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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Baseball

A quick history of the Dodgers and the World Series


Winner of three Cy Young Awards and an MVP, pitcher Clayton Kershaw has been one of the driving forces behind the Dodgers’ resurgence in recent years. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As Houston celebrates the Astros’ return to the World Series after a 12-year absence, they need to remember the team opposite of them is just as hungry. The Los Angeles Dodgers will be appearing in their first World Series since 1988.

For the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner and others, a World Series appearance has been expected of them since they donned the white and blue of the Dodgers. This is the franchise’s 22nd appearance in the World Series and 10th in Los Angeles, but getting there this season has been a long time coming.

When people think about the Dodgers, their first thought is most likely about Jackie Robinson. In 1947, Robinson broke the race barrier when the team was based in New York City and known as the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In New York, the Dodgers were crosstown rivals with the New York Yankees, and the two teams faced each other in the World Series 11 times.

But it was Robinson and catcher Roy Campanella who kept the Dodgers contending for a title nearly every year. The Yankees, led by Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle, often had the Dodgers number but were finally defeated by their crosstown rivals in 1955 — the first in the history of the franchise.

Both Campanella and Robinson retired when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, but the team still continued to win.

Moving west

In the late ’50s to mid ’60s, the team was led by pitcher Sandy Koufax. Koufax led the Dodgers to four World Series appearances and won three of them. Along the way, he collected three Cy Young Awards — the award given out to the best pitcher in baseball — and was twice named World Series MVP.

After that, there was a dry period from 1967 to 1973 when the Dodgers failed to make the playoffs. The team did make three appearances in the World Series from 1974 to 1978 but failed to win each time. The 1977 and 1978 World Series were again losses to the Yankees.

But in the 1980s, the team had a resurgence. Between 1981 and 1988, the Dodgers reached the National League Championship Series four times, advancing to the World Series in 1981 and 1988.

The 1981 team was led by pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, who as a rookie won the Cy Young Award and caused a period in Dodgers lore known as Fernandomania. That team beat the Yankees 4-2 to win the franchise’s fifth championship.

The 1988 team was led by outfielder Kirk Gibson, who was named MVP, and Oral Hershiser, who won the Cy Young Award. That year, they beat the Oakland Athletics 4-1 in the World Series.

The drought

The team suffered a dry period for two decades. From 1989 to 2007, the Dodgers made only four postseason appearances and never made it past the first round.

Things started to change in 2008 when Joe Torre came over from the Yankees to take over as manager. In his first season as manager, the Dodgers reached the NLCS for the first time since 1988. But in three seasons as manager, Torre still could not get the Dodgers to the World Series.

Following the 2010 season, Torre stepped down, and Don Mattingly took over as manager. The team struggled during his first two years, but the emergence of pitcher Clayton Kershaw quickly turned fortunes around. From 2011 to 2014, Kershaw won the Cy Young Award three times.

Turning it around

The Dodgers have won the National League West Division every year since 2013. Their success has been the result of Kershaw’s pitching, the signing of hitters Justin Turner, Chris Taylor and Chase Utley and the emergence of All-Star closer Kenley Jansen.

A Dodgers rookie has been named to the All-Star Game every year since 2014. Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger each made All-Star appearances, resulting in a lineup that can hit on anybody and a pithing staff that can shut down the other team.

Unfortunately, Mattingly faced the woes of those before him. His teams won 90-plus games over three straight seasons but could not get over the hump of getting to the World Series. In 2016, he was replaced by Dave Roberts, who did what no Dodgers manager had done in 29 years: get his team to the World Series. Roberts’ team did it in impressive fashion, too, winning 104 games — the second most in franchise history and the most ever in Los Angeles.

The 2017 World Series will feature two teams with young talent that can hit the ball out of the park. It will come down to which starting pitcher makes the least amount of mistakes.

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