Dan's Dugout: Just 20 Brooklyn Dodgers Remain • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Just 20 Brooklyn Dodgers Remain

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The team is gone but the names will never be forgotten.

The Brooklyn Dodgers may have moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season but their memories linger.

So do 20 of their players, including Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Tommy Lasorda.

Tommy Lasorda is one of two former Brooklyn Dodgers in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Credit: Topps

Ironically, it was Lasorda who lost his roster spot when Branch Rickey, then the general manager, needed to keep the newly-sign Koufax on the roster under prevailing bonus baby rules.

Lasorda never won a game as a pitcher for the Dodgers but came back years later to prosper as a manager, battling umpires, opponents, writers, and often his own temper.

Koufax, a lefthanded pitcher signed out of Lafayette High, never spent a day in the minors.But he wasn’t successful in the majors until the team moved to the West Coast.

That was where a third-string catcher named Norm Sherry, later a major-league manager, told the soft-spoken but hard-throwing southpaw to ease up on his velocity. Koufax learned to harness control of both his fastball and curve, blossoming into an intimidating starter who threw four no-hitters and won three Cy Young awards.

Still strikingly handsome and humble at age 82, Koufax refuses to ride in the red carpet parade of Hall of Famers that caps the day before Induction Weekend in Cooperstown. Though other players revel in the adulation they receive from the pedestrians who line the sides of Main Street, the modest superstar does not endorse the close crowd contact.

Star southpaw Sandy Koufax never spent a day in the minors

Lasorda, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. He’s gregarious, outgoing, loud, and sometimes crude – everything Koufax is not.

In between are the other surviving Brooklyn players.

Carl Erskine, 91, is a class act who went from ballplayer to bank president in his native Indiana. He’s been known to play classical harmonica on baseball theme cruises.

Don Newcombe, another former pitcher, still works for the Los Angeles Dodgers, as does Lasorda, a good-will ambassador for both the team and the game.

Roger Craig, who left Brooklyn to pitch the first game for the expansion New York Mets in 1962, found much of his success in the majors as a pitching coach and manager, especially with the San Francisco Giants. He’s considered the father of the split-fingered fastball, a variation of the forkball that made ElRoy Face famous in Pittsburgh.

Blocked by Gil Hodges, Jim Gentile was a slugger in Baltimore

Jim Gentile, another living Brooklyn alum, never did much for Brooklyn but was a beast in Baltimore, where he once hit two grand-slams in the same game.

Bob Aspromonte, like Craig, was a high choice in the expansion draft that stocked the Mets and Houston Colt .45s (now Astros). The brother of Ken Aspromonte, also an infielder, Bob was the third baseman for the expansion club in ‘62.

Don Demeter was a decent player too, mostly for Philadelphia after leaving the Dodger employ. And Joe Pignatano, a backup Brooklyn catcher who became a coach for the Mets, carved a niche in baseball history by banging into a triple-play in his last at-bat.

Most of the other surviving Brooklyn ballplayers were mere footnotes to baseball history.

They are, in alphabetical order, Eddie Basinski, Tommy Brown, Chris Haughey, Randy Jackson, Fred Kipp, Joe Landrum, Glenn Mickens, Bobby Morgan, Ron Negray, Wayne Terwilliger, and Tim Thompson.

Today, memories of the Brooklyn Dodgers live on in the architecture of CitiField, since Mets owner Fred Wilpon once played on the same high school team with Sandy Koufax, and in the minor-league Brooklyn Cyclones, Class A farm club of the Mets. Koufax had to play first base in high school because Wilpon was the primary pitcher.

Many Brooklyn residents, angry their team left the borough, switched their allegiance to the Mets, which offered a haven to such former Dodger stars as Gil Hodges.

The Brooklyn Dodgers won multiple pennants but only one world championship, in 1955. But the borough of Brooklyn never gave them a victory parade — even after showering ticker-tape on Charles Lindbergh and Douglas MacArthur.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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