From 1973 to 1981, the Los Angeles Dodgers played a majority of their games with a starting infield consisting of four players: Steve Garvey at first base, Davey Lopes at second, Ron Cey at third, and Bill Russell at shortstop. Beginning on June 23, 1973, and lasting until Game 6 of the 1981 World Series, the quartet set a record in Major League Baseball for the length of time the same four players were designated as starters at those positions—eight-and-a-half years.

Background

On June 13, 1973, the quartet of players, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey, and Bill Russell, played together for the first time as an infield,[1] Garvey having entered the game as a substitute in the fourth inning.[2] On June 23, against the Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium, they were the starting infield, and remained as such for a majority of Dodger games through the rest of the 1973 season, plus eight more seasons.[3] This longevity gave the quartet a record in Major League Baseball for the same four players designated as starters[a] for the four infield positions.[3][6] The identification of the best infield in the history of major league baseball is a perennial topic of discussion.[7] Most discussions focus on particular individual seasons, but the 1970s-era Dodgers players were the greatest as measured by their establishment of an objectively-measured accomplishment: the length of time they played together.[8]

The head scout for the Dodgers, Al Campanis, is credited with bringing the players to the team.[6] The group was put together by manager Walter Alston and third-base coach Tommy Lasorda and had been nurtured by coach Monty Basgall.[9] Garvey was the first baseman, Lopes played second base, while Russell played shortstop and Cey was at third base. Three of the players came to the Dodgers playing at different positions than the ones where they ended up. Initially, Russell and Lopes were both outfielders, while Garvey was a third baseman.[6] On Opening Day of the 1973 Dodgers season, Russell was the only one of the four to start.[5][10]

With the Dodgers, the four players went on to record a total of 21 All-Star Game appearances while capturing four National League pennants and one World Series championship.[11] Garvey was a four-time Gold Glove recipient, and Lopes received it once.[12]

The last game the four players played together was the Dodgers' victory over the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the 1981 World Series at Yankee Stadium.[13] The longevity of the group is attributed to each of the players playing at their peak, the winning record of the Dodgers, and the similarity in temperament and age of each of the men.[9] According to writer Gary Kelin, "free agency and the sport's evolving financial structure make it improbable that any group will equal its longevity."[9] They are still known among Dodger fans as "The Infield",[14] while W. R. Bill Schroeder, writing in the Baseball Research Journal in 1980, described them as the "Durable Dodger Infield".[11][15]

Aftermath

Garvey left for the San Diego Padres on a contract of $6.6 million over five years in the winter of 1983. He helped provide a veteran presence for the Padres in four full seasons, plus part of a fifth, with the team while also setting a record for most consecutive games played by a National League player in his first game back at Dodger Stadium.[16][failed verification] His streak, which had begun in September 1975, lasted until 1983 at 1,207 games, which was third-longest in MLB history at the time. Lopes was sent away by the Dodgers before the 1982 season started due to a trade to the Oakland Athletics that gave rookie Steve Sax the chance to start at second base. The same happen to Cey, who was traded by the Dodgers to the Chicago Cubs in 1983. Russell's career with the Dodgers ended in 1986, having played all 17 years with the team, with his games played being second-most in franchise history and the most since the franchise moved to Los Angeles; he joined the team as a coach in 1994 before being hired to manage them in 1996, where he led them to one playoff appearance in three years.

Notes

  1. ^ While the noted four player were "designated as starters" by the Dodgers, this was not a consecutive games streak for the players individually or as a group—for example, Russell only started half of the team's games during the 1975 season.[4] The quartet started a total of 810 regular-season games together, approximately 60% of Dodger games during the noted timespan.[5]

References

  1. ^ Shmelter, Richard J. (September 11, 2017). The Los Angeles Dodgers Encyclopedia. ISBN 9781476628264.
  2. ^ "Philadelphia Phillies 16, Los Angeles Dodgers 3". Retrosheet. June 13, 1973. Retrieved June 13, 2023.
  3. ^ a b "This Day In Dodgers History: Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey & Bill Russell Begin Streak As 'Longest Running Infield'". Dodger Blue.
  4. ^ "Bill Russell Stats". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 13, 2023.
  5. ^ a b Stephen, Eric (June 23, 2020). "On this date, the Dodgers' famed infield began their 8½-year run". truebluela.com.
  6. ^ a b c Jaffe, Jay (June 25, 2013). "Remembering the Longest Running Infield 40 years after the Dodgers quartet debuted". Sports Illustrated.
  7. ^ Schwartz, Yehuda (September 24, 2019). "Who has the best infield in all of baseball?". primetimesportstalk.com.
  8. ^ Schoenfield, David (September 24, 2019). "The best infield of all time? The answer may surprise you". ESPN.
  9. ^ a b c Klein, Gary (June 23, 2013). "Dodgers' infield of the 1970s had a lasting impact". LA Times.
  10. ^ "San Diego Padres 4, Los Angeles Dodgers 2". Retrosheet. April 6, 1973. Retrieved June 13, 2023.
  11. ^ a b Schroeder, W. R. Bill (1980). "The Durable Dodger Infield". Baseball Research Journal. pp. 34–37. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012 – via SABR.
  12. ^ Gold Glove Award Winners
  13. ^ McNeil, William (September 2000). The Dodgers Encyclopedia. ISBN 9781582613161.
  14. ^ Cervenka, Ron (April 17, 2020). "Just How Good Was 'The Infield?' … Very". thinkbluela.com.
  15. ^ "Index to SABR Publications". silo.tips. p. 357. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  16. ^ Heyman, John (May 15, 2008). "What a deal!". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on May 19, 2008. Retrieved June 26, 2011.

Further reading