12 April 2010

len barker's 1984 dodger stadium fascination and the historical importance therof

as you know, i collect cards that feature photos of, or taken in, dodger stadium.  it really is a fantastic stadium, and it's pretty easy to spot on cards, especially cards of pitchers.  depending on the angle, you either get the low railing in the corners or the field level light bulb scoreboard or the bullpen fences, sometimes with the relievers and bullpen catchers sitting and watching the game.  such is the case of not one, but two 1984 len barker cards. 

his donruss
and fleer
cards feature almost identical photos, taken from slightly different angles.  one is either color corrected or was shot using a filter, but still, they are pretty insignificantly different.

now, barker joined the braves late in the 1983 season, coming over from cleveland in the deal that sent brett butler to the indians.  barker made just one road appearance for the braves after his arrival, and that was in, of course, dodger stadium.  the photos used on these cards come from his start on september 11, 1983.  the dodgers and braves were in a close race for the nl west crown, with tommy lasorda's crew leading the joe torre lead braves by 2 games in the standings. 

in a game that i watched on tv, rick honeycutt, the dodgers' starter gave up 5 runs in 3.2 innings, and the braves scored another off of pat zachry in the fourth (an inning which featured the third major league appearance of a rookie pitcher named orel hershiser).  barker held the dodgers to 3 runs in 5.1 innings and the braves' bullpen, with donnie moore throwing 2 perfect innings, maintained that 3-run lead going into the bottom of the 9th.  moore was back on the mound, and promptly gave up a pinch-hit walk to jose morales and a walk to steve sax.  torre brought in gene garber, who struck out bill russell but then gave up a single to dusty baker to load the bases.  pedro guerrero walked, bringing in a run, and then mike marshall doubled to drive in two and tie the game.  greg brock was walked intentionally to load the bases and set up a force at home.  rj reynolds was the batter.

reynolds was a rookie with 6 major league hits to his name, 3 of which had come in the previous day's game.  he had no extra base hits, walks or sacrifice hits in the 10 games in which he had played prior to facing garber that day.  on the second pitch, guerrero broke from third and reynolds bunted.  the squeeze was on!  garber had no play (although baseball reference indicates a putout p-1b, i don't remember it that way, and with guerrero being the winning run, i don't know why garber would have gone to first anyway) and guerrero scored to give the dodgers the win.  now with a 3 game lead in the division, the dodgers didn't look back, and won the west by that same margin over the braves.

[note - jon weisman at dodger thoughts (now at espn) tells the tale so much better than i can, so go take a look and feel the tension.]

so, while rj reynolds was the hero that day, it is these two cards of len barker that help remind me of my old living room, watching the game with my parents, his squeeze and the ensuing pandemonium at dodger stadium.

1 comment:

SingleDaddyof2 said...

Being a lifelong trueblue Dodgers fan/baseball card collector (and attending Dodger games since 1969), I also get a thrill when I see Dodger Stadium featured in a card. Nice article!

Andy