23 November 2012

len matuszek through the mail successes!

the dodgers have long had a history of employing some of the best pinch-hitters in the history of the game.  manny mota, of course.  also, vic davalillo, jose morales, lenny harris, and dave hansen (plus a dramatic pinch hitter, kirk gibson).  al oliver had still been a regular in the giants' and phillies' lineups in 1984, but the dodgers were hoping that he would be a potent left-handed bat off the bench when they acquired him prior to the 1985 season to be primarily a left-handed bat off the bench.  unfortunately, the dodgers were forced to use him as their regular left fielder to start the season despite the fact that oliver hadn't played there with any regularity since 1980.  after a dozen or so starts, oliver was moved back to the bench, but injuries, coupled with the inconsistencies of not playing every day led to struggles, and the dodgers wound up dealing him to toronto in july.  the guy they got in return had been the best pinch hitter in the national league in 1984, len matuszek.

matuszek signed some cards for me through the mail a couple of years ago.  here's his 1986 donruss card
and his 1986 topps card.
he must have shaved his mustache sometime in 1986 - here's his 1987 fleer card
and his 1987 topps card
i had to be careful back in 1987 - i recall almost discarding that topps card into my doubles pile when opening a pack because at a quick glance i thought it was greg brock's card, which i already had.

matuszek was just 2 for 17 as a pinch hitter for the dodgers in 1985, but he was also thrust into the left fielder's spot late in the season, and he hit much better when he was playing in the field.  he got only one official at bat in the 1985 nlcs, and it came as a pinch hitter in game 4 (he had been announced as a pinch hitter in game 3, but was called back to the dugout when the cardinals made a corresponding pitching change).  in his at bat, matuszek singled and later scored in the dodgers' 12-2 loss.  it was the only postseason at bat of his career, but not his final postseason appearance.  that came in game 5 of the series, when he was a defensive replacement in the bottom of the 9th inning.  with matuszek at first base, ozzie smith hit his one-out walk-off home run off of tom niedenfuer.  folks in saint louis went crazy.

meanwhile, al oliver was tearing it up for toronto in the alcs, including hitting a game winning pinch hit double to drive in two runs in game 4 against the royals.  oliver was done after the blue jays lost the series to the royals, but matuszek returned to the dodgers for the 1986 and 1987 seasons.  unfortunately, he never was able to duplicate the pinch hitting prowess he had shown with the phillies in 1984.

thanks for signing my cards len!

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