On June 6th, 2009 Dodger Stadium, and the surrounding property, were given their own zip code, “90090,” and their own designation, “Dodgertown.” Quite befittingly, the Los Angeles Dodgers became the first team in Major League Baseball to receive such an honor.
While there are teams in Major League Baseball that have won more World Series and have put more players into the Baseball Hall of Fame, no team is more a part of Americana than the Dodgers.
The Dodgers franchise is responsible for the most important and significant event in American sports history, as well as one of the most crucial moments in America’s Civil Rights movement.
On April 14, 1947, Jackie Robinson took the field as a Brooklyn Dodger and shattered baseball’s color barrier. Robinson’s contributions to the game of baseball were so great that in 1997 his number 42 was retired by the league. During his playing career, Robinson won Rookie of Year, an MVP award, starred in six consecutive All-Star Games and played in six World Series, winning the 1955 title. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame in 1962.
A half century later, the team would continue to open up baseball to people of all races. In the mid 1990’s, the Dodgers would become the first team to start a Japanese, a Korean and a Taiwanese player. In 1998, the Dodgers became the first Major League franchise to open an office in Asia.
The western part of the United States has always offered great promise and opportunity. In the spirit of the American pioneers who traveled west, the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. Along with the Giants (who also moved from New York to California), the Dodgers became the first major league team to move out west.
The Dodgers’ franchise began in 1883 in Brooklyn, New York. The team went through a number of names before settling on the Dodgers which is short for “Trolley Dodgers”— a nickname given to the citizens of Brooklyn by New Yorkers (at the time they were two separate cities) because of the myriad of trolleys that crossed Brooklyn’s streets.
While in Brooklyn, the Dodgers had limited success until the arrival of Robinson and other African-American players in the late 1940’s. Before that, in the 1920’s, the team was known as the “Daffiness Boys” for their sloppy play. In the 1930’s, cartoonist Willard Mullin labeled the team as “Dem Bums.” The affectionate, but appropriate name was quite popular and was even used by the team.
The Dodgers of the late 40’s and mid-50’s had a formidable team with not only Robinson but greats like Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, and pitcher Don Newcombe. This group won pennant after pennant, but each time they found themselves losing to the New York Yankees in the World Series. This run of failure prompted the team to unofficially adopt the phrase, “Wait ’til next year!” The Dodgers’ “next year” finally came in 1955 when the team won their first World Series title.
In the 1960’s, the Dodgers won two more World Series thanks to a pitching staff that featured Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Koufax won an MVP Award and three Cy Young Awards during his decade long career. From 1961 to 1966, Koufax may have been the most dominating pitcher the game has ever seen.
From 1958 to 1996, the Dodgers had two managers. The first was the reserved and austere Walter Alston and the second was the ebullient Tommy Lasorda. During his 20 years with the team, Lasorda not only became synonymous with the Dodgers, but his affable personality made him an ambassador for baseball.
Steve Garvey (first base), Davey Lopes (second base), Bill Russell (shortstop), and Ron Cey (third base) comprised the Dodgers infield from 1973 to 1981. No infield in the history of Major League Baseball has ever been together longer. While this core, along with pitchers Don Sutton and Tommy John, were quite successful, a World Series title eluded them until 1981. That’s when a 20-year-old Mexican rookie joined the club. His name was Fernando Valenzuela.
Valenzuela, with his distinct delivery, his good-natured attitude and his devastating screwball, started a craze amongst baseball fans called Fernandomania. He certainly earned all the attention, becoming the only pitcher to ever win both the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award in the same season.
Later that decade, the Dodgers welcomed another pitching sensation,” the Bulldog,” Orel Hershiser. In 1988, Hershiser won 23 games and broke Drysdale's major league record by pitching 59 consecutive scoreless innings. He would eventually lead a depleted Dodgers team to the 1988 World Series title.
That was the same series in which a hobbled Kirk Gibson stepped up to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the ninth inning and hit a game-winning home run off Oakland Athletics reliever Dennis Eckersley. Gibson’s home run is noted as one of the most dramatic moments in World Series history.
From 1992 to 1996, as the team remained competitive, the Dodgers fielded five consecutive Rookies Of The Year in Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raúl Mondesí, Hideo Nomo, and Todd Hollandsworth.
In 2003, reliever Eric Gagné won the Cy Young Award thanks to saving all 55 of his save opportunities. During that same campaign Gagné posted a 1.20 ERA and struck out 137 batters in 82 1/3 innings.
After the 2007 season, the team hired former Yankees manager Joe Torre and then in 2008 acquired slugger Manny Ramirez at the trade deadline. With these two dominate figures leading the team, the Dodgers made the 2008 postseason and defeated the Chicago Cubs—the National League’s best regular season team. The Dodgers season would eventually end in the National League Championship Series when they fell to the eventual world champs, the Philadelphia Phillies, in five games.
The Dodgers play in the west division of the National League. Their main rival is the San Francisco Giants—the oldest in baseball— but they also have a fierce rivalry with the Yankees based on their numerous World Series meetings.
The franchise is also known for their venerated broadcasters Red Barber (Brooklyn) and Vin Scully (Los Angeles). Scully has been calling Dodgers game since 1950. In 1939, the Dodgers were part of the very first televised baseball game.
With their efforts to diversify baseball, their pioneering spirit to move out west, and their unwavering perseverance, the Dodgers, more than any other Major League team, best resembles the struggles and successes of the American people. It’s only fitting they were rewarded with their own zip code.