06/18/2002 01:32 am ET
Sarah's Take: Eric Karros
Sarah Morris writes about her favorite Dodger
By Sarah Morris / Dodgers.Com
Being an Eric Karros fan has been difficult during his career because many
people enjoy criticizing the hard-working Los Angeles Dodger first baseman.
I do not understand the criticism of Karros, and please don't e-mail me to
explain it. I do not want to understand the criticism. I think every baseball
fan is entitled to have a favorite player, and Karros is mine.
To me, Eric Karros has continued the proud tradition of Dodger first basemen
that started with Gil Hodges. In Brooklyn, most people adored the large quiet
classy first baseman. Around the league, Hodges was admired for his offensive
and defensive abilities. Many people want Hodges inducted into the Baseball Hall
of Fame, but so far, he has been overlooked.
Wes Parker was also a popular first baseman. Because he was before my time, I
cannot expand on his accomplishments, but I know he was the last Dodger to have
a home run, triple, double, and single in the same game and he won a lot of Gold
Glove awards for fielding excellence.
Steve Garvey, an extremely popular Dodger to this day, was a part of the famous
long-time infield with Lopes, Russell, and Cey. Garvey is a polished man, and
his polish showed on the field. He was known for his ability to dig throws out
of the dirt, earning him four gold gloves. In 1974, his first full year at first
base, fans wrote his name on the All-Star ballot to elect him to the National
League All-Star Team, and he was MVP of the game. Also in that year, he was the
National League's Most Valuable Player. Garvey had a knack of coming up with the
key hit necessary to win the game. I believe most kids in the 1970s who were
Dodger fans said Garvey was their favorite player.
During the 1980s, the Dodgers had difficulty finding a suitable first baseman.
Greg Brock had done well in the Dodger minor league system, but he could not
make the necessary adjustments to be a good major league hitter. Mike Marshall
was a good hitter, but he was often injured. Franklin Stubbs never seemed to be
able to earn the full-time job. After the magical 1988 season, the Dodgers
traded for the future Hall of Famer, Eddie Murray. Though Murray did well while
wearing a Dodger uniform, it was obvious that Murray was a short-term solution
to the Dodger first base problem.
In September, 1991, the Dodgers promoted a young first baseman named Eric
Karros. Karros first appeared in a major league game as a pinch runner for Mike
Sharperson. Karros being used ever as a pinch runner is amazing because he
always has been a slow runner. During his September call-up, he had one hit in
fourteen at-bats. Many people, including me, believed that Karros would replace
the free agent Murray.
During the off-season in 1991, Karros, in hopes of improving his baseball
skills, went to Venezuela to play winter ball. However, he was cut from the
Did Karros sit home waiting for spring training to begin?
No. Karros drove from San Diego to Los Angeles three times a week to workout at
Dodger Stadium. This took dedication.
The Dodgers made Kal Daniels, an outfielder with bad knees, into a first
baseman. They traded for Todd Benzinger, a journeyman first baseman and an
outfielder. Thus, as spring training began, Karros was the third first baseman.
The likelihood of Karros making the team was slim.
Karros, a notoriously slow starter, had the spring training of his life, batting
over .400. Karros made the team, but he rusted on the bench until May. Karros
felt like he would be sent down to Albuquerque any time.
Kal Daniels was injured early in the season. Todd Benzinger was playing first
base. Karros was sitting and rarely pinch hitting. Against the Pittsburgh
Pirates, Karros was called upon to pinch hit with the game on the line. Karros
hit a game-winning three-run homer. The next day he was in the lineup to stay.
The Dodgers had a miserable team in 1992. Karros was the only Dodger who had any
power. Whereas no other Dodger had more than five homers, Karros had twenty. His
performance earned him the National League's Jackie Roosevelt Robinson Rookie of
Karros had a good 1993 season but was overshadowed by his buddy Mike Piazza.
Before the 1994 season, Karros finished his college degree in economics from
UCLA. Karros struggled in the 1994 season.
While baseball players were on strike, Karros worked hard to improve his skills.
I cannot name a harder worker than Karros. His dedication to the sport is
Unlike most Major Leaguers, Karros does not have much natural ability to make
him a good major leaguer, but his hard work has turned him into a good major
league first baseman. When he became a Los Angeles Dodger, he had difficulty
digging out low throws, but now he is superb at it. Throwing to second base is a
difficult play for any first baseman, especially for a right-handed one, but
Karros does it as well as any first baseman in the league. Though he is always
criticized for his lack of range, I don't see it. Unlike most first basemen,
Karros dives to catch line drives and grounders.
In 1995, Karros started a string of three years when he had thirty or more home
runs and 100 plus RBI.
Karros could not play for the first three weeks of the 1998 season after
undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery during spring training. When he returned to
the lineup, he limped. This proved to me how dedicated he was to baseball.
Playing in obvious pain, Karros never complained and changed his swing because
he could not generate power with poor painful knees.
In 1999, Eric Karros had his best year when he batted .304 with 34 home runs and
112 RBI. In 2000, he started the year off well, but he struggled after the
All-Star break. During the season, he became the greatest home run hitter in the
history of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Preparing for the 2001 season at home, Karros injured his back. Thinking that
the injury was minor, Karros failed to tell the Dodger medical staff until he
could not get out of the van at Vero Beach. This was a mistake. The injury
caused Karros to have his poorest season. He never made excuses for his poor
performance, so many people didn't understand he was playing in pain. Thus, they
began questioning if Karros was over the hill.
During this past off-season, Karros did much soul searching. Because he feels
like he should be the best player that he can, he tried an untraditional therapy
program aimed to strengthen his pelvic region. Spending two weeks in Vancouver
and missing Thanksgiving with his family, Karros worked with Alex McKechnie.
The untraditional therapy has done wonders for Karros. Though he has only six
home runs this year, his batting average was .300 entering Saturday's game. When
the Dodgers have men on base with two outs, they want Karros at-bat because he
has a .500 average in that situation.
I have always admired how Karros conducts himself in the media. He has been a
constant subject of trade rumors, but he has handled himself with class and
dignity. During his career, Karros has been outspoken in the media on some
controversial issues, but he rarely puts his foot in his mouth.
Karros has never been to an All-Star game in his career. To me, Karros deserved
to go in 1995 and 2000, but the managers didn't select the quiet first baseman
who does his job without much fanfare. I hope this year he will get his
Karros has been a loyal and productive Dodger. To me, he deserves more respect
than he gets. Maybe, this year he will get more.
Sarah Morris is the editor of Dodger
Place. She lives in Anderson, Texas.