Valentines, Passings, and Winter Baseball
Happy Valentine’s Day! Pitchers and catchers may report this week, but that is far from the only baseball going on. Live action will be underway on the college mounds in less than two weeks! (And I’m talking about games that count–not exhibition!) So many showcases of top prospects have been taking place around SoCal, and the buzz is getting loud about some of these young players as they prepare for the season beginning this month. At the major league level, some of my Dodgers are already at Camelback Ranch; others will be reporting later this week.
That having been said, I’d like to post a tribute to three men who were not household names. Yet, all were all Brooklyn Dodgers, and within the span of less than a week, we lost these three former players. And while all three played for the Brooks, all three were very much Californians. So on this day in which valentine hearts are so prevalent, I post this information with a heavy heart.
First, Tony Malinosky passed away in Oxnard (Ventura County) last Tuesday at age 101. Malinosky played 35 games for Brooklyn in 1937, and on his life resume lists the following:
-Attended Whittier College and was a classmate of President Richard Nixon;
-Saw combat at the Battle of the Bulge with the U.S. Army;
in addition to two other impressive things: having played a brief stint in MLB, and being a centenarian.
Many will recall the NLDS game in October, 2009
between the Dodgers and Cardinals, at which Malinosky celebrated his
100th birthday along with a sold-out crowd at Dodger Stadium. Until his passing, Malinosky was the oldest living former major league player.
Next was Clifford Roland Dapper,
whose place in baseball history will forever be unique, although his story is pretty well-known. Dapper was a
PCL star before WWII, and like many ballplayers of his era, he served
our country overseas. But being traded for a Hall of Fame broadcaster was what
he will be remembered most for. In 1948, Dodgers GM Branch Rickey shipped Dapper
to the Atlanta Crackers for Ernie Harwell, who was replaced in the booth
a couple of years later by our own Vin Scully.
More recently, Dapper was a neighbor, and remained a long-time good
friend, of Duke Snider. Like the Duke, Dapper was a Los Angeles native
(Dapper graduated from Washington High) who retired away to the
backcountry of Fallbrook–the Avocado Capital of the world. In that picturesque setting, both former Dodgers owned groves of Haas and citrus
I was fortunate to meet Dapper a couple of times. He was an assistant
coach with Fallbrook High’s baseball team. (Some of you will remember I’ve
volunteered for several years at the annual Lions Tournament here in town.) Of
course, Dapper was the lesser known of these two ex-Bums in town–the
baseball field there is named “Duke Snider Field.” Dapper got a bit of attention last year when Ernie Harwell died, mentioned in most obits as
the “other guy.” Overall, Dapper maintained a low profile (he was not
exactly a household name) throughout his later years in life, but on occasion attended
events at the San Diego Hall of Champions. It’s my understanding that
he was last living at the Fallbrook Regency. He had celebrated his 90th
birthday just a little over a year ago.
Dapper passed away in Fallbrook last week at age 91.
Finally, Gino Cimoli passed away on Saturday at age 81 in the Bay Area of heart and kidney complications. He played a historic part in the Dodgers’ move to the West Coast in 1958, as the first major league batter to step to the plate in California. Ironically, it was against his hometown team. Cimoli, a native San Franciscan, hit leadoff for the Dodgers on Opening Day in 1958 for the Dodgers against the Giants at Seals Stadium. He struck out, and the Dodgers eventually lost that historic first game.
And it should be noted for the record that Cimoli finally lived long enough in San Francisco to see the Giants win one World Series there.
The outfielder, who was an All-Star in 1957, also played for the 1960 world champion Pirates over the course of a ten-year career that ended with the Angels in 1965. Cimoli had been traded to the Cardinals for Wally Moon later in 1958; Moon helped the Dodgers win their first world championship on the West Coast the following season. Cimoli went on to play for the Braves, Athletics and Orioles, but he will always be remembered as one of the original Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Dodgers were the team he broke in with.
The San Francisco Chronicle also noted that after retirement he worked as a driver for UPS. According to Wikipedia, “In 1990, the company honored Cimoli for completing 21 years of service without a traffic accident. Cimoli, then 60 years old and still working for them, was now referred to as ‘The Lou Gehrig of UPS.’ ”
Cimoli also shared a birthday with me, although he was 30 years older.
As they say, they go in threes. Rest in peace, Old Bums!
Congratulations to the Yacquis of Obregon, Mexico, who won the Caribbean Series on February 7, played in Puerto Rico this year. Several friends and I got together for a viewing party, catered by Rubio’s. The Caribbean Series routinely features some great baseball, and this year was no exception! The fact that it coincided with the Super Bowl allowed for real baseball action to be followed for those who simply don’t care about the Super hype. (I admit to having had some interest in the Super Bowl this year…although I’m not a fan of either team that played in it, SB XLV MVP Aaron Rodgers lives 10 miles away from me, as do a few other Packer players.) Still, the fact that not all eyes in this region were focused on the game going on in Dallas was good for my soul to see, because I will forever be a baseball chick in a football-saturated nation.
Besides the events posted about in my previous entry, some of the other sights around town over the last several weeks have been kids playing pick-up games on Ted Williams Field in San Diego, winter youth and high school baseball underway in neighborhoods throughout SoCal, and college practices as several heralded programs gear up for the new season in a bid to become the best in the nation.
FanFests and Caravans have their place. They are fun to engage and participate in, but they are not the same thing as watching live baseball action. I’m less about meeting the players, taking pictures and getting autographs than I am about the game itself! So, I anxiously search out baseball at various levels during the months between the end of the World Series and the beginning of the next season.
The Dodgertown Classic, which will be played at Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine on March 13, will feature the marquee game with crosstown rivals UCLA and USC facing off. The Bruins are coming off a phenomenal 2010 season in which they fell just short of their bid to win the school’s first-ever College World Series, yet lost in the finals to “another” USC–University of South Carolina. Meanwhile, the Trojans, traditionally a college baseball powerhouse, are trying to rebuild in 2011 after several seasons of mediocrity. This USC, of course, has won more CWS titles than any other team in the country. But UCLA, even without a baseball title, has more national championships overall than any other school in the nation. So, the pride of these two teams in the City of Angels will be on display at the home of the Dodgers, just one month away. The Dodgers fan base is pretty split between support for UCLA and USC, so it’s always fun when the two teams play each other in any sport. Collegiate sports success is unrivaled in any other city in the U.S. compared to Los Angeles with these schools’ winning traditions.
Perhaps all three teams will have great seasons, and there’ll be a lot of happy Angelenos.
The Chinese Lunar New Year will conclude with the full moon this Wednesday, as we usher in the Year of the Rabbit. I count many baseball fans among my Chinese friends–some Dodger fans, others Padre fans. The two-week long festivities also coincided with the Super Bowl, and the celebration ends with the always colorful Lantern Festival.
And speaking of rabbits, I am very much looking forward to this man’s return to the Dodgers as a coach. Davey Lopes was a rabbit on the basepaths for the 1970s-era Dodgers and held down second base as a member of the longest-running infield in MLB history, which was together from 1973-1981. The Dodgers of that eight-year period won four National League championship titles and one world championship. Lopes was the offensive catalyst who set the table for the power bats of Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Dusty Baker and Reggie Smith. Let’s see what he does with the maturing kids of the 2011 Dodgers.
Although it’s not yet official for the Dodgers, it’s no coincidence that Valentine’s Day often coincides with the day pitchers and catchers report to camp. What’s more romantic than baseball? This year, the official date for Los Dodgers is February 16, but one can always send their valentines late, right?
Never forget, though, that no matter how much red this holiday may bring out, LOVE IS BLUE, and may it eternally be so.
PEACE, LOVE AND DODGER BLUE IN 2011!