Remembering Jackie Robinson & The 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers

brooklyn

While I was never exceptionally familiar with the history of the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers, I couldn’t help but start digging into the history books a little during the past few seasons, when the modern-day Boys in Blue were sometimes compared to the exalted squad from more than 65 years ago.

Specifically, when all the smoke cleared on the 2017 season, the team finished with a 104-58 record, just one win shy of the 1953 Dodgers’ all-time record. Last year, the Dodgers broke the long-standing record after tallying a 106-56 mark.

Nevertheless, what was most 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 fifties were routinely referred to as the “Boys of Summer” by some, or more commonly, “Dem Bums” by 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. Surprisingly, the legendary Gil Hodges was not among them.

Outfielder Carl Furillo led the team in batting average, but he was still overshadowed by offensive juggernauts like Hodges, Duke 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 106 wins by the 2019 Dodgers is an organizational record which could conceivably stand for years, the team’s early exit from the playoffs is a bit reminiscent of the 1953 club, as they failed to go the distance in their quest for Brooklyn’s first World Championship.

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

He will never be forgotten.

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35 thoughts on “Remembering Jackie Robinson & The 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers

  1. I turned 5 during the 53 season, and games were not on like they are now. And at that point in time, I was not really into baseball. Swimming was my favorite activity then. In 55 the series was on TV and I watched a couple of games. But as I grew to love the game, I liked this team in blue. When they moved to LA, and I started collecting baseball cards and reading more about the game, I became intent to learn the history behind the players and the team. Vinny was a great teacher and since only a few of the boys of summer were still Dodgers I got an education almost every night on the radio. Duke was my favorite, probably because he was a lefty like me, and he was from Compton which was not all that far away. There also was at the time a series of novels in the school library, fictitious story’s about a Brooklyn Dodgers team in the 40’s. I wish I could remember the authors name and the titles of the books. I just found them on amazon. Author was John R. Tunis. The first one was titled, The Kid From Thompkinsville. They were fun books to read. I also read biography’s on Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Grover Cleveland Alexander. I have baseball cards of most of the 53 team, and I still think it is a travesty that Hodges is not in the hall.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I saw 2 of those guys play.

      I lived in Raytown Missouri until I was 10. I was a Kansas City As fan. Bob Cerv, Bill Tuttle, Whitey Herzog, Roger Maris (lived in Raytown, fished at the lake we lived on) Ralph Terry. I believe Ryne Duran was on that team too. Not a whole lot of memories remain, but the first game I ever went to was the A’s and the Yankees. 1958. Mantle, Cerv and McDougald all hit 2 home runs. Mantle stole a base. He immediately became my favorite player. We moved to Van Nuys later that year. I missed fishing every day and running around in the woods, but I soon fell in love with LA and the Dodgers.

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      1. One of the reasons I did not get into baseball until later was because in 1953, for most of the year we were living on a ranch outside of Elko, Nevada. About 40 miles from town. No electricity or running water. I bathed in the creek about 200 yards from the cabin we lived in. Dirt floor, 2 rooms and a wood burning stove and water by the pump. My dad was the only cowboy working there. There were about 60 head of cattle. Had a swimming hole about a mile away. First trout I ever caught in my life I caught in the horse trough. I opened the gate to let more water in and he went right into it. I closed the gate, grabbed him and beat his head against the side of the trough to make him dinner. I loved living there. We moved a year later to just outside Des Moines Iowa, where my dad was from. My mom and I left sometime in July and went to Minneapolis, where she was from. Lived on a farm there in Minnesota for a while, then came back to Cali, where I was born and lived there until I went in the Army at 17.

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      2. I remember when Duren was an Angel. He would warm up and intentionally throw the ball to the backstop. Since hit pitches hit close to 100 MPH, it would scare the hell out of the opponents. I also remember that we all thought that KC was a Yankee farm team because they always seemed to trade their best players to the Yanks. Including Mr Maris.

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    1. And Hodges in the 7 hole? Wow. You would think someone else would hit cleanup. But Robbie was a clutch hitter. May not have had the power of Duke campy or Gil, but he was a true clutch guy. You also notices that Gilliam had taken over Jackie’s normal 2nd base position. Billy Cox was still a part of that team, played 100 games and hit .291 with 10 dingers and 44 ribbies. Here is another little known fact. Robbie played a majority of his games that year in Left field. He played 74 there and 43 at 3rd. The rest of the positions he played less than 10 times. Another little fact, as a left fielder Robbie hit .358. Not bad for a part timer.

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  2. Along with other numerous gaffs over LA playoff and series career, carrying Rich Hill on the playoff roster last year has to be one. Hill was just coming off of the IL. Had not built his stamina up to anything near what it had been. And yet he was pitching in game 4. A pivotal game in the series since the Dodgers led, 2-1 at the time. Hill pitched 2.2 innings in what would be his only action in the series and turned the game over to the bullpen. Maeda kept DC at bay for 1.1, then Urias came in and the roof caved in. 3 runs in 2/3 of an inning and Baez gave up one, and now they are down 5-1. With Scherzer pitching well, they had little chance of overcoming that deficit.

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  3. I found a picture on my computer that had to be taken in 1961. Shows Snider in his Dodger uni, and Gil in his Mets uni at the old Polo Grounds. Cool picture. Duke hit 7 homers his final season 1964 when he was a member of the Giants. Little trivia, Snider was never traded, neither was Hodges. Duke was sold to the Mets for cash, and same when he went to the Giants. Gil was exposed to the expansion draft and Selected by the Mets. 6 players were chosen by the Mets and Colt 45’s. Much better name than Astros. Hodges, and Craig went to the Mets, Larker, Golden, Aspromonte and Turk Farrell went to Houston, Dodgers got 75,000 cash for Hodges, Aspromonte, and Craig. 50,000 each for Larker, Golden and Farrell.

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    1. Oh yeah, 1st player taken was Eddie Bressoud. He was an infielder with the Giants. Played 3rd mostly. Craig and Aspromonte went in the first 10 picks. Most of the players chosen were over the hill, young, or just plain journey men. Looking at the list it is interesting to see the ones that sometime later they ended up playing for the Dodgers at some point. Jim Hickman, Don Zimmer who returned for a year, Lee Walls, Chris Canizzaro, and Bob Miller. All were destined to play in LA later on.

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    1. Yesterday the Lakers weren’t ready to play. I wonder how long this is going to take. LA is reeling.

      I figure whatever deal is in place can happen any time now. I don’t think LA much gives a crap about this Super Bowl. I know I don’t. None of my friends here do. They might wait until next week though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They want baseball to be the focus, and usually after the super bowl it is with pitchers and catchers just around the corner.

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  4. Patrick Creighton seems to have good sources, he reports:

    Per sources: sticking point in #RedSox #Dodgers deal for Mookie Betts right now is how much of David Price’s deal (3/$96m) LA will absorb

    Boston wants LA to take all of it. Dodgers haggling, trying to get Boston to pay a part.

    They believe two sides will get it worked out.

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    1. I kinda figured if Price were to be included some of that would be absorbed. It fits with Boston sliding under the cap for ‘20, allowing them to spend saved tax penalty revenue on players in ‘21. They want to be players for Betts. Maybe even for Lindor.

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  5. Have them take back Pollock. That’s 15 mil right there. Add on either Kiki or Taylor and now Price is pitching for us at 15 mil a season and that’s reasonable

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rich. Pollock is making 18 million this year, not 15. And LA is not going to pick up that entire contract. No way. One thing a trade like that would do is lower the price as to prospects. No way they are getting more than one prime prospect including Price in a deal.

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  6. Totally off subject: Dennis/Andy, you had mentioned that you were planning to do some stuff to the site over the holidays. Did I totally miss the changes or have they been postponed or disbanded with?

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    1. Delayed indefinitely. I ran into some potential security/spam issues with the new server that I didn’t have the extra time to address. Maybe I’ll re-explore when classes finish this spring. I’ll keep you posted.

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      1. Thanks. I guess we’ll just have to have the Shlemming Victory Parade on the old version when we get Betts in the next few days. If, for some reason, AF doesn’t do anything would you please bring the site down for about a week as ST begins. My fragile ego wouldn’t be able to handle all the “I told you so” comments.

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  7. I’ll take the heat with you Jeff 😀 if we have to.
    I haven’t given up hope yet

    Not to sure How I feel about this Red Sox deal, but we never said we were going to like the acquisitions, we just predicted they were going to happen.

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  8. Don’t worry about your FRAGILE ego there Jefe. If this goes down, your hand will get tired giving us anti Schlemmings grief. But I am bit enough to take it. No problem. But I still do not like the fact that Betts is a rental.

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    1. An argument could be made that a 1 year rental, no matter who it is, is a big deal purchase only if it takes us to a level we have not achieved before. If we get Betts and don’t improve, say we only win 105 and do not win a championship, then…. suck lemons shlemmings.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lemon Schlemmings? Sounds like some sort of sick candy. Got a belly laugh this morning when I read what Rockies owner Monfort said. He said the Rocks will win 94 games this year. Something they have never done in their history by the way. His reasoning is that their core players are intact and they expect the pitching staff to be much better. Rocks have signed the fewest free agents so far.

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      2. You could make that argument Scoop and I could make the argument that if we don’t trade for anyone else and Nelson wins 1 game while we win the WS, he was the huge signing that the Shlemmings predicted.

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      3. Wait a minute, you’re claiming the miracle performance of a cheap pickup is a bold signing and therefore a victory for shlemmings? That’s a stretch, even by shlemming standards isn’t it? Since I have no idea the boundaries of shlemming convention, how would I know.

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      4. Actually I was inverting your “one year rental” argument Scoop. If you can claim that Mookie Betts, under any circumstances, doesn’t qualify as a big deal then I can turn it around. We Shlemmings are working very hard on this Betts deal and you have no right to take away our parade before the deal is even announced. Shame on you. Now, if we don’t get Mookie but then turn around and sign Brock Holt, you might have an argument (even though I like Holt).

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      5. I have no argument either way. Nelson winning a game in postseason is highly unlikely.

        Getting Mookie for one year I would consider a gutsy move depending on what he costs. It’s one year. In LA he might put up 6 WAR, which is really good. It would be fun having a guy like that added to an already stacked outfield. Would it put this team over the top? I doubt it. And who goes back? If it’s Ruiz and Verdugo I’m looking at possibly 25 controllable WAR going out the door. I don’t like that trade if Mookie leaves town.

        A rental, in my book, doesn’t qualify as a big deal. Extending him would. Trading for deGrom or Snell would. But like I said, I’m not a shlemming. I have no idea how low your bar is. You like the deal? Celebrate! Revel in the joy by doing….. whatever it is shlemmings do to let loose. Just keep the noise down after 8 pm ok?

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      6. Nelson win a game in the post season? I was talking about the regular season.
        And yah, we’ll keep it down after 8:00.

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  9. I am beginning to wonder what the Schlemmings are smokin! Cheech and Chong would be proud. I actually have a little more faith in Nelson. I think if he is healthy he will contribute a couple of wins at least. I also think that despite their mind set, the Schlemmings are becoming more and more desperate each day. Mookie or no Mookie, LA wins the west.

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  10. In case you are wondering, the new photo is my dad’s second ship, the USS Dewey. DD 349. A Farragut class destroyer launched in 1936. Dad was assigned to the Dewey after he got out of the hospital after being wounded when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

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