A day filled with appreciation for the past, the Dodgers are finally aware of the present and excited about a future that becomes more promising with each game. They say success, success, success.
There were plenty of history classes, but not the rigorous, academic kind. These were, in any case, remarkable and very meaningful stories.
Saturday morning was spent at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum listening to a fascinating talk by museum director and master storyteller Bob Kendrick.
From the exploits of Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell to the Negro League debuts of future Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Roy Campanella and Willie Mays, to the shocking segregation and second-class treatment of teams and their fans from 1920 to 1960, Kendrick emphasized. said that the story of the Negro Leagues “is not about adversity. It’s what they did to overcome that adversity.”
Clayton Kershaw was one of dozens of Dodgers players who turned out for the visit, along with manager Dave Roberts, coaches, members of the media and dozens of fans dressed in Dodgers gear so they could rub shoulders with their heroes. were soon engaged in Kendrick’s narration.
“A lot of the history of the Negro Leagues isn’t talked about, which I think is sad, but then it’s also really fun.” [the museum] it’s here,” Kershaw said. “I was grateful to learn a lot of that history because I knew almost nothing about it.”
The evening coincided with the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier and inducting late Negro Leagues legend Buck O’Neil’s Hall of Fame. The 1955 Dodgers wore the uniforms of Brooklyn and the Royals wore the 1945 uniforms of the Negro League power Kansas City Monarchs, for whom Robinson played before the Dodgers signed him.
Oh, then a game started, and it was a historical one. The Dodgers quickly throttled the Royals and went up 13-3 The victory, their 12th in a row, three shy of the franchise record of 15 set in 1924 when the team was called the Brooklyn Robins.
Mookie Betts led off the first inning with his 26th home run and the Dodgers scored five runs before an out was recorded. They scored on a Will Smith home run in the second, a Gavin Lux home run in the third and a Max Muncy home run in the fourth.
The season-high crowd of 29,689 at Kauffman Stadium was barely seated and the Royals were already, well, history.
The onslaught continued in the ninth as Joey Gallo and Cody Bellinger hit back-to-back blasts off position player Nicky Lopez, giving the Dodgers six in the game. Muncy had four of the Dodgers’ 16 hits, Betts had three and Smith and Lux had two each.
The Dodgers have scored eight or more runs in eight of their 12 straight wins. Is this the best offense in recent memory?
“As far as us winning games, from the start, the consistency of the leads, series one through nine, that’s as good as I’ve seen,” Roberts said.
The Dodgers were given a scare when injured starter Andrew Heaney was hit in the left bicep by Bobby Witt Jr.’s line drive. tied with one in the third inning. Heaney struck out the last two batters but was replaced by Caleb Ferguson to start the fourth after being diagnosed with a concussion.
“There wasn’t a lot of reason to keep him there,” Roberts said. “He was fighting to stay in, which is a good thing. I hope he will make his last start.”
Tyler Anderson (13-1) will start Sunday in the bottom of the series and the Dodgers are fully expected to extend the winning streak to 13, which the team accomplished in 1962 and 1965.
15 consecutive victories in 1924 provided another disappointing glimpse into the future. The last 10 wins were played in six days to make up for the postponed games. Two future Hall of Famers played key roles: Dazzy Vance pitched two perfect games and Zach Wheat hit .406 during the streak.
The Dodgers are within striking distance of that franchise record but the MLB-record 26 consecutive wins by the New York Giants in 1916 or the 22 consecutive by Cleveland in 2017 are far from achieved.
Pulling back the lens to see the entire season does nothing to diminish the Dodgers’ accomplishments. Their 79-33 record puts them on pace to finish 114-48, a .704 winning percentage. The record for wins in a season is 116, held by the Chicago Cubs in 1906 and the Seattle Mariners in 2001.
Since MLB went to a 162-game schedule in 1962, only three teams have finished with a winning percentage above .700: the aforementioned Mariners (.716), the 1998 New York Yankees (114-48; .704) and the Dodgers. 2020, who went 43-17 with a .717 hitting percentage in the pandemic-shortened season that ended with their World Series championship.
Because of the contested record, it’s unclear how many — if any — Negro League teams won at a comparable clip. For the Dodgers, however, the numbers backfired and the accomplishments described by Kendrick during the tour of the museum.
“These players knew full well that they were good enough to play in the big leagues, but they weren’t allowed to,” Kendrick told the Dodgers contingent. “Until you witness everything they had to endure, you will understand.”
For Kirsten Watson, the Black Dodgers’ SportsNet LA reporter and studio host, the visit to the museum confirmed a story that ran in her family, where her great-grandfather Frank Miller played on the first all-Black professional baseball team. was there A team photo of the Cuban Giants from 1885, and there was Miller, his name stitched on his shirt. Watson squealed with delight and got a high-five from Roberts.
A caption alongside the photo revealed that the term “Cuban” was meant to trick whites into believing they were Latin American players, and reduce the chances of the team being harassed. The team was formed in Philadelphia and hired to play as summer entertainment for guests at the Argyle Hotel on Long Island.
For Dodgers reliever Alex Vesia, the experience was interesting. “My favorite players growing up were David Price, CC Sabathia, guys who had a big impact on my life. It’s important to me to learn about these Black players that they looked up to.
For Price, a veteran Black quarterback who first visited the museum while playing for Team USA in 2005 and has returned many times since, he was happy to see his teammates share the pain that Black players don’t. Their hearts were happy.
“That’s why we go and why we come back, to expand our minds and learn about the past of what the Negro League boys went through,” he said.
And for Roberts, a history major at UCLA who is of Black and Japanese descent and the first minority to manage the Dodgers, the most compelling was “the spirit of the Negro Leagues.”
“In talking to Buck O’Neil and Hank Aaron, obviously there was no animosity,” Roberts said. “When you think of segregation, you think of anger and hostility, and these players endured that confusion, racism, segregation, but didn’t let it stop them from enjoying playing the game they love.”
The popular Field of Dreams game in Iowa will not take place next season because the stadium will be under construction. There is talk that it will be replaced by a move to the Negro Leagues, possibly with a game in Birmingham or Mobile, Ala. Roberts is all for it.
“We can’t develop this game and keep it with real content if we can’t appreciate the history of the game,” he said. “Talking about the Field of Dreams, the Negro Leagues and talking about Jackie Robinson and Buck O’Neill, it’s important that we continue to do that.”