Ron Cey's Dodgers tenure may have taken longer than he would've liked to get started, but once he figured out how to power through a full season and store the stamina to dominate all year, he never looked back.
Cey and his '70s Dodgers brethren became equally relentless beginning in 1975, his age-27 season and the first year he made it through in LA without a second-half fade (he hit .203 with a .617 OPS in the second half of his rookie campaign in 1973, then lost 80 points off his OPS in the second half of '74).
By '75, he was off and running, powering up for a massive improvement in the second half and charting the course for a back half of the decade that would set him and his Dodgers teammates up as franchise cornerstones. He made the All-Star team, and deserved it, every season from 1974-1979, but hit another level as the team made breezing through the NL a routine.
Now, Cey's managed to chronicle his Dodgers legacy in the new autobiography Penguin Power, which stresses early on just how important it was for Los Angeles to maintain continuity by bringing '50s and '60s legends to Dodgertown annually in order to blur the lines between decades and maintain championship expectations. While Don Drysdale was initially dismissive of Cey, the portraits hanging on every wall and big names popping in and out of the dugout not-so-subtly kept everyone on task. Hopefully, Cey's writing serves as a similar reminder for an equally talented group of current Dodgers.
Dodgers star Ron Cey says Tommy Lasorda did NOT nickname him "The Penguin"
While Cey has made a living off his Penguin-like habits, he'd like to again rub it in Tommy Lasorda's face that the legendary manager was not the first to coin the nickname, even though Lasorda insisted otherwise. Instead, it was Cey's Washington State mentor Coach Chuck Brayton who first made the interspecies connection.
In addition to the thread of Los Angeles' nearly unmatched franchise legacy, Cey makes it clear that his early days in the organization were marked by a tough-to-replicate natural camaraderie with his draft classmates, first and foremost Bill Buckner. Buckner, selected one round ahead of Cey, passed away in 2019 of Lewy Body Dementia, a dreaded disease that robs a person of everything that once made them unique. Clearly still not over Buckner's Red Sox nightmare, Cey intoned emotionally, "When I hear the phrase, 'Life's not fair,' I think of Buck" before writing an earnest tribute to his lifelong friend.
The Dodgers of Cey's era were truly a family, as were the Dodgers who came before them. Families fight. Families jockey for position, internally. But, most of all, families care. Due to a cruel twist of fate, Cey experienced the October joy that his friend Buckner was unable to in 1981. But based on the way he writes about his draftmate, clearly some of the glory was residually passed between them.
Use our code above if you'd like to get your copy of Cey's book. As the Dodgers turn the keys over to a new generation at key positions, from Bobby Miller to Miguel Vargas, there's no better time to be reminded of the hard work it took to turn an incredible 1968 draft into an eventual championship core.