Another Question Mark at Third Base?

With free agent third baseman Casey Blake asking for a three-year contract and possibly leaving the Dodgers, the cry is again on the land, "Who will play third base?" Brooklyn and Los Angeles aficionados have heard it for so often, it is almost a given that each year will bring a few more candidates.

The debate as to who will win the starting third base job in 2008, veteran Nomar Garciaparra or rookie Andy LaRoche, exploded in the club's face during spring training when Garciaparra was hit on the hand with a pitch and LaRoche injured just a couple innings later when a throw to third on a pickoff glanced off the runner and struck him on the hand.

Rookie Blake DeWitt stepped into the vacancy and played himself right onto the Dodgers opening day roster, switching later to second base when Jeff Kent was injured.

But a third base question mark has been a standard thing with the Dodgers since Fred Warner earned the spot over Charlie Jones in 1884. (Surely, you remember that?)

Thus it was in Brooklyn so came the virus West with the former-Bums in 1958 and infested first the Coliseum and then brand-new Dodger Stadium. No cure has apparently been found as of yet.

The problem has been perennial, with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles front office starting a new year by discussing who would be their third baseman. On two occasions, they used nine men at the hot corner (1995 and 2006) and six filled the slot at one time or another in 2008.

Only a couple times in Los Angeles would the problem be solved for any length of time.

Ron Cey staked his claim to the position for 11 years, earning the title of best all-around third baseman in over 100 years of franchise history. Then a young man from the Dominican Republic, Adrian Beltré, came along at 19 and was handed the position. Overall his bat was not quite as potent but he probably topped Cey with his glove.

The Dodgers suffered while the kid learned on the job from 1998 to 2003, and in 2004, just when he finally demonstrated that he had not only learned it, had mastered it -- home run champion with 48 (second L.A.), .334 average (sixth), 121 runs batted in (fourth), team record 376 total bases, a .629 slugging average (third), 80 extra-base hits (second), Silver Slugger winner and the sweetest glove West of Billy Cox, disappeared from the Los Angeles scene.

For some inexplicable reason, the Dodgers let him walk away (quoting FDR: "A date that will last in infamy") for reasons that are still completely unknown (and unforgivable) and the process started all over again.

Over the Dodgers 50 years in Los Angeles, they have opened the season with 27 different third basemen. Only Cey (1974-1982), Ken McMullin (1963-64 and 1973-74), Pedro Guerrero (1983, 1985, 1988) and Beltré (1998-04) have started seasons more than twice.

Brooklyn had the same problem. If you will, name the third best third baseman in Brooklyn history. Sure you got Billy Cox first and Cookie Lavagetto, then there was ... er ... well, you've got to be somewhat of a Dodger aficionado to even come up with another who played that spot, not withstanding the next in line for the Flatbush title.

Overall, counting all the third basemen who have donned a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform since 1958, the grand total comes out to be 144 players of assorted sizes, weight, color and talents. Goodness knows how many jostled for the job when the team was in Brooklyn.

And some of the names would surprise -- no -- shock you.

Among them, for example, outstanding first basemen Gil Hodges, Moose Skowron and Eddie Murray (imagine being the one to tell Murray: "Eddie, we want you to play first base today"?)

Catchers Johnny Roseboro, Jerry Grote, Alex Treviño, Carlos Hernandez, Henry Blanco and Paul Lo Duca. With Russell Martin joining the cast in 2008 by manning the position in 11 games.

Outfielders Tommy Davis, Manny Mota, Reggie Smith and Mike Marshall.

Hall of Fame shortstop Pee Wee Reese.

All-Stars Steve Sax, Maury Wills, Bill Russell and Paul Konerko.

One who started twice, 11 years apart, Ken McMullin 1963 and 1974,

A president, John Kennedy. Oh, wait, that wasn't JFK.

And (drum roll) Pedro Martinez. Well, this is a bit deceptive. Pedro didn't actually go onto the field. On September 20th, he was penciled in to start at third base but in the top of the first inning, before he even came out of the dugout, Dave Hansen pinch-hit for him so he could attempt set a new pinch-hitting record.

Hansen singled, his 18th hit of the year, and passed Mitch Webster who held the club record with 17 pinch-hits he had set just the season before. Pedro stayed in the dugout and smilingly wrote "third base" on his resumé.

You are invited to take a trip down memory lane. Check out the names listed below, starting with Dick Gray whose home run won the first Dodger game in the City of Angels in 1958, and the cast of hundreds who were in a Los Angeles box score with a 3b behind their names.

 The complete list:

 1. Dick Gray (1958-59)
 2. Earl Robinson (1958)
 3. Randy Jackson (1958)
 4. Jim Gilliam (1958-66)
 5. Pee Wee Reese (1958)
 6. Charlie Neal (1958)
 7. Gil Hodges (1958-60)
 8. Don Zimmer (1958-60; 1963)
 9. Jim Baxes (1959)
10. Bob Lillis (1960-61)
11. Tommy Davis (1960-61; 1963, 1966)
12. Charlie Smith ((1960)
13. Bob Aspromonte (1960-61)
14. John Roseboro (1960, 1965)
15. Daryl Spencer (1961-63)
16. Lee Walls (1962-63)
17. Andy Carey (1962)
18. Maury Wills (1963-64; 1966; 1970-72)
19. Ken McMullen (1963-64; 1973-75)
20. Marv Breeding (1963)
21. Bill Skowron (1963)
22. John Werhas (1964)
23. Dick Tracewski (1964-65)
24. Bart Shirley (1964)
25. Derrell Griffith (1964)
26. John Kennedy (1965-66)
27. Don LeJohn (1965)
28. Jim Lefebvre (1966-67, 1972)
29. Dick Schofield (1966-67)
30. Nate Oliver (1966)
31. Bob Bailey (1967-68)
32. Jim Hickman (1967)
33. Ron Hunt (1967)
34. Luis Alcaraz (1968)
35. Ken Boyer (1968)
36. Paul Popovich (1968)
39. John Miller (1969)
40. Bill Sudakis (1969)
41. Steve Garvey (1970-72)
42. Manny Mota (1970)
43. Bobby Valentine (1971-72)
44. Richie Allen, (1971)
45. Ron Cey (1972-82)
46. Bill Grabarkewitz (1969-1972)
47. Davey Lopes (1973)
48. Jerry Royster (1973-75)
49. Rick Auerbach (1974-76)
50. Lee Lacy (1974; 1976-78)
51. Ed Goodson (1976)
52. Ivan De Jesus (1976)
53. Ted Sizemore (1976)
54. Reggie Smith (1976)
55. Jerry Grote (1977-78)
56. Teddy Martinez (1977-79)
57. Derrel Thomas (1979-83)
58. Mickey Hatcher (1979-80; 1987-90)
59. Pedro Guerrero (1979, 1983-85; 1988)
60. Pepe Frias (1981)
61. Mike Marshall (1981)
62. Alex Taveras (1982-83)
63. Dave Anderson (1983-89; 1992)
64. Rafael Landestoy (1983-84)
65. German Rivera (1983-84)
66. Bob Bailor (1984-85)
67. Candy Maldonado (1984)
68. Bill Russell (1985-86)
69. Enos Cabell (1985-86)
70. Bill Madlock (1985-87)
71. Steve Sax (1985-87)
72. Len Matuszek (1985)
73. Craig Shipley (1986-87)
74. Jeff Hamilton (1986-91)
75. Tracy Woodson (1986-91)
76. Phil Garner (1987)
77. Alex Treviño (1987)
78. Mike Sharperson (1987-92
79. Lenny Harris (1989-93)
80. Eddie Murray (1989-91)
81. Dave Hansen (1990-96; 1999-02)
82. Carlos Hernandez (1991)
83. Mike Sharperson (1992-1993)
84. Dave Anderson (1992)
85. Pedro Martinez (1993)
86. Tim Wallach (1994-96)
87. Jeff Tredway (1994-95)
88. Cory Snyder (1994)
89. Mike Busch (1995-96)
90. Rick Parker (1995)
91. Gary Ingram (1995)
92. Dick Schofield (1995)
93. Eddie Pye (1995)
94. Juan Castro (1995-98)
95. Chad Fonville (1996)
96. Mike Blowers (1996)
97. Todd Zeile (1997-98)
98. Adrian Beltré (1998-04)
99. Chip Hale (1997)
100. Nelson Liriano (1997)
101. Paul Konerko (1997-98)
102. Tripp Cromer (1997; 1999)
103. Henry Blanco (1997)
104. Adiran Beltré (1998-04)
105. Bobby Bonilla (1998)
106. Trenidad Hubbard (1998)
107. Jose Vizcaino (1999-00)
108. Kevin Elster (2000)
109. Jeff Branson (2000)
110. Paul Lo Duca (2000)
111. Chris Donnels (2001)
112. Chris Hiatt (2001)
113. Hiram Bocachica (2001)
114. Jeff Branson (2001)
115. Jeff Reboulet (2001-02)
116. Tim Bogar (2001)
117. Tyler Houston (2002)
118. Jolbert Cabrera (2002-03)
119. Ron Coomer (2003)
120. Robin Ventura (2003-04)
121. Mike Kinkaid (2003)
122. Olmedo Saenz (2004-07)
123. Jose Flores (2004)
124. Mike Edwards (2005)
125. Oscar Robles (2005-06)
126. Antonio Perez (2005)
127. Jose Valentin (2005)
128. Willie Aybar (2005-06)
129. Norihiro Nakamura (2005)
130. Wilson Betemit (2006-07)
131. Cesar Izturis (2006)
132. Joel Guzman (2006)
133. Julio Lugo (2006)
134. Ramon Martinez (2006-07)
135. Bill Mueller (2006)
136. Andy LaRoche (2007-08)
137. Nomar Garciaparra (2007-08)
138. Tony Abreu (2007)
139. Wilson Valdez (2007)
140. Shea Hillenbran (2007)
141. Blake DeWitt (2008)
142. Russell Martin (2008)
143. Pedro Ozuna (2008)
144. Casey Blake (2008)

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