Dodgers: Are We Witnessing Another Infield of Dreams?
On Friday, Wally Moon, the one time Dodger always remembered for his famous “Moonshots” at the Coliseum, passed away. I never saw him play, he was part of my father’s generation, but I remember listening to my dad tell stories about those bygone days, and he will forever be imprinted in my childhood memories.
I was a child of the 70s, growing up in Northern California where the only place to see my Dodgers was when they visited Candlestick Park, the decadent home of the hated Giants. When I feel the past calling to me, I find myself 10 years old again, sitting on the floor of my bedroom, sorting through colorful baseball cards, amassing the infield of dreams, Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey.
Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey comprised an infield that played together for the Dodgers from 1973 to 1981. During that time they made 4 World Series appearances, culminating with their only victory in 1981, cementing their place in the hearts of Dodgers fans.
First baseman Garvey was the most well-known of the group, endearing himself to fans everywhere with his NL record iron man streak of 1207 consecutive games played, a record that still stands today. Cey, “The Penguin”, ranks fifth in Dodgers franchise history with 228 home runs and gained national notoriety when he returned from a dangerous bean-ball to the head during the World Series in 1981. Russell was the glue of the group, playing a steady shortstop for the majority of his 18 years in the majors, all with the Dodgers. And then there was Davey Lopes.
Davey Lopes was a flash on the base-paths, leading the NL in stolen bases in both ’75 and ’76 with 77 and 63 steals respectively. His 418 steals with the Dodgers is second only to Maury Wills in franchise history, and he was the only Dodger to have a season of at least 20 home runs and 40 stolen bases until Matt Kemp equaled the feat in 2011. But after the group finally captured their only championship in 1981, Lopes found himself traded to the Oakland A’s in the off-season, and the purge continued quickly. Cey and Garvey were gone after the following season, and Russell finished his tenure in 1986.
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I am reminded of those glorious years with the news that Lopes has retired from his long and storied 45-year career in baseball. Lopes finished his playing days after the 1987 season with the Houston Astros and began coaching soon after. He coached or managed for six different major league teams, including a stint with the Dodgers between 2011-2015. Most recently he has worked as the first base coach for the Washington Nationals.
Although Lopes is leaving the game, his impact, and that of his teammates Garvey, Russell, and Cey, is one that may never be matched in Dodgers or major league history. It is rare to find a player that lasts 18 years with just one team as Russell did, and it is almost unheard of to imagine any group of four players sticking together as long as they did, but the Dodgers may be putting a group together to make us all stand up and take notice.
The Dodgers appear set with three superstars in the infield in first baseman Cody Bellinger, shortstop Corey Seager, and third baseman Justin Turner.
If Chris Taylor takes over at second base, The Dodgers could boast all-star quality players at each position for the next few years. Bellinger is under team control through the 2023 season, Seager and Taylor won’t be free agents until 2022, and Turner’s contract expires after 2020. Turner is the elder statesman of the group at a robust 33 years of age, Taylor is 27, Seager 23, and Bellinger is the youngest at 22.
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Even if the Dodgers re-sign Turner when his contract expires, it would be foolhardy to expect them to match or even come close to the remarkable nine years of Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey. But if they can bring home a World Series victory, that may be enough to put fans over the moon, imprinting their legacy in the memories of generations to come.