18 December 2013

the evolution of the shortstop - from reese to russell

only three positions left to address in these evolutionary posts - first, second, and short.  let's check the 6 in dodger history.

for me, dodger shortstops begin with…

pee wee reese (1941-42, 1946-56).  aside from the time he spent serving our country in world war ii, pee wee was a mainstay at short for the dodgers.  here's his 1954 bowman card
pee wee came over from the red sox organization in 1939, but only appeared in the majors as a dodger. during his time as the team's primary shortstop, he appeared in over 2000 games, scored over 1200 runs, had over 2000 hits, and reached base another 1100 or so times by walks.  he helped lead the team to 7 world series (all against the yankees), and hit .272 in 44 postseason games, the most by any dodger.  pee wee went with the team to los angeles, but shifted to third base in 1957, opening up the shortstop position for

charlie neal (1957)
i know that's neal's 1955 bowman card, but i hadn't shown it yet on the blog.  neal played shortstop in 100 games during the dodgers' final season in brooklyn.  he hit .270 with 12 homers, but was moved to second base when the team went west.  that means that neal replaced two dodger legends in the field in two consecutive years.  it also meant that the team had a new primary shortstop in los angeles...

don zimmer (1958-59)

yes, i know that's don zimmer's 1955 topps rookie card that i am using to mark the los angeles dodgers' first primary shortstop.  actually, pee wee reese was the first dodger to play shortstop in la, but zimmer replaced him in the team's second game and wound up playing in 114 games at the position in 1958.  the following year, zimmer appeared in 88 games (70 starts) at short so he gets the positional nod here over the other dodger to start 70 games at the position in '59, maury wills.

maury wills (1960-66)
how awesome is that 1962 bell brand maury wills card, by the way?  wills actually took over at short in june of 1959 and helped the dodgers get to the world series (and win) for the first time since 1955.  he manned the position for 7 and a half seasons before he was dealt away to the pirates.  during those years, wills earned an mvp award and led the league in steals six straight years.  he also set a record that will never be broken (unless the owners get really greedy and expand the season) by playing in 165 regular season games in 1962.  with wills traded to the pirates after the 1966 season, the door was opened for one of the players obtained in return to be the dodgers' shortstop

gene michael (1967)
although he only appeared in 83 games (66 starts) as the dodgers' shortstop in 1967, michael gets the nod over nate oliver, dick schofield, bob bailey, and tommy dean as the most used shortstop on the dodger roster in 1967.  he hit just .246 with 7 rbi, and his contract was purchased by the yankees after the season ended.  michael went on to be their primary shortstop for several years, while the dodgers went out and picked up someone else to fill the void.

zoilo versalles (1968)
i guess versalles had impressed the dodgers in the 1965 world series, as they traded bob miller, ron perranoski, and john roseboro to the twins to get him and mudcat grant.  unfortunately, versalles hit only .196 as the dodgers' everyday shortstop in 1968, and was taken by the san diego padres in the expansion draft after the season.  time for the dodgers to right the wrong that they had done a couple years earlier

maury wills (1969-1971)
yes, maurice morning wills returned to the fold by way of trade during the 1969 season.  an honorable mention goes out to ted sizemore, who started the season as the dodgers' shortstop, but moved to second base when wills was acquired, and wound up winning the nl rookie of the year.  wills was able to secure his spot as the team's primary shortstop in '69 by appearing in 104 games at the position, about 60 more than sizemore.  wills held on to the spot through the 1971 season in which he finished 6th in the league mvp voting.  while he was still with the dodgers in 1972, he was no longer the everyday shortstop, giving way to a converted outfielder...

bill russell (1972-1983)
ropes brought stability back to the shortstop position, holding on to the spot for 12 seasons.  he was named to three all-star teams during that run, and helped the dodgers win 4 pennants and 1 world series.  he was the shortstop of the team of my youth.  but, all good things must come to an end, and russell was eventually replaced as the everyday shortstop in 1984.  i'll get to that next time.

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