Memo to Dodgers fans: When I need a shot of blue nostalgia, I reach for my video tape titled "100 Years. A Visual History of the Dodgers." It was released in 1990, and narrated by who else but Vin Scully. It includes film from 1947 and Jackie Robinson’s debut. It includes 1955 and the only World Series Brooklyn ever won. It includes Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Fernandomania, and many great Dodgers teams. And it includes all the magic of 1988, the most exciting baseball year I’ve ever been party to, and the heroic feats of Orel Hershiser, Kirk Gibson and the entire Dodgers team of that most memorable season. And, of course, managers Walt Alston and Tommy LaSorda down through the L.A. years. I’ve owned this tape for 14 years, and it just gets better with age.
Story of the Week
He rushed for 13,259 yards in his NFL career, averaging 4.4 yards-per-carry and scoring 90 touchdowns on the ground. He caught 281 passes for another 2,137 yards and six more TD’s. There are certain players in sports worth the price of admission alone. Eric Dickerson was one of them.
You couldn’t help but notice the glide, the way his feet seemed to hydroplane over a football surface. Or the incredible acceleration that shot Dickerson through the slightest crack in the line. He was instant offense during his 11-year NFL career.
At 6’-3" and 220, the former SMU star was easy to spot. Off the field, he was charismatic, the man you’d notice in a crowded room. On the field, he looked like something out of Star Wars with those clear goggles, the face mask, and that protective neck collar. He always wore extra pads that added to his size. And his upright running style was an exclamation point.
He was the Rams’ first draft choice in 1983, and he didn’t disappoint, rushing for 1,808 yards and 20 touchdowns and catching 51 passes in his rookie season. 1984 was even more spectacular; he established a single season rushing record of 2,105 yards. Two years later, 1,821 yards on the ground, and his third rushing title in four years. His long-striding explosiveness helped him avoid tacklers as well as the bruising body punishment he openly disdained.
But a bitter contract dispute with the Rams in 1987 triggered a spectacular three-team 10-player deal that landed Eric in Indianapolis. He continued to crank out big yardage for the lowly Colts, but the controversial running back battled management there for five years. He spent his last two NFL seasons with the Raiders and Falcons respectively.
Eric Dickerson never played on a championship team. But his stats along with his six Pro Bowl appearances are testimony to his greatness as a running back. Per Ray Berry, Patriots’ head coach, in 1986, "Every time Dickerson gets the ball, you don’t breathe until he’s tackled. And considering how many times he gets the ball, it makes for a long afternoon for the defense." Dickerson caused defenses lots of long afternoons.
Last Week’s Trivia
Hal Smith hit one of the most important home runs in World Series history. The Pittsburgh catcher hit a three-run homer with two down in the bottom of the eighth inning of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. It gave the Pirates a two-run lead going into the ninth. But the Yankees tied the game in the top of the ninth. That set the stage for Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth that won the Series for Pittsburgh, and catapulted him to Cooperstown. Without Smith’s homer, the Pirates would have been toast. Mazeroski, a fine defensive second baseman but whose lifetime batting average was .260, doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame anyway, and he wouldn’t be there were it not for the crucial home run by Hal Smith, one that has been virtually overlooked or forgotten or both.
Trivia Question of the Week
What is the MLB record for consecutive outs registered by a pitcher, and who owns the record? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.