40th anniversary: the Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey infield begins

Forty years ago, they first put the band together. Forty years ago today, a foursome first began working together—and they’d have quite a nice future before themselves and for all Dodger nation. At the time it didn’t look like anything big—in fact that day itself was nothing short of a disaster, but June 13, 1973 marks the first time that the longest lasting infield foursome first played together in the big leagues.

It was the first time that first baseman Steve Garvey, second baseman Davey Lopes, shortstop Bill Russell and third baseman Ron Cey ever took the field together. They would last quite some time together.

Strangely, the only reason it turned out to be a historic day for the Dodgers was because it was such a colossally bad day for them.

June 13, 1973 began like any other day for the Dodgers. They were to play that day against the Phillies with the hope that a win would catapult them ahead of the Giants for first place. It didn’t work out that way at all. The Phillies scored six times in the first, and just to prove that was no fluke, scored six more times in the second, en route to a 16-3 crunching of the Dodgers.

I suspect that manager Walter Alston and friends left the field feeling rather bleak at how badly the team played. Certainly the only thing that appeared historic about the day was the scope of the defeat. But there were undercurrents at work.

You see, the Dodgers had a bunch of young prospects looking to make their mark, and many of them played infield. The veteran of the bunch was shortstop Bill Russell, at age 24, who had gradually taken over the starting position at short over the previous years.

At second and third, the Dodgers had recently given starting jobs to two young kids. A week into the season, Alston handed the third base position to a promising slugger named Ron Cey, and he’d played nearly every day since then. Less than two weeks later, Alston handed over second base to a 28-year-old minor leaguer making perhaps his last attempt to be a major leaguer. That aging prospect was Davey Lopes, and he proved to be an all-time great late bloomer.

That just leaves first base. So far, the team’s normal first baseman was another young stud—Bill Buckner. However, today Buckner had the day off. In his place another youngster with a nice future in front of him took the field. No, not Steve Garvey. It was Tom Paciorek. There’s nothing historic about a Cey-Russell-Lopes-Paciorek infield, but that’s why it’s so important that the Phillies pummeled the Dodgers.

In the fourth inning, with the game already badly out of reach, Alston decided to give aging center fielder Willie Davis some rest. Well, someone had to play center—so how about Paciorek? That opened a hole in first, and Alston looked to his bench and saw this young kid named Garvey sitting there. Sure, let’s try the kid out. And thus infield history was born.

Immediately, the infield was called into action, as Mike Schmidt grounded to Cey, who threw to Garvey for the out. That would be the first of many putouts Garvey would record from one of his fellows’ assists.

Ten days later, Alston started the foursome together. It would be the first of 833 times Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey started together. They would be teammates and starters until the end of 1981. That’s by far the most stable infield starting quartet in baseball history. From 1973-81, they combined for 21 All-Star selections, with each man receiving at least three. They never played on the All-Star team together, but in 1976 and 1980 three out of four of them did (Lopes missed the squad in 1976 and Cey in 1980). Garvey also won the 1974 NL MVP.

After nearly a decade together, the Dodgers broke up the gang, trading Lopes to Oakland. A year later, both Garvey and Cey departed, leaving just Russell.

But in their 833 starts, the Dodgers went 498-335, for a .598 winning percentage. That’s equal to a team going 97-65 over a season. On those occasions when at least one of them missed his start, the Dodgers were 306-267-1, which is a .534 clip. That works out to a team going 87-75. So having all four of them added 10 wins to the Dodgers per year. Not bad.

That really was a nice moment for the Dodgers 40 years ago today, provided you can get around what a horrible game that was for them.

Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since reports emerge that Dodgers manager Joe Torre will step down at the end of the year and Don Mattingly will replace him.

5,000 days since the Yankees top the Rangers 8-0 in Game One of the 1999 ALDS. The Rangers had just 13 hits in the 1998 ALDS against the Yankees (where New York swept them) and today have just a pair of hits.

6,000 days since the Reds sign free agent pitcher Jose Rijo.

6,000 days since the Yankees sign Daryl Strawberry as a free agent.

8,000 days since the Royals suffer their worst loss in franchise record, falling 17-0 to the Tigers.

8,000 days since young Robin Ventura has one of his greatest games of all-time. He goes 4-for-6 with two doubles, two home runs, and six RBIs in a 14-3 White Sox win over the Brewers. It’s the first of 21 career multi-home run games in baseball history.

20,000 days since Frank Howard makes his big league debut.

Anniversaries

1878 Bill Bergen, the worst hitting player of all-time, is born.

1885 George Wood hits for the cycle.

1888 Hall of Fame slugger Ed Delahanty connects for his first home run.

1888 Sam Barkley hits for the cycle.

1891 Jouett Meekin, a nice, solid pitcher in the 1890s, makes his big league debut.

1894 Roaring Bill Hassamaer hits for the cycle.

1905 Christy Mathewson pitches a no-hitter, the second of his career. It allows the Giants to top Mordecai Brown and the Cubs, 1-0.

1912 Pirates manager Fred Clarke notches his 1,314th career win, making him the all-time leader in manager victories. He passes Ned Hanlon, who previously passed Cap Anson, who had passed Harry Wright. Clarke will keep the title for a bit until John McGraw and Connie Mack surpass him.

1912 Christy Mathewson becomes the eighth man to post his 300th career victory.

1913 John McGraw manages his 2,000th game, giving him a career record of 1,304-906. They had a lot of ties back then.

1914 200-game winner Sad Sam Jones makes his big league debut.

1916 Babe Ruth, still a pitcher, homers in the third straight game he’s played in.

1917 The National League suspends John McGraw for 16 games for assaulting an umpire on June 8.

1918 Cliff Heathcote, outfielder, hits for the cycle.

1918 Red Sox pitcher Dutch Leonard throws his third consecutive shutout.

1921 Hall of Fame Senators outfielder Sam Rice has perhaps his greatest game at the plate. He’s 5-for-5 with two doubles and a home run—but his team loses 10-6 to the Indians.

1921 Babe Ruth returns to the mound against the Tigers, pitching five innings and getting the win. Best of all, he strikes out Ty Cobb, who had made some remarks about how Ruth used to be a more complete player when he pitched. Oh – Ruth also belts two home runs in game, the second of which travels approximately 460 feet.

1922 Boston Red Sox ace pitcher Mel Parnell is born.

1924 The Yankees win when the Tigers have to forfeit. A fight among fans in the stands leads to a riot and 1,000 spill onto the field. The cops arrive but can’t restore order.

1927 40-year-old second baseman Eddie Collins hits his last triple.

1929 Pie Traynor legs out his 100th career triple in just 1,101 games. He also got No. 99 in this contest.

1930 Two Hall of Fame outfielders are traded for each other, with a 20-game winner thrown in as well. The Browns send pitcher Alvin “General” Crowder and Heinie Manush to the Senators for Goose Goslin.

1934 Billy Urbanski does something rare—he has six plate appearances in the game but zero at bats. He walks four times and lays down a pair of sacrifice bunts.

1936 Slugging outfielder Bill Nicholson makes his big league debut.

1937 Joe DiMaggio cranks out three home runs in one game.

1938 The Phillies, as they are wont to do in these days, trade/sell their best player away. They send pitcher Bucky Walters to the Reds for two players and $50,000. Walters will be the best pitcher in the league for a few years in Cincinnati.

1939 Lou Gehrig checks into the Mayo Clinic to find out what is wrong with him. He’ll learn he’s dying of ALS, which immediately becomes known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

1940 The Cleveland Indians rebel against manager Ossie Vitt, charging him with disparaging conduct, excessive criticism, and rude demeanor. The press will get hold of the story and label the club the “Cleveland Crybabies.” Vitt survives the rebellion but won’t manage the team too much longer.

1943 Ken Chase has one of the worst relief stints of all time, walking 11 batters.

1945 Red Sox rookie sensation Dave Ferriss tops the Washington Senators, 6-5. He has now beaten all the other AL squads in his first start against them.

1947 Fenway Park hosts its first night game. Only Tiger Stadium and Wrigley Field are now without lights.

1947 The Braves trade Mort Cooper to the Giants for Bill Voiselle and cash.

1948 The Yankees retire Babe Ruth’s number (3). It’s the last time he ever appears in the House That He Built. The emcee for the event is Mel Allen. How about that?

1949 The Giants trade Walker Cooper to the Reds for Ray Mueller.

1952 Ernie Whitt, 1980s Blue Jays catcher, is born.

1952 Over his entire career, Phil Rizzuto fans once every 17 plate appearances, but today he goes down swinging three times in three trips to the plate.

1953 The St. Louis Browns trade starting pitcher Virgil Trucks and Bob Elliott to the White Sox for two players and $75,000.

1954 Bucky Harris becomes the third manager to work 4,000 games, joining Connie Mack and John McGraw in the club. Harris’ record is 1,954-2,015.

1956 Milwaukee Brave Danny O’Connell legs out three triples in one game.

1957 A nasty brawl erupts in today’s White Sox-Yankees game. Yankees pitcher Art Ditmar buzzes the head of Chicago outfielder Larry Doby. In response, Doby screams that if Ditmar does that again, “I’ll stick a knife in your back.” That starts the brawl, which lasts a half-hour. Yankees infielder Billy Martin goes after Doby for what he said. Outfielder Enos Slaughter’s jersey is badly torn in the melee.

1957 Ted Williams enjoys his third game with three homers in it. Game No. 2 was barely over a month ago.

1958 Pee Wee Reese has what WPA considers his best game: 0.885 WPA. He’s 2-for-4 with a run, double, RBI, and walk in the Dodgers 5-4 win over the Pirates. His big blast is a two-run, walk-off double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. It’s one of the last moments of glory for Reese, whose career has just 31 more games left.

1962 Sandy Koufax has a memorable day, smacking a solo home run off Warren Spahn. It’s a key blast, as the Dodgers top the Braves by one, 2-1.

1963 For the first time in more than two years, Sandy Koufax balks. He’ll never do it again.

1964 The A’s sign amateur free agent Joe Rudi.

1964 Pittsburgh signs amateur free agent Al Oliver.

1967 Tommy John has the best Game Score of his career (a mark he’ll tie twice): 89. His line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, and 9 K.

1968 Pete Rose plays at first base for the first time.

1968 Joe Torre raps out his 1,000th career hit.

1970 Veteran reliever Ron Kline appears in his last game.

1971 Troubled Angels outfielder Alex Johnson accuses utility man Chico Ruiz of pulling a gun on him in the locker room.

1975 The Indians trade Gaylord Perry, who won the Cy Young Award for Cleveland in 1972, to the Rangers for $100,000, and three players.

1975 Darrell Evans suffers through the worst game of his career, going 0-for-5 with two Ks and a pair of GIDPs.

1976 The Braves trade veteran infielder Darrell Evans to the Giants for Willie Montanez and three other players.

1976 For the only time in his career, Phil Niekro attempts to steal a base. Niekro, 37, fails in the attempt, which comes a half-inning after the opposing pitcher belts a home run off him. An attempt at revenge? It looks like that was Niekro’s goal.

1976 Starting pitcher Rick Langford makes his big league debut.

1979 200-game winning knuckler Joe Niekro wins his ninth straight decision, the longest winning streak of his career.

1979 The Red Sox trade George Scott to the Royals.

1980 Willie Stargell enjoys the last of his 36 multi-home run games.

1984 The Cubs and Indians stage a six-player trade. The Indians get Joe Carter while the Cubs get Rick Sutcliffe. Carter will have the longer career, but Sutcliffe will go 16-1 for the ’84 Cubs and win the Cy Young Award.

1985 Earl Weaver comes out of retirement to manage the Orioles again. He should’ve stayed retired.

1986 Outfielder Cory Snyder makes his big league debut with the Indians.

1988 For the first time in three years and 39 days, Jim Rice hits more than one home run in a game. He never does it again. Yeah, he fell off a bit there at the end.

1988 A Yankees win gives manager Billy Martin a record 242 games over .500 (1,252-1,010), which is his high water mark. He’ll manage just eight more games, going 1-7 in them.

1989 Jack Clark fans four times, giving him a record nine in two days.

1989 John Dopson balks four times in one game in Boston.

1989 Terry Puhl appears in his 1,403rd game, breaking the all-time record for most games by a Canadian-born player previously held by Jack Graney. Puhl’s mark will later be topped by Larry Walker.

1990 Willie Wilson steals his 600th career base.

1990 Steve Avery makes his big league debut.

1990 Baseball owners approve of the sale of the Padres from Joan Kroc to Tom Werner and others for $90 million.

1990 San Francisco’s Trevor Wilson has a no-hitter after eight innings, but a Mike Pagliarulo single in the ninth ends his for a no-hitter.

1992 Carney Lansford joins the 2,000-hit club.

1992 Matt Herges signs his first professional contract with the Dodgers.

1993 Former 20-game winner Mike Boddicker appears in his last game.

1993 Everyday Eddie Guardado makes his big league debut.

1994 Jose Canseco smashes three homers in one game. It’s the second time he’s done that.

1994 In a shocking development, Ryne Sandberg announces his retirement. He’ll later un-retire, but won’t be very special upon his return.

1995 Edgar Martinez plays a full game at third base for the final time.

1998 Travis Lee enjoys what WPA says is the best game ever by an Arizona Diamondback. He goes 3-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs in a 7-4 win over the Cardinals. His WPA: 1.044. He homers in the seventh and eighth innings, both times turning a Cardinals advantage into an Arizona lead.

1998 After nearly 40 years, a triple play happens in Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers pull it off.

1998 Javy Lopez and Andruw Jones hit back-to-back home runs in consecutive innings for the Braves. Neat trick.

1999 Cal Ripken gets six hits in one game and he and his teammates score an Orioles record 22 runs in a 22-1 shellacking of the Braves. Ripken has two homers, a double, and a half-dozen RBIs. Will Clark has perhaps the best game of his career, going 4-for-4 with three doubles and one home run. He scores four times and drives in five.

1999 It’s scary in Houston. In the eighth inning of a game against the Padres, Astros skipper Larry Dierker suffers a grand mal seizure in the dugout and has to go to the hospital. The game is suspended with Houston up 4-1. Dierker will miss several weeks but recover to resume his duties.

2003 John Olerud gets his 2,000th hit.

2003 Roger Clemens has a real milestone day. In one game he picks up strikeout No. 4,000 and more importantly win No. 300.

2004 Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets strikes out the side in the third inning against Houston on the bare minimum nine pitches.

2005 Tampa releases veteran catcher Charles Johnson, which ends his career.

2006 Ever heard of Tinker to Evers to Chance? Well today the Royals field perhaps the least poetic sounding double play trio ever, as Tony Graffanino, Mark Grudzielanek and Doug Mientkiewicz play short, second, and first respectively in a game against the Angels.

2007 The Rockies release Steve Finley.

2007 Jim Thome plays first base for the last time in the AL. He’ll play four games there for the Phillies in 2012. He’ll also make a brief ceremonial appearance at third for the Indians at the end of the 2011 season. Essentially, though, his days playing the field are winding down.

2008 Baltimore releases slow-working pitcher Steve Trachsel, which ends his career.

2009 Miguel Tejada gets his 2,000th career hit.

2009 Torii Hunter hits three homers in one game for the Angels.

2010 In Chicago’s Crosstown Classic, the teams threaten a double no-hitter, but ultimately both hurlers fall short. The South Side’s Gavin Floyd gives up the game’s first safety with two outs in the seventh when Alfonso Soriano doubles. Ted Lilly preserves his no-hitter until the ninth when a Juan Pierre single ruins it.

2010 Yankees veteran Jorge Posada smacks a grand slam for the second consecutive game.

2012 Giants stud pitcher Matt Cain throws a perfect game, fanning 14 Houston Astros along the way. That’s a new K record for a perfect game. San Francisco wins handily, 10-0.

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Comments

  1. ajnrules said...

    Gosh, has it already been ten years since Roger Clemens won his 300th game? Doesn’t seem that long ago that he was on that cross-country quest to get it done. Still, having four people reach the 300-win milestone in ten years is pretty good. In fact the only more prolific ten year period of pitchers getting to that milestone are the Galvin-Keefe-Welch-Radbourn-Clarkson era from 1888-1898 and the Perry-Carlton-Seaver-Niekro-Sutton-Ryan era from 1982-1992. So the 300-win club may go into long hiatuses, but it will never die!

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