Remembering Jackie Robinson & the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers

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(Editor’s note: To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the legendary Jackie Robinson’s birth, we decided to put this story together about all the greatness surrounding the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers. There was some previous TBPC content used in this story.)

While I was never exceptiponally familiar with the history of the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers, I couldn’t help but start digging into the history books a little during the team’s 2017 season, when the modern-day Boys in Blue were constantly being compared to the exalted squad from more than 65 years ago.

When all the smoke cleared, the 2017 team finished with a 104-58 record, just one win shy of the 1953 Dodgers’ all-time record. What was even more impressive about the 1953 club was that they registered their 105 wins in just 154 games, which was the standard MLB schedule at the time.

The Brooklyn players from the early 1950s were routinely referred to as the “Boys of Summer” by some, or more commonly, “Dem Bums” by many others. Players like Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale were not yet part of the team, but the offensive firepower on the 1953 squad was unparalleled in terms of raw talent. A whopping five players from this esteemed squad would eventually be enshrined in the MLB Hall of Fame.

Outfielder Carl Furillo led the team in batting average, but he was still overshadowed by offensive juggernauts like Gil HodgesDuke SniderJackie Robinson, and the eventual 1953 National League MVP, Roy Campanella.

Furillo slashed a phenomenal .344/.393/.580, while adding 21 long balls, 38 doubles and 92 RBI in what was arguably the most impressive season of his career. Campy hit .312/.395/.611, but most notably tallied 41 home runs, 142 RBI and 103 runs scored.

Incredibly, Snider outdid Campanella in the OPS department, posting an insane mark of 1.046. Finishing third in the NL MVP voting behind Campy and Eddie Matthews of the Milwaukee Braves, the Duke ended up hitting .336/.419/.627 with 42 bombs, 38 doubles, 126 RBI and 132 runs scored. Keep in mind, this is when many pundits considered runs scored and RBI at the top of the statistical hierarchy.

Not to be outdone were Hodges and Robinson, who registered slash lines of .302/.393/.550 and .329/.425/.502, respectively. Hodges added 31 jacks and drove in 122 baserunners, while scoring 101 runs of his own.

The infield was arguably the best defensive group in franchise history; yet for some reason, it still takes a backseat to that legendary quartet from the ’70s and ’80s. Pee Wee Reese and Jim Gilliam were very solid up the middle, while Hodges and Billy Cox primarily handled the corner infield spots. Gilliam would go on to win the 1953 NL Rookie of the Year Award—the Dodgers’ third in a five year span.

An often overlooked aspect of the ’53 crew was team speed. The club had four players in double digits when it came to stolen bases, led by Reese with 22 steals. Gilliam swiped 21, Robinson stole 17 and Snider notched 16.

As far as the pitching staff went, the primary starting five was Carl ErskineRuss Meyer and Billy Loes, anchored by southpaws Preacher Roe and a 20-year-old named Johnny Podres, who later became one of the heroes of the 1955 World Championship squad. Erskine was the ace of the staff, leading the rotation with 20 wins and a 3.54 ERA.

Spearheaded by Jim Hughes, the other chief pieces of the bullpen were Bob MillikenClem LabineBen Wade and Joe Black. Hughes led the relief corps with 48 appearances while posting a 3.47 ERA.

The 1953 Dodgers were guided by skipper Chuck Dressen and GM Buzzie Bavasi.

Here’s what the Dodgers starting lineup looked like against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day—April 14, 1953—at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn:

  • Jim Gilliam – 2B
  • Pee Wee Reese – SS
  • Duke Snider – CF
  • Jackie Robinson – 3B
  • Roy Campanella – C
  • Don Thompson – LF
  • Gil Hodges – 1B
  • Carl Furillo – RF
  • Carl Erskine – P

Campy went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI, while Snider went 2-for-4 with a double, a homer and three RBI of his own to propel the Dodgers to an 8-5 victory. Erskine was yanked after just three frames, but Black notched the victory after throwing six full innings of two-hit ball.

Right-hander Murry Dickson took the loss for the Pirates. He went 4-1/3 frames after being clobbered with 10 hits and eight earned runs. Catcher Joe Garagiola and shortstop Dick Cole each had two RBI for Pittsburgh.

*****

Although the 105 wins by the 1953 Dodgers is an organizational record which still stands after all this time, the team failed to handle the Yankees in their quest for Brooklyn’s first championship, and would consequently wait until the 1955 season to hoist the World Series trophy.

Perhaps lost in the powerhouse statistics of the great 1953 club were the numbers of Robinson, yet his importance to the club and baseball as a whole was paramount.

He will never be forgotten.

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28 thoughts on “Remembering Jackie Robinson & the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers

  1. I remember all that!

    No I don’t. I was 5.

    I do remember my first game. 1958 in Kansas City. A’s vs the Yankees. Mantle hit 2, McDougal hit 2, Bob Cerv hit 2, Hal Smith hit 1. Yankees won 14-7. I was a big time Mantle fan after that. The entire stadium was buzzing with everything he did. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Furillo batted 8th and lead the team in batting average. Don’t think we’ll see that with Barnes this year. Question is can Martin and Barnes break through the Mendoza line! Can’t even imagine all that Robinson endured in his battle with racism. And the class with which he handled himself!

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  3. Never been any where around there scoop. Alex, if Realmuto was meant to be here it would happen, at this point I’m ok if he comes here or if he doesn’t.

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    1. Kaufman and Arrowhead are on the northern edge of Raytown. It was all rural when I lived there. We lived by a small lake where Roger Maris often fished. Moved to SoCal in ‘59.

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  4. Claiming the 5th “player” from the team as a HOFer is stretching it a bit. Dick Williams did get into the HOF as a manager, not as a player. You will stump a lot of people if you ask them to name 5 from the team who made the HOF.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hodges should have made it the first time his name came up in the old timers committee. Not only was he the best 1st baseman of his era, he led the Mets to their first Championship. So he should have joined Pee Wee, Jackie, Duke and Campy in the hall. Williams did go in as a manager, so it is a stretch saying 5 players from the team made it as you stated. He was not a great player by any means. Newk is going into what they are calling the Dodger legends this summer. He will be joined by Fernando and Garvey. I do not know how many of you ever read The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn. It is an excellent read. He was a beat writer back then who covered the Dodgers for 2 years. There is a really iconic picture of them standing around the batting cage. He interviewed a bunch of the players for his book. One of those guys was Andy Pafko. Brooklyn had traded for Pafko in 51 during the pennant race. He was part of a 8 player trade with the Cubs, He came over with Johnny Schmitz, Wayne Terwilliger and Rube Walker, for Bruce Edwards, Gene Hermanski, Joe Hatten, and Eddie Miksis. He hit 18 HR’s in 84 games but hit only .249. He had 30 HR’s that year because he hit 12 with Chicago. The next year, he hit .289 and Had 19 homers in 150 games. He was 31 years old. He was traded in January of 1953 to the Braves, where he finished out his career, for Roy Hartsfield, and 50,000 dollars. Anyway, when Kahn came to interview him, Pafko, who was very humble said that he did not belong in a book with all those guys. Kahn was also the one who wrote a story on Duke Snider that got Duke in hot water with the Brooklyn fans. He was quoted as saying he was playing only for the money and not for the fans. It took a while for the fans to welcome him back in their good graces……

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  5. I used to drive through KC a lot when I was driving long haul. There were not many decent truck stops there for a while. Then in about 96 they built a really nice Petro there on I-70. Hated the smell around the stockyards though.

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      1. I know the feeling. Although I was born in LA, we moved around an awful lot when I was little. We moved to a ranch 40 miles outside of Elko Nevada when I was about 4. We lived there for about a year and a half. Great place for a kid because there were streams and a swimming hole on the ranch. My dad was the only hand and we lived in a little cabin that had dirt floors and no running water or electricity. So when it got dark, you usually just went to bed.

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  6. According to Joel Reuter’s Power Ranking at BR we currently rank 3rd, ahead of Houston. That’s new and it must be because A.J. Pollock is so good he makes us better than the Astros but ….. of course not as good as the Yankees and Red Sox. I don’t know. Maybe. My internal soft wired often wrong Who TF is Better Meter, I call it my Hoot The Fub Bet Meter, tells me if we played Houston in another 7 game series the result would be the same as the last time we did.

    But…Big But……we don’t need anybody else. As is where is we play again in October.

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  7. But this isn’t necessarily our final roster for October. AF may let the season play out and see where the dust settles by the trade deadline. The deals are cheaper then and he’s shown that he’s ready to go after very good players. Who knows by then Harper’s price will really have fallen!

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  8. You’re right Dennis he always does, but I’ve heard him say several times he doesn’t like making deals at the dead line because they’re to costly. A little bit of posturing?

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    1. Without a doubt he’s lying. Friedman loves dealing. He’s like a kid that gets bored so he has to tinker with his toy and change it up. For the most part he does good deals but I would love to have the Puig and Machado deals back though. The Darvish deal really didn’t hurt us bad because Calhoun hasn’t progressed like I thought he would.

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  9. Sorry Alex but Puig was a total pain in the but in the clubhouse and in his contract year could be a disaster if he felt he was not playing enough. Roberts was recently interviewed about Puig and you can read bw the lines that it was his time to go. And w Machado hindsight is 20-20 but it was a great move at the time. The only legit prospect we gave up was Diaz and I don’t think he’s a future star.

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    1. Diaz got invited to spring training with the O’s, so it would seem they disagree with you. He was the main piece, but Bannon showed a lot of power at Rancho, and Pop was considered to have a plus arm. But like any trade in which you trade prospects only time will tell. If 2 of those guys make it to the majors and have good careers, compared to what the Dodgers got over 3 months from Manny, it would be a push. Arenado signs for 26 million. Zack Duke signing with the Reds.

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    2. I’m not complaining about trading Puig I just think we could have traded him by himself for better value. I’m fine with the Dodgers moving in another direction but there are many teams who would take the risk of his personality for his power and arm in RF. If Jeter Downs blows up into a stud this year I’ll happily say I was wrong about it all.

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  10. I’m excited about Pollock I’ve alwys admired his game. Verdugo too. While I don’t think he’s got the best attitude and may be a little cocky Verdugo’s game reminds me of Andre Ethier. If he turns out to be as good as Ethier then we are in good shape.

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  11. Hopfuly the veterans like Freese can keep verdugo from doing anything dumb. Give AF credit he always keeps good veteran leaders on the team, to help the young guys learn how to play the game right, and be a professional.

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