Old-timers’ game much more than just an exhibition

The last time that the Dodgers hosted an old-timers’ game at Dodger Stadium was 1995 – the same year that Hideo Nomo made his major league debut and won the National League Rookie of the Year title. So as you might expect, the decision by Dodger President and CEO Stan Kasten to resurrect what was once an annual event was extremely well received not only by Dodger fans, but also by the many former Dodger (and Yankee) players themselves.

“I’m really excited to see the great Dodgers that made this franchise what it is and made it so special,” said Kasten. “It’s fantastic to have them here.”

Having been blessed to cover the pre-game activities prior to Saturday’s exhibition game from the field, I had an opportunity to speak briefly with several of the former Dodger greats participating in the event and asked them what it was like returning to Dodger Stadium and visiting with old friends and former teammates:

Bob Welch – RHP – 1978-1987: “You can’t say enough about the game of baseball. It has evolved into a whole new avenue now and just to be able to be a part of it in my life is special. And to be a part of it here in Los Angeles to start off, and a group who confronted me on my life, that really is the only reason why I’m alive today and it had nothing to do with the baseball game itself. (The Dodgers) offered a lot more than what was happening on the field.”

Bob Welch will always be remembered for his epic battle against Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson.

Bob Welch will always be remembered for striking out Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson in an epic 7-minute battle during the 1978 World Series. Welch was a 21-year-old rookie at the time.

Ken Landreaux – OF – 1981-1987: “It’s not old-timers, it’s alumni; we’ve got the alumni game going on. It’s fun to see all the guys we grew up playing against and getting back together with them and reminiscing about all of the good times. It’s just fun.”

Ken Landreaux talks with Hall of Famer Ricky Henderson.

Ken Landreaux talks with Hall of Famer Ricky Henderson.

Jerry Reuss – RHP – 1979-1987: “It’s all fun, it’s fun to get in the uniform and it’s fun to visit with guys that I played with, against or watched play. It’s a special time to come out here even though those days are gone. What’s missing is the competition and that feeling I used to get whenever I took mound. Those days are gone and it belongs to a whole new group of people. I did it a long time and I worked my ass off to do it so that I could play that long and I enjoyed ever minute.”

Known as a prankster during his playing days, Jerry Reuss is one of only seven L.A. Dodgers to throw a no-hitter.

Known as a prankster during his playing days, Jerry Reuss is one of only seven L.A. Dodgers to throw a no-hitter.

Sandy Koufax – LHP – 1955-1966: “It’s great.” (Sandy truly is a man of very few words).

Sandy Koufax took the time to sign autographs for several current Atlanta Braves players, including third baseman Chris Johnson.

Sandy Koufax took the time to sign autographs for several current Atlanta Braves players, including third baseman Chris Johnson.

Don Sutton – RHP – 1966-1980, 1988: “From my standpoint it’s nice to see some folks here who care about the history and the tradition and who are working hard to continue to help people remember Newcombe and Drysdale and Alston and Robinson and Campanella and others.”

Hall of Famer Don Sutton talks with Dodger President and CEO Stan Kasten prior to Saturday's Old-Timers' game.

Hall of Famer Don Sutton talks with Dodger President and CEO Stan Kasten prior to Saturday’s Old-Timers’ game.

As you might imaging, I took hundreds of photographs during the pre-game activities. Here are several of them:

Watching Fernando Valenzuela pitch in the Old-Timers' Game was surreal.

Watching Fernando Valenzuela pitch in the Old-Timers’ Game was surreal.

Brooklyn Dodger great Don Newcombe talks with Sweet Lou Johnson.

Brooklyn Dodger great Don Newcombe talks with Sweet Lou Johnson.

Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda and two-time NL Batting Champion Tommy Davis.

Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda and two-time NL Batting Champion Tommy Davis.

World Series Champions Mickey Hatcher, Manny Mota and Sweet Lou Johnson.

World Series Champions Mickey Hatcher, Manny Mota and Sweet Lou Johnson.

1963 World Series Champions Pete Richert, Maury Wills and Dick Tracewski.

1963 World Series Champions Pete Richert, Maury Wills and Dick Tracewski.

Longtime Dodger scout Mike Brito and Dodger slugger Pedro Guerrero.

Longtime Dodger scout Mike Brito and Dodger slugger Pedro Guerrero.

Hall of Famer Goose Gossage signs an autograph for a fan.

Hall of Famer Goose Gossage signs an autograph for a fan.

Yankee corner infield greats Graig Nettles and Don Mattingly.

Former Yankee corner infield greats Graig Nettles and Don Mattingly.

Steve Lyons kids with Darryl Strawberry during an interview.

Steve Lyons kids with Darryl Strawberry during an interview. 

Dwight "Doc" Gooden - one of the best right-handers of all time.

Dwight “Doc” Gooden – one of the best right-handers of all time.

 

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

12 Responses to “Old-timers’ game much more than just an exhibition”

  1. KSparkuhl says:

    What a flood of memories. I bet you had this one marked on your calendar a long time ago.

    Keep pinching yourself… it’s not a dream!

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      You’re not going to believe this, Kevin, but I was initially not scheduled for the press box on this date. It was an ad-on due to being bumped the night before due to the extremely heavy Korean media presence for the Ryu start.

      I must say that it was absolutely incredible to see me entire Dodger fan life right there in front of me. There were Dodger greats from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. It was also Twilight Zone-ish to see Fernando pitching. He looked great and it was as if I had been transported back in time to the early 80s. (He can still hit, too).

      I neglected to mention that I had an opportunity to speak in detail with one of my childhood favorite Dodgers – Ron Fairly. He recounted his 1963 World Series game-3 ending catch of Joe Pepitone’s deep drive to right field. The image of that catch is etched into my memory forever, having been at that game and seeing it live.

       photo RonFairly-1.jpg

      The Old-Timers’ event truly was a very memorable day and I hope that it once again becomes an annual event.

      • KSparkuhl says:

        Kasten said he plans to make the Old Timers Game a more permanent fixture because it honors the legacy of the ballclub. Loved seeing Fernando snag that line-drive off the bat of Ricky Henderson!

        I got a little teary-eyed after Lasorda introduced “the infield” and saw them take the field once again… in full uniform. Goosebump time.

  2. Truebluewill says:

    Ron, great article and pictures. This was truly special for me because it was the first Dodger Old-timers’ game that I ever watched. I’ve been to many Yankee and Met Old-timers’ games. Even one the Mets had in 1980 to honor the 25th anniversary of the ’55 World Champion Dodgers, but I was never able to see one run by the Dodgers. I have the internet to thank for that.

  3. OldBrooklynFan says:

    It sure was a pleasure to look at these guys, seeing how they look today and I have to say that I’m so happy they’re still around. It sure brought back a lot of memories.

  4. Bluenose Dodger says:

    Great photos and a head full of memories. There will never be another time like those, at least for me. Free agency and the changes in the game have just changed things so much. I am grateful to the 50’s through 80’s Dodgers for so many memories.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Powered by WordPress