it's been 36 years since jim gilliam passed away. he died on october 8, 1978 following a stroke he suffered in mid-september. he was, at the time of his death, the team's first base coach and hitting instructor, but he meant a lot more to the franchise than that. here's my 1954 bowman card of gilliam
gilliam had just come off his rookie season when this card was published - a season that saw him take over at second base for jackie robinson and the dodgers and win the 1953 rookie of the year award. gilliam went on to play for the dodgers through the 1966 season, winning four world series rings and playing in three other fall classics. he had actually retired as a player following the 1964 season to become a coach, but injuries led to the dodgers activating him in both 1965 and 1966. beginning in 1967, however, gilliam served the dodgers solely as a coach.
gilliam was known as a mentor to the infielders, including the likes of ted sizemore and, of course, steve garvey, ron cey, bill russell, and davey lopes. lopes held gilliam in high regard and delivered one of the eulogies at his funeral. then, in game 1 of the world series, lopes hit two home runs and as he circled the bases, he raised his fingers to the sky in tribute - perhaps the first time that the now commonplace salute was made.
here's a postcard from 1979 showing lopes at bat during the 1978 world series, wearing gilliam's number '19' in a memorial patch that the team added to the uniforms for the fall classic.
in large part because there weren't any world series highlight cards in the 1979 topps set, nor were any photos from the series used for any other cards that year. that meant i had to wait until the early 2000's to see the patch on an honest to goodness baseball card.
this 2002 upper deck sweet spot classics card of steve garvey
although it is paired on that version with a padres' jersey swatch.
in 2001, i got my first glimpse of the patch on a card, again thanks to upper deck. they inserted this don sutton all-star game salute relic card in the flagship release
a similar photo was used on this 2004 upper deck sp game used edition patch card of sutton
although that's clearly a patch from one of sutton's oakland a's jerseys.
i've also found a few photos from the series online that show the patch, including this pregame photo of garvey
that's the dodgers' reggie on whose uniform the patch is visible, which leads me to the card that represents gilliam's memorial patch in my binder. it's this 2007 upper deck sweet spot classic reggie smith card
gilliam passed away on the same day that the dodgers won the pennant, and the team retired his number 19 prior to game 1 of the world series. gilliam remains the only dodger to have his number retired without being enshrined in the hall of fame. he was just a few days shy of his 50th birthday when he died.