1941 Dodger Pennant Winners

In 1941, Dodgers General Manager Larry MacPhail had a problem -- a team with short money and a big league roster with only about 15 real big league everyday players. Sound familiar? The situation was very familiar with what Ned Colletti faces today.

MacPhail had to find some bargain basement players to round out the roster. He collected a bunch of players who had seen better days with other teams and, improbably, the Dodgers won the National League pennant and but for Mickey famed passed ball, might have been world champs.

Big time pitcher Johnny Allen was brought in at age 35 with a tired arm. He got in 11 games. Big time pitcher Larry French came in. He was in half a dozen games. Lee Grissom was tried in 4 games, Van Mungo in 2. Fat Freddy Fitzsimmons at 39 pitched in a dozen games. 37 year old Curt Davis was better, taking the mound 28 times.

Outfielders Joe Vosmik and 38 year old Paul Waner, the great Pirate, hit only .196 and .171. 1930's good hitting catcher Babe Phelps hit .233.

MacPhail had the 'ole redhead, Red Barber in the radio booth and the Dodgers managed to lead the league in attendance, breaking the million mark.

Now in 2006, Colletti faces a similar situation. The Dodgers still draw over 3 million, even losing 91 games in 2005. Now, as then, the Dodgers have baseball's best announcer, Vin Scully who even worked with Barber as a kid.

The owners now as then are a little tight in the money department. While the 1941 team could spot 8 pretty good everyday starters (c-Mickey Owen, 1b-Dolph Camilli, 2B - Billy Herman, SS- Pee Wee Reese, 3B - Cookie Lavagetto, OF- Pete Reiser, Ducky Medwick and Dixie Walker), the 2005 have only sure regulars at catcher, second base and one or two outfield positions (if J.D.Drew is healthy).

The 1941 short budget team even looks like it had a deeper pitching staff than the 2006 Dodgers have on paper at this time.

MacPhail brought in low cost, big name players, most past their prime, most having left their best days in other uniforms.

Who might Ned Colletti bring in if he were to follow the same scenario?

The Dodgers in 1941 didn't have the farm system they were to have under Branch Rickey. It would be some years on before the farm and Rickey's courage would result in the famed Boys of Summer of the late 1940s and 50s.

While there was Dolph Camilli at first in 1941, the 2006 Dodgers are not so fortunate. Who is out there at a low cost? Would Raphael Palmiero, nearing 40 and 500 homers, steroid image and all, toil for the Dodgers for a paltry $2 million. If not, there are John Olerud, Doug Mientkiewicz, Travis Lee, Jeff Conine, Robert Fick out there -- all with some good years elsewhere, all who might hold the fort until James Loney arrives. That's about what a low budget team can look at.

In the 2006 currently thin outfield, there are recognizable big league names, albeit with fading or questioned talent. Might we see Carl Everett, Roger Cedeno, Ben Grieve, Todd Hollandsworth, Terrance Long, John Mabry or Michael Tucker in Dodgers Blue this year? More than likely we'll see one or more since the well stocked farm has its outfielders currently in or just out of A ball.

Whereas Larry MacPhail took flyers on Johnny Allen, Larry French, Lee Grissom, Van Mungo and Freddy Fitzsimmons on the mound, there are similar types for Colletti to consider this year -- starters Kirk Reuter, Shawn Estes, John Halama, Joe Mays and even redoubtable Jose Lima. Old bullpen hands willing to work for today's equivalent of peanuts (which is what the Dodgers currently appear to have) include: Antonio Alfonseca, Ricky Bottalico, Buddy Groom, ex-Dodgers Matt Herges, and if they can spring a few dollars more, Octavio Dotel.

There are affordable free agents like 1B-3B Wes Helms available but not with the pop he showed early on. Robby Alomar and Bret Boone have big names and diminished salary expectations. Miguel Cairo is always handy to have around. Jose Fernandez, who helped the Dodgers once, might be able to do it again.

While other teams without the apparent budget constraints of the Dodgers chase Jim Thome, Carlos Delgado and other big name, big ticket items, the Dodgers don't seem to have the same luxury.

We are likely to see a lot more of youngsters Willy Aybar, Jonathan Broxton, Edwin Jackson, Steve Schmoll and Jason Repko mixed in with bargain basement guys filling out the squad. Will Colletti and the Dodgers have luck of the 1941?

Logic surely says no, but stranger things have happened.

Given his druthers, advisor Tommy Lasorda would probably have the tried and true major leaguer players -- even if their best days are behind them and their motivation may be to amass another year in the generous big league pension plan.

Teams short of talent in their prime at every position (like the Yankees) seldom have to resort to the running game to manufacture runs. The Dodgers, under moneyball management, eschewed the bunt and stolen base.

And just as well as the Dodgers couldn't bunt or steal a base. But one thing young rookies breaking in can do better than oldtimers is run.

MacPhail had Leo Durocher as his manager in 1941 and while not a magician, he was a trickster, hustler, non-stop cheerleader -- not a lot different really than Tommy Lasorda.

Old names make fans feel good -- for a time. There is a difference between feeling good for a time and making a connection to playing winning baseball. It if was big names only, the Dodgers might feel tempted to bring back Kevin Brown.

The point of this epistle is this: with a $70 million capped big league player budget for Colletti to work with, what Dodgers fans are likely to get is something like the 1941 Dodgers -- a little of this, a lot of that, and a lot of fingers crossed.

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