30 January 2012

one year from their destiny - the 1978 topps dodgers in 1977 (part 1)

1977 was the year i first started following baseball and the dodgers in particular.  it was also the first year i opened a pack of baseball cards.  one pack was all i opened that year before spending all my allowance on packs of cards in 1978.

here's a look at what the 1978 topps dodgers were doing in 1977.  starting with johnnie b. baker.
with newly acquired rick monday in center, the dodgers moved dusty to left in 1977.  he wound up having a great year, with 30 home runs, 86 rbi, a .291 average and an ops of .876.  it took dusty all season to get to 30 homers, joining teammates steve garvey, ron cey, and reggie smith as the first foursome in history to each belt 30 in a season.  baker's 30th came on the last day of the season, and was one of 3 solo home runs the dodgers hit off of jr richard in the 6th inning.  glenn burke followed dusty's blast with one of his own (manny mota had homered earlier in the inning), and legend has it that burke gave dusty the first 'high-five' prior to his at bat. 

baker hit .357 in the nlcs against the phillies in the 1977 postseason.  he had 2 home runs and 8 rbi and was named mvp of the series.  in the world series against the yankees, baker he hit another homer and drove in 5 runs while hitting .292 in the dodgers' 6-game loss.

the penguin hit 30 home runs and drove in 110 in 1977.  both were career highs.
cey started the all-star game at third for the national league for the 3rd time in 4 years and finished 8th in the national league mvp voting.  in the midsummer classic, he was 0 for 2 with a walk and a strikeout, but he hit .308 when it counted - in the nlcs.  against the yankees, cey was just 4 for 21, but he did have a double and a home run to his credit in the series. cey also set a major league record for rbi's in the month of april with 29 in 1977.

terry forster pitched in the national league for the first time in his career in 1977
even though topps still had him as a member of the white sox, forster had been traded to the pirates in december of 1976 with goose gossage for richie zisk.  in pittsburgh, forster went 6-4 with a save and a 4.45 era.  he made 33 appearances, including 6 starts. the best thing about being in the nl was that forster got to bat again.  he had 27 plate appearances in 1977, and hit .346 with a double, a triple, and an rbi.  he struck out only 4 times and had a sacrifice for good measure.  after the season, he became a free agent and signed, of course, with the dodgers.

mike garman was another guy improperly depicted by topps in 1977.
he was acquired in january by the dodgers along with rick monday.  garman gave tommy lasorda another option in the bullpen, and he responded with 12 saves in 49 relief appearances.  he sported a nice 2.73 era, and had an even record of 4 wins and 4 losses.  garman made 2 scoreless appearances in each the nlcs and the world series.  in fact, he earned the save in game 3 of the nlcs - the 'black friday' game.

steve garvey swung for the fences in 1977.
that's what the back of his 1978 topps card says, and i believed it when i saw his stat line of 33/115/.297. tommy lasorda asked garvey to hit more home runs so he did, while sacrificing his average a bit. he got only 192 hits in 1977 and hit below .300 - both oddities in his stats as we look back on them today. had he reached each of those milestones in 1977, garvey would have had 7 straight seasons with at least 200 hits and 8 straight with an average of .300 or better. garvey repeated for the fourth season in a row as the national league's all-star game starter at first base and its gold glove recipient while finishing 6th in the league mvp voting for the second time in a row. in the postseason, garvey hit .308 in the nlcs (although he went without an extra base hit) and .375 in the world series, where he had an ops of 1.025 thanks to a double, triple and home run.

ed goodson played his final big league season in 1977.
he saw limited action at first and third over the course of the season, and made by far the majority of his appearances as a pinch hitter. overall, goodson hit just .167 with a homer and 5 rbi. that last home run of his career came in a june game against the braves in which goodson pinch hit for mike garman to lead off the top of the 9th inning with the scored tied at 2. charlie hough came in to replace goodson in the pitcher's spot and shut down atlanta to earn the save. goodson made two pinch-hit appearances in the postseason, one each in the nlcs and world series. in what would be his final at bat as a major leaguer, goodson struck out in game 6 of the fall classic against mike torrez. the dodgers released goodson during spring training in 1978, and although he signed with the indians shortly thereafter, he never again appeared in a big league game.

burt hooton turned his record around in 1977
he went from 11-15 in 1976 to 12-7 in 1977, and also lowered his era to 2.62 - down from 3.26 the previous year. he made 31 starts and also made an appearance in relief, recording a save in a july game against the padres. hooton threw a 4-hitter against the mets in may, allowing an unearned run while striking out 11 batters, and also had a 2-hit shutout against the astros in his second-to-last start of the season. in teh playoffs, hooton had just one start and was relieved after getting just 5 outs in game 3 (the 'black friday' game). his next start came in game 2 of the world series, and he pitched well - allowing one run while striking out 8 yankees and going the distance for the win. hooton also started game 6, giving up reggie jackson's first of three home runs in the game while being tagged with the series ending loss.

like hooton, charlie hough turned his record around in 1977
unfortunately, hough had a winning record in 1976. in '77, hough went 6-12 with a 3.32 era. he saved a career high 22 games for the blue, and even made his first big league start. it came towards the end of the season against the giants. hough went five innings for the win, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out 5. not too bad. in the postseason, hough appeared in one nlcs game and two world series contests. he allowed only 1 run in 5 innings of work against the yankees, but that run came as the third reggie's three home runs. you know, the one that went to deeeeeeeeeeeep centerfield? that one.

tommy john continued his incredible comeback in 1977
in only his second season back from surgery, john won 20 games for the first time in his career and threw 220.1 innings over 31 starts and wound up second in the nl cy young voting to steve carlton.  john had 11 complete games and 3 shutouts to his credit to go with his 2.78 era.  he had a stretch of four straight complete games in july and august, capped off with back-to-back shutouts - a 2-hitter against the reds and a 4-hitter against the braves. john had missed the dodgers' playoff run in 1974 due to his injury, so 1977 was the first time he appeared in the postseason.  he took advantage of the opportunity, starting 2 games in the nlcs and allowing only 1 unearned run in 13.2 innings pitched.  in the fall classic, john started game 3 at home but took the loss.

lee lacy split his playing time in 1977 between second base, left field, right field, and third base
as he put together a line of 6/21/.266 in 75 games and shared space on his card with a lurking ed goodson.  he had some success as a pinch-hitter, too, like his three-run home run off of tug mcgraw in the bottom of the 8th inning of a game in july which proved to be the game winner.  he was 1 for 1 in the nlcs as a pinch-hitter, and 1 for 2 with a rbi in the world series in that role, although he was also 2 for 5 with a ribby as a starter against the yankees.

tom lasorda has appeared in these evolutionary posts as a player, a coach, and now for the first time as a manager.
he took over for walter alston with just 4 games left in the 1976 season, as you will recall.  in the offseason, lasorda contacted each of the players and told them what he expected of them in 1977.  it turns out he got what he wanted, as the team won 98 games, 10 games ahead of the big red machine.  lasorda became one of the few managers to win a pennant in their first season, and was named the upi and ap manager of the year as a result.  for some reason, he was mic'd up in the world series, and his exchange with doug rau (including an appearance by davey lopes) is a classic lasorda recording.

davey lopes appeared on two cards in the 1977 set,
thanks to his league-leading 63 steals in 1976
although he didn't lead the league for a third straight year, lopes did steal 47 bases while upping both his batting average and on-base percentage by about 40 points to .283 and .372, respectively. he hit a then-career high 11 homers (4 lead off and 1 walk off) and scored 85 runs. in the postseason, lopes had 3 rbi against the phillies and 2 against the yankees, but stole only two bases and was caught the same number of times. he did come to the mound to try to squelch the argument between tommy and doug rau during the world series, and that counts for something.

part two coming tomorrow when i'll cover the rest of the big blue wrecking crew...

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