Dodgers Lose Some Old Friends

The Dodger Nation not only endured a sub-par season in 2005, they suffered a number of significant losses, including Hall of Fame catcher Al Lopez, all-star catcher Mickey Owen and Gene Mauch, who went on to manage in nearly 4,000 games. As a tribute to their collective accomplishments, here are the notable Dodger figures who passed away during the last 12 months.

Al Lopez died on Oct. 30 in Miami at age 97. The oldest living Hall of Fame member, Lopez played in Brooklyn for seven seasons (1928-1935) before going on to Cincinnati. He moved to Pittsburgh and on to Cleveland where he played for the final time in 1947. Lopez established himself as one of the game's best and most durable catchers. During a 19-year career that included two All-Star Game selections, Lopez caught 1,918 games, a Major League record that was eventually broken by Bob Boone and Carlton Fisk.
At Cleveland, Lopez won a then American League record 111 games in 1954 before losing to the New York Giants in the World Series. Five years later, Lopez guided the "Go-Go" Chicago White Sox to the American League pennant, the franchise's first since 1919, where they lost to the Dodgers. Lopez would complete his managerial career with a .581 winning percentage and over 1,400 career wins, helping him gain election to the Hall of Fame in 1977.

Gene Mauch died on Aug. 8 in Rancho Mirage, Calif., at age 79. Mauch played for Brooklyn in 1944 and 1948 but it was as a manager who worked nearly 4,000 games in the Major Leagues that he gained his fame. Mauch was highly regarded for his baseball intellect and was one of the first managers to master the use of the double switch in National League play. A three-time selection as NL Manager of the Year, Mauch compiled 1,901 Major League wins, placing him 16th on the all-time list.

Mickey Owen died on July 13 in Mt. Vernon, Mo., at age 89. Owen was a skilled defensive catcher who earned four All-Star Game nods during the World War II era. After debuting with the St. Louis Cardinals, Owen was later traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he became the team's No. 1 catcher. During the 1941 World Series, Remembered for dropping a third strike in the 1941 World Series against the New York Yankees, Owen's glovework failed at an inopportune time. With Brooklyn holding a one-run lead in the ninth of Game 4, Owen dropped what should have been a game-ending third strike to Tommy Henrich. Given a reprieve, Henrich reached base, setting the stage for a dramatic comeback. In 1946, Owen made headlines again by jumping the Major Leagues to join the Mexican League. The move resulted in a three-year ban from the Majors. After his playing days, Owen became a scout and formed one of the most successful baseball schools in the country.

Monty Basgall, who died September 22 at the age of 83, was the longtime Dodgers coach credited with mentoring the record-breaking infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey, died in Tucson, Ariz. He was 83. He signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1942 out of Pfeifer, Kansas. Basgall was a smooth-fielding second baseman with great hand-eye coordination and even greater instincts.
In December of 1947, the Dodgers sent Basgall to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a trade that made sense for everyone involved. The Dodgers had found their second baseman of the future in 1947 in Jackie Robinson, and Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey wanted to give Basgall a chance to play in the big leagues.
Basgall went on to spend three seasons with the Pirates, then managed in the team's Minor League system before returning to the Dodgers in 1959 as a scout. He was instrumental in signing Don Sutton, who went on to a Hall of Fame career and Bill Russell, who played more games at shortstop (1,747) than any player in the history of the Los Angeles franchise. Even though Basgall had a major hand in signing two of the all-time great Dodgers, it was his work as a Minor League instructor and Major League coach where the veteran baseball man made his biggest impact. Every Dodgers fan knows the team had a great infield for eight consecutive years (1974-81), with Steve Garvey at first base, Davey Lopes at second, Ron Cey at third and Russell at shortstop. It was Basgall who had the guiding hand in converting Lopes and Russell from center fielders to infielders. And it was Basgall who helped Garvey make the switch from third to first base.
Basgall went on to serve as a Major League coach for the Dodgers from 1973 through 1986, giving him nearly 50 years of involvement with the game he loved. Former Dodger General Manager Fred Claire wrote, "If you asked me to name those games that meant the most to me, high on my list would be sitting with my friend Monty Basgall, watching a game."

Eddie Miksis, who died August 8 at the age of 78, was one of a flock of teenagers who started their major league careers during World War II. He debuted with the Dodgers at age 17 in 1944 and then played from 1946 through 1951 in Brooklyn before and eight man trade with the Chicago Cubs brought Andy Pafko to the Dodgers.
In August, 1947, Miksis moved into the starting lineup at second base and Stan Rojek took over at shortstop after injuries to 2B Eddie Stanky and SS Pee Wee Reese sidelined them for a week. Miksis and Rojek put on a brilliant Rogers Hornsby and Honus Wagner impersonation during the time and kept the Dodgers in the pennant race. He also scored the winning run in the fourth game of the World Series with the Yankees. Pinch-hitter Cookie Lavagetto got the only Dodger hit with two out in the ninth and scored Al Gionfriddo and Miksis to erase a 2-1 NY lead.

Dick Dietz died on June 28 in Dillard, Ga., at age 63. A power-hitting catcher, Dietz played for the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers (in 1972), and Atlanta Braves from 1966 through 1973.

Don "Ducky" LeJohn, who died February 25 at the age of 70, made his only major league appearance with the Dodgers in 1965 and then managed in the Dodger minor league system for 19 years -- second only to Stan Wasiak, Over 2,467 games he won 1,241 times from 1967 to 1986.

Alfonso "Chico" Carrasquel died on May 26 in Caracas, Venezuela, at age 77. The slick-fielding Carrasquel was the first Latin-born player to appear in a Major League All-Star Game. An outstanding Dodger minor league player, he was sold to the Chicago White Sox and made his big league debut replacing Hall of Famer Luke Appling as the team's starting shortstop.

Bob Kennedy died on April 7 in Mesa, Ariz., at age 84. He played in the Dodgers final season in Brooklyn in the last year of a 16-year major league career that took him from the White Sox to the Indians, Baltimore and Detroit. A versatile talent who played, managed, and worked in the front office, Kennedy managed the Chicago Cubs in the mid-1960s and later became the first skipper in the history of the Oakland A's.

Mal Mallette, 83, pitched briefly for the Dodgers in 1950, working in two games and allowing no runs. He later became President of the Associated Press.

Birthdays

January 1 -- 2B Mike Metcalf (33), RHP Kevin Beirne (32). Deceased-- RHP Ned Garvin (1874-1908), OF Bernie Meyer (1888-1974), RHP Charlie Schmutz (1890-1962), OF Hack Miller (1894-1971).

January 2 --C Cliff Dapper (85), 3B Bill Madlock (55), RHP Greg Hydeman (53). Deceased-- RHP George Boehler (1892-1958), 3B Bobby Reis, (1909-1973)

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