As the Los Angeles Dodgers continue to roll through the 2012 MLB season, now sitting atop the NL West, Dodgers fans like me are talking about today's Dodgers superstars like Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Andre Ethier and the 22 other players who make up the team's active roster. While we look at these current superstars and the future of the team, I also like to look back and take a closer look at some of the Dodger greats of the past, whose contributions to the Dodgers and to baseball were enough to get them elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Here's a look three great (and maybe lesser known) Dodgers Hall of Famers:
Pitcher Burleigh Grimes played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1918-1926 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964 by the Veterans Committee. His nickname was "Ol' Stubblebeard" as he didn't shave on days he was schedule to pitch. He was already pitching in 1920 when the spitball was banned, but was exempted from the ban as a veteran pitcher. When he retired in 1934, Grimes was the last of the legal spitball pitchers. In his nine seasons with Brooklyn, Grimes won 158 games and lost 121, for a .566 win/loss percentage with a 3.46 ERA. His 19-year career total was 270 wins, 212 loses with a 3.53 ERA.
A player in the very early days of baseball, Zack Wheat played for all three of the Brooklyn teams, the Superbas, the Robins and the Dodgers. He ended his career in Philadelphia with the A's in 1927. He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1909-1926 and still holds the Dodgers franchise records for career hits, doubles, triples and total bases.
He had 200 hits three times and hit for more than .350 over three consecutive seasons. He also had 13 seasons where he batted better than .300, had a .317 career average and helped take the Dodgers to their first two World Series appearances, in both 1916 and again in 1920. In 18 years with the Dodgers, he had 2,884 hits, which included 476 doubles, 172 triples and 132 homers with 1,248 RBIs.
Wheat was a also apparently a nice guy and great teacher, in a quote on Wheat's Basbball Hall of Fame webpage, baseball legend Casey Stengel said of him: "One of the grandest guys ever to wear a baseball uniform, one of the greatest batting teachers I have seen, one of the truest pals a man ever had and one of the kindliest men God ever created." Wheat was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1959.
Dazzy Vance is probably the best known of the three Dodgers listed here, he was the dominant NL pitcher of the 1920s. Vance pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1922-1932, then returned briefly in 1935. In his 12 years with the Dodgers, Vance won 190 games and lost 131, with a 3.17 ERA. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955 by baseball writers.
Vance started late, he didn't play his first full MLB season until he was 31 years old. He came to the Dodgers in 1922 and mainly with his killer fastball, he won 187 games over the next 11 years. He was the 1924 MVP and scored a no-hitter in 1925. He led MLB in wins twice and in ERA three times and Dazzy Vance is still the only NL pitcher to score the most strikeouts in seven consecutive seasons.
Freddy Sherman grew up in Philadelphia, which didn't make being a Los Angeles Dodgers fan easy. He has lived in Los Angeles for twenty years, now able to follow the Dodgers openly and attends games frequently. You can follow him on Twitter -@thefredsherman.
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