The Glove Club: Wes Parker
Wes Parker was a good hitter who was one of the best defensive first basemen in Dodgers history. Continue reading
This Week in 1960s Baseball
Koufax, who was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the 1963 World Series, allowed one run on six hits with eight strikeouts. For the Series, Koufax struck out 23 Yankee batters in 18 innings pitched.
In Game Four, Frank Howard led the Dodger offense with a home run and a single, the only two hits Whitey Ford gave up. The Dodgers scored the decisive run in the seventh inning when New York first baseman Joe Pepitone lost a thrown ball in white-shirted crowd. Junior Gilliam scored on the error.
This Week in 1960s Baseball
(May 31, 1965) For the first time in major league history, an all-switch-hitting infield started a big league game.
In the nightcap of a twin bill, the Los Angeles Dodgers lost to the visiting Cincinnati Reds, 6-1. The Dodgers’ starting infield was made up entirely of switch-hitters, with Wes Parker at first base, Jim Lefebvre at second, Maury Wills at shortstop and Jim Gilliam at third.
The Dodgers infield hit for a combined .154 for the game, with two hits in 13 official at-bats. Gilliam doubled in the first inning and Wills singled in the ninth. Parker drove in the Dodgers’ only run with a sacrifice fly off Reds’ starter Joey Jay (3-1) in the ninth inning, scoring catcher Jeff Torborg.
Jay pitched the complete game, giving up only three hits while striking out eight and walking no Dodgers.
Hitting stars for the Reds were catcher Jimmie Coker (a two-run double off Claude Osteen in the first inning), third baseman Deron Johnson (a pair of RBIs) and Frank Robinson, who hit a solo home run (his eighth of the season) off Osteen (3-6) in the fourth.
The 1965 season would be Robinson’s last in a Cincinnati uniform, despite finishing the year with a .296 batting average, 33 home runs and 113 RBIs. In 1966, he moved on to the Baltimore Orioles … and to the American League’s Triple Crown.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Jim Gilliam
Jim Gilliam was one of the pioneers of baseball’s move toward integration in the 1950s. He was the infielder who replaced Jackie Robinson at second base, was a prolific lead-off batter for Brooklyn’s championship teams, made the transition with the Dodgers to the West Coast, and was part of baseball’s only switch-hitting infield.
He played the game with grace and class. He created runs and collected outs with equal skill, and earned a level of respect among teammates and opponents for his knowledge of the game as well as his talent, a knowledge that served him well as a major league coach after his playing days.
Gilliam was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951, and spent his entire 14-year major league career with that team. A switch hitter with sting in his bat and speed on the base paths, Gilliam broke in with the Dodgers in 1953 and hit .278 with six home runs and 63 RBIs while scoring 125 runs and leading the National League with 17 triples – all good enough to earn him the NL Rookie of the Year award.
Over the next seven seasons, Gilliam was the prototypical lead-off hitter for a power-laden Dodger team. He averaged 101 runs per season, hitting .272 throughout the 1950s and averaging 24 doubles per season.
In the 1960s, Gilliam moved to third base and moved to the second hole in the batting order to make room for shortstop Maury Wills as the Dodgers’ lead-off batter. Gilliam was the ideal second hitter behind Wills just as he had excelled as the team’s lead-off hitter in Brooklyn. He was patient at the plate and rarely struck out, giving Wills ample opportunities to steal bases and advance on contact. Wills’ opportunity to break Ty Cobb‘s single-season stolen base record in 1962 owes much to Gilliam’s bat behind him, in much the same way that Mickey Mantle‘s presence in the New York Yankees’ 1961 batting order contributed mightily to Roger Maris and his opportunity to break Babe Ruth‘s home run record.
Gilliam hit .270 in 1962 and .282 in 1963, when he struck out only 28 times in 525 official at-bats. He finished sixth in the Most Valuable Player balloting that season.
Gilliam retired after the 1966 season with 1,889 hits and a career batting average of .265. He was named twice to the National League All-Star team.