Book Review/Interview With J.P. Hoornstra (The 50 Greatest Dodgers Games of all Time)


Ever wonder what the top 50 Dodger games are? I am sure everyone has their own opinion about which games should or should not make the list. J.P. Hoornstra answered this question in his new book. I recently sat down (virtually) with J.P. Hoornstra to talk about the Dodgers and his new book titled “The 50 greatest Dodgers Games of all time”. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers for Insidesocal, the Los Angeles Daily News, and a number of other outlets.

(Purchase a copy of J.P.’s book here) The 50 Greatest Dodgers Games of all Time

Hoornstra’s book includes some of the most thrilling, dramatic and fascinating Dodger games ever played. J.P. rated them from 1-50, and you’ll be surprised at which games make the list and which games don’t. Hoornstra gives a unique twist on something that has yet to be done. What games would you rank in the top 50? J.P.’s insights are thoughtful and informative. You’ll be able to relive some of these amazing games through J.P.’s book. I interviewed Hoornstra to ask him about the book as well as peppering him with questions about the 2015 Dodgers. Hoornstra is not only extremely knowledgeable about the game, but an all-around great guy. I think you guys will really like this book, and I highly recommend you purchase a copy to add to your must read list.

What inspired you to write the book? How did you come up with the original idea?

Many folks have written about their favorite Dodger games, or have ranked the best games in some form, but no one had ever sat down and written a book about the 50 Greatest of All Time. It seemed overdue. This is the first of it’s kind.

How did you pull all of the data for the Dodger games in your book?

Short answer: Mostly the Internet and the Los Angeles Public Library downtown (which is a beautiful facility if you’ve never been). Long answer: since these are some of the best games in baseball history, all of them had been written about before. It was just a question of finding out where the games had been written about, and filling in the back stories of their participants. On a few occasions, it was necessary to consult with contemporary sources to fill in those blanks.

What is your impression of the 2015 club so far?

Well, it’s different. Not entirely bad-different, not entirely good-different. They have more depth and fewer superstars than we’ve seen the last few years. They rely quite a bit on home runs to score, so it’s a good thing they hit a lot of home runs. They are missing two-fifths of their projected rotation, and the story of the season might ultimately be that Ryu and McCarthy were the difference between a merely good season and something much bigger. But the trade deadline is coming up so you should probably ask me this question again in a month.

Why do you feel this is a must read for Dodgers fans?

Every Dodger fan has heard of these games, or been to them, or watched highlights of them on TV. You’re probably aware of most of these games somewhere in your consciousness, but there’s a more complete story to tell about each game than the bits and pieces you remember. Throw in a few amazing games you never knew about. When it’s all added up, you have a more complete picture of the games, and the players, and their places in history. (And maybe you can even argue with my rankings.)

What was your favorite game or games to write about?

The 19th century games required painstaking research — Census records, obscure books — but they painted a picture of a very different institution than the MLB we know today. So those were fun. The 26-inning game in 1920 was fun. The three-team War Bond game was fun. The Roy Campanella fundraiser game was fun. The first-ever televised game (in 1939) was fun. They were all fun to a degree, but the more obscure and random, the better.

Dodgerinsider recently wrote about the anniversary of that three-team war bond game played in 1944 between the Dodgers/Yankees/Giants all played on the same field. It was fascinating to me how and why this game came about. They were trying to raise money for WWII and got the clubs to play each other at the Polo Grounds. How logistically does it work? How it happened was just enthralling. Interesting sidenote, the Dodgers were on the train when they won, and then traveled to Philadelphia for a regular season game the next day. They Raised a lot of money for WWII, and it was a really great cause to write about.

What do you think the 2015 Dodgers need at the trade deadline and why?

They need all the Cardinals’ best players. … OK seriously, they have a couple in-house acquisitions en route in Hector Olivera and Brandon Beachy. The lineup might make more sense with Olivera in it; the rotation might be better with Beachy. The bullpen is pretty good as is, so long as they only need to throw 2-3 innings a night. I actually think this is an important month as far as that question is concerned, if only because Olivera and Beachy come with the potential to be impact players in September and October. Both of those guys will be important to Andrew Friedman’s calculus, and I haven’t seen either of them in a game. So it’s hard to say right now.

On the flip side, what were your least favorite games to write about?

All of the games were fun or interesting to write about; otherwise, how can they be fun or interesting to read about? I guess my least favorite were the games I felt *had* to be in there but didn’t end well for the Dodgers. For example: Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run against the Dodgers. It’s one of the greatest moments in baseball history, so it has to be in there, but the Dodgers (and the game) were sort of an accessory to the moment. Bobby Thomson‘s Shot Heard ‘Round The World is another amazing moment in an amazing game that the Dodgers lost. I actually think those two games are some of the best chapters in the book; I just don’t know how every hardcore Dodgers fan will react to their inclusion

How did you rate the importance of the games. Why was one game more important than another?

I looked at a lot of factors (drama, historical significance, significance within each season, the individual acts of greatness that took place in each game), threw the list together, tinkered here and there, and went with my gut in the end.

Do postseason games make your top 50? Why?

Of course! You think I could leave out Kirk Gibson‘s home run in 1988? C’mon

Do you think the 2015 club is better or worse than the 2014 Dodger club? Why or why not?

At the risk of giving a cop-out answer, it’s too soon to say. But think back to 2008. If you asked me this same question at the same point in the ’08 season, it would have been pre-Manny Ramirez and the answer would have been horribly inaccurate.

Were postseason games more important than regular season games?

Yes and no. I’ll admit there are some additional postseason games from 1981 and 1988 that could have made the book, but then the 50 chapters would have been rehashing many of the same storylines and characters over and over again. So I tried to balance the inherent drama of the postseason with some less-heralded games like the first televised game, Jackie Robinson‘s last appearance at Dodger Stadium, etc., which were great for reasons other than what happened on the field from innings 1-9.

What was your favorite era of Dodger Baseball to write about?

Every era had its characters, but I would love to be able to spend a full season with Leo Durocher.

Do you think the rally banana is sort of lame? (It kind of is) (whispers)

What’s funny to me about the Rally Banana is not the visual spectacle, or the hashtag, but about how many people actually care about it. Del Monte and Chiquita are sending him stuff!

Did you ever celebrate Uribe Wednesdays before he was traded?

“Uribe Wednesdays”?

(A day of celebration honoring all things Uribe coined by @Callingthegame)

After writing the book, did you learn anything new, or find out anything you didn’t know before about Dodger Baseball?

I learned a ton. One thing that was very relevant to my book: The Dodgers were a very good team in the late 1800s, then when the calendar flipped to the 20th century they were not very good for the better part of 40 years. The Golden Age of Dodger baseball has existed entirely within Vin Scully’s lifetime.

Do you think the Dodgers can defeat the Cardinals in the postseason this year? Why or why not?

I do, because as much as we like to ascribe a Unified Theory of Baseball to October, the postseason is often a crapshoot. You just never know what to expect until you get there. Brett Anderson could have a 60-inning scoreless streak at the end of September. Who knows. Then I’ll have to write another book.

You can purchase a copy of J.P.’s book here… The 50 Greatest Dodgers Games of all Time

This is truly one of a kind! The book is available as a download and should be readable in all phone/ebook platforms.

I hope to talk more with J.P. about the Dodgers again soon.

I’ll have to explain to J.P. what Uribe Wednesdays are. He’ll understand