories of my early baseball life is the final weekend of the 1980 season, seeing Joe Ferguson barrel down the third base line after his walk-off home run, slapping sloppy high-fives with anyone who offered. Baseball highlights were only starting to come into generous supply in 1980, but I remember the news stations playing this clip constantly.
Jon Weisman: Just an unbelievable weekend. I was listening to that game while on our school's 8th-grade retreat – we were watching the movie "Bless the Beasts and the Children" and I had a transistor radio with an earphone.
INSTREAM: The Rule 5 Draft - Steve Treder put together a wonderful compilation of the great Rule 5 picks in Baseball History for The Hardball Times a few years back. How high up the list of Branch Rickey's accomplishments does his Clemente acquisition land?
Jon Weisman: Well, not No. 1, I'm thinking, but probably pretty high.
INSTREAM: Kaz Ishii, what the hell happened? (45)
Jon Weisman: He's a pitcher. Pitchers get arm trouble. He also took a hell of a line drive to his face in 2002.
INSTREAM: As a fan, looking back to the winter of 1993, was there an outcry when the Pedro Martinez for DeLino DeShields deal was made? Did your friends believe this was a colossal mistake? (46)
Jon Weisman: Anyone who tells you that there was a massive outcry against the trade is inventing history. That's not to say some of us weren't hugely excited about Pedro – at the time, we were hoping he might be as good as Ramon. But DeShields had every appearance of being a true up-and-comer – a 24-year-old second baseman who could hit, run and field. I'd say opinion was at best split, and that mainstream opinion was probably just fine with the trade. In the current era of advanced stats, it might not have been the same vibe.
INSTREAM: I believe there are two paths to the Hall of Fame - overwhelming greatness and hyper-consistent very very goodness, because it is just as difficult to be great for five years as it is to be extremely good for 20. Where do you stand on the issue of compilers making the Hall of Fame? (51)
Jon Weisman: I'm totally fine with it – it is a pretty rare accomplishment to be good for a long time. There's a line, but I wouldn't rule someone out just because they didn't have a short peak.
INSTREAM: Al Cowens, Jeff Burroughs, the Dodgers four. Home Runs escalated in 1977, from an average of 93 per team to 140; overall league dingers went from 2235 to 3644. How much of this do you attribute to franchise expansion and the watering down of pitching? #53
Jon Weisman: I haven't studied that particular leap, but those factors certainly could have had an effect. I can say that Garvey made a particular effort that year to swing for the fences more.
INSTREAM: I remember the 1978 World Series so distinctly because my parents went away to L.A. on business and left me with my sports freak uncle Jim Gilliam's sudden brain hemorrhage and untimely death during this week was all over the national news and made a great impression on me. Any remembrance of the impact through the local community in 1978?
Jon Weisman: It definitely was a big local sports story when he was in the hospital and ultimately died. I was almost 11 – I imagine those who had grown up with Gilliam felt it very deeply.
INSTREAM: Looking at some of the monster offensive numbers for the Albuquerque Dukes in the ‘70’s and ‘80s, whether it was Danny Walton’s 42 HRs in 1977, the crazy stats Greg Brock put up, and Mike Marshall in the ‘80s to some degree, at what point as a fan did you realize that certain batting statistics in the Pacific Coast League needed to be taken with a grain of salt?
Jon Weisman: Greg Brock probably was the turning point there, though he wasn't as much of a disaster as he's remembered.
INSTREAM: Jimmy Wynn’s 1974 campaign for the Dodgers was an outstanding achievement in terms of both counting stats and sabermetrics (7.6 WAR). Would you consider this one of the great individual seasons in Dodger history that has been sort of lost to history for the average Dodger fan? If not, which one comes to mind?
Jon Weisman: It's subjective how you define "lost to history," but there have been several. The Mike Piazza trade shocked me, but I certainly don't think most people realize just how tremendous a hitter Gary Sheffield was in a Dodger uniform.
INSTREAM: What's your favorite ballpark outside of Chavez Ravine? (60)
Jon Weisman: Sunken Diamond at Stanford, where you can watch games while reclined on the grass along the left-field line. In the majors, I have fond memories of going to Camden Yards in its first year while I was living in Washington D.C., but it's hard to top my experiences at Fenway, Wrigley and old Tiger Stadium for a true baseball experience.
INSTREAM: Who showed more promise as a recurring character on The Brady Bunch, Don Drysdale as Mike's baseball buddy or Wes Parker as Peter's romantic rival?
Jon Weisman: Tossup city. Joe Namath would top them both.
INSTREAM: Was there ever a more poignant, passing of the torch, baseball card then Steve Garvey’s 1973 TOPPS where he’s being greeted by Wes Parker at home plate? (64)
Jon Weisman: Quite an odd baseball card. I like it.
INSTREAM: In the wake of all the Cooperstown-related chatter about Alan Trammell falling well short on the ballot & Lou Whitaker dropping off completely on his first try, what is your stance on a special wing of the Hall of Fame for teammates? (65)
Jon Weisman: That thought never occurred to me. I think it's a great idea for an exhibit, if that's what you mean.
INSTREAM: Other than the obvious Dodgers/Giants hardcore rivalry, are there any other teams you would call "Dodger rivals" through the years?
Jon Weisman: There have been good rivalries with teams like the Reds in the '70s when it was head to head for years. Yankees of course.
INSTREAM: How you ever seen a Dodgers no-hitter in person? (68)
Jon Weisman: I saw Fernando's in 1990, which was tremendous. I also saw Dennis Martinez's perfect game, which came two days after Mark Gardner threw nine no-hit innings but lost in the 10th. (Those games were on a Friday and a Sunday – I covered the Saturday game for the Los Angeles Daily News, such was my luck.) I also saw Kent Mercker's no-hitter in '94.
INSTREAM: What was your first experience at Dodgertown in Vero Beach like? (69)
Jon Weisman: My first and only experience there was very enjoyable. You haven't lived until you've seen Manny Mota ride his bike around the complex.
INSTREAM: Do you believe the status of the greatest pinch hitter in Baseball history is sort of a dubious honor? Do you think had free agency existed just a couple years earlier that Manny Mota could’ve played full-time somewhere? Looking at late bloomers such as Lee Lacy & Juan Beniquez, would he have had a shot starting on another team’s outfield? (71)
Jon Weisman: No to the first question. I cherish what Mota accomplished as a pinch-hitter and think of it as a pretty special skill. There were probably years where Mota could have played more when he was younger, but I don't think anyone thinks he was particularly cheated.
INSTREAM: How much do you think, in terms of his psyche, did Tommy John being left off the 1974 All-star Team lead to his injury? (72)
Jon Weisman: I'm guessing that he was going to get hurt at some point no matter what.
INSTREAM: What's your favorite place to eat right outside Dodger Stadium? (75)
Jon Weisman: Philippe's (Philippe the Original, if you want to be technical), without a doubt.
INSTREAM: It's really incredible when you realize Tommy Davis' 26% RBI percentage is one of the greatest figures of all time (since they started keeping track in 1946). Guerrero's '89 season was 24%. RBI as a primary statistic is already in the Sabermetric slaughterhouse. Does RBI percentage have a chance to gain greater acceptance? (77)
Jon Weisman: It's a more valuable stat than plain ol' RBI, but it still tells a story that other stats probably tell better. I'd rather know adjusted OPS than RBI percentage.
INSTREAM: Is it possible that if Garvey could throw cleanly across the diamond Ron Cey never gets a chance at third? (78)
Jon Weisman: Cey would have found his way into a lineup somehow. He's underappreciated, frankly. People would have loved him in this era.
INSTREAM: Does Garvey's status as one of the only two write-in candidates elected to start the All-Star Game speak more to his amazing season or the devotion that year of Dodger fans to the process, being that Cey & Jimmy Wynn both started as well?
Jon Weisman: Not that Garvey wasn't really good, but some fans just went crazy with the voting that year. It's just unbelievable to make it as a write-in choice.
INSTREAM: Looking at Bill Russell's game-winning single to clinch the 1978 playoffs against the Philadelphia Phillies, would you say that LCS and now LDS series get the short-shift when we remember great moments in baseball history? (79)
Jon Weisman: Maybe, but I like to think Dodger fans of that era still remember.
INSTREAM: What were the Dodgers doing in their scouting system that accounts for the success with all the Rookie of Year Awards they received in the '70s & '90s? (84)
Jon Weisman: That draft in '68 was incredible. I don't know if they devoted much more in resources to scouting or not. Might just be as simple as they had some good scouts and hit a hot streak. Didn't hurt that they were looking in Japan for talent in a way most people weren't.
INSTREAM: If the O'Malley family didn't sell out to Rupert Murdoch, does Piazza remain a Dodger? (85)
Jon Weisman: Odds are, yes.
INSTREAM: When Piazza inevitably gets elected to the Hall of Fame, do you believe he goes in as a Dodger?
Jon Weisman: It seems pretty clear he'll go as a Met.
INSTREAM: Has there been a twosome in the Dodgers' broadcast booth you’ve enjoyed listening to or watching outside of Vin Scully's legendary solo work? (89)
Jon Weisman: Enjoyed, sure, but not one that truly stands out – at least not that I can think of right now.
INSTREAM: What's the longest game you've ever attended @ Dodger Stadium? (90)
Jon Weisman: This one.
INSTREAM: Where's the best seat in the house, in your mind? (91)
Jon Weisman: Hard not to like a front-row seat, but I do think the vantage point from the Loge Level between home and the bases is great.
INSTREAM: As a baseball analyst and fan, looking back at guys like Dave Goltz, Don Stanhouse and later contract extensions doled out to guys like Darren Driefort, what's your stance on signing free-agent pitchers? Not a great practice or case-by-case basis? (92)
Jon Weisman: Case-by-case, depending on the pitcher and the contract. I would never say never no to signing a pitcher if there was a good calculated risk to take.
INSTREAM: How much, in your mind, did the Dodgers' annual losses play into the O'Malley family's decision to sell the club in the late '90s? Any more or less so than one would assume? (93)
Jon Weisman: I believe the loss of a potential NFL team at Dodger Stadium left O'Malley very worried about how competitive he would be against other franchises that weren't family owned. He felt he had too many eggs in one basket.
INSTREAM: Do you think Los Angeles native Darryl Strawberry would have collapsed as bad as he did had he stayed with the New York Mets? (98)
Jon Weisman: No idea, but I don't see why not. I think his challenges would have come either way.
INSTREAM: What's your signature moment personally as a Dodger fan? (100)
Jon Weisman: Answering these questions! But seriously, folks ... there are so many great moments – we had another just this year on Opening Day with Kershaw's home run. Gibson's homer was an all-timer for watching a game on TV (I was away at college at the time.) But honestly, my unforgettable moment from attending a game in person is watching Pedro Astacio jump up and down to celebrate his shutout in his first major-league game, in that terrible 1992 season. It cemented in my mind forever that you're meant to have fun with this game. Always brings me joy to think about that.
***Card images provided by the 1975 TOPPS card blog (@nightowlcards)
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