Some of L.A.'s finest have been at third
Fans can vote for favorite third baseman to join All-Time Roster
LOS ANGELES -- Crouching about 90 feet from home plate, a third baseman gets maybe one second to glove a ball when it's hit in his direction. This is third base, the infield hot spot, and not just anyone can play here.There is no daydreaming at third base. No mental checkout on the job. The position requires unwavering concentration for every pitch, extreme athleticism on every play and a lot of muscle memory. For 50 years many players have filled this post admirably for the Dodgers, but now it's time to pick the best. In conjunction with the Dodgers upcoming 50th anniversary in L.A., fans can vote for their favorite Los Angeles third baseman this month to join the All-Time Roster. There will be a chance to vote for additional positions in the upcoming months, and the final roster will be announced during the 2008 season. It's up to fans to decide who is the best third baseman in Los Angeles history, and it's a worthy list of players to choose from that includes the ultimate Dodger Jim Gilliam, the power-hitting Ron Cey, the ultra-athletic Pedro Guerrero and the defensive-wall Adrian Beltre. Below is a list of the four candidates and a brief summary of their playing days in Los Angeles. Jim Gilliam:
A speedy switch-hitter, Gilliam joined the Dodgers in 1953, on the heels of Jackie Robinson, and quickly proved he belonged in the Majors. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1953 after leading the league with 17 triples, knocking in a career-high 63 RBIs and scaring opposing pitchers into issuing 100 walks to a rookie. That same year he connected on switch-hit home runs in the World Series at a time when switch-hitting was uncommon. Not only did he have power from both sides of the plate, but Gilliam had speed too. He collected 203 stolen bases during his 14 years with the Dodgers and finished second in the NL in stolen bases in 1956, 1957, and 1959 behind only Willie Mays. During the Dodgers' first year out West, Gilliam led the club in almost every statistic there was to be had -- hits, doubles, steals, walks, and fielding. Even after retiring in 1964, Gilliam never left the Dodger blue or third base. He stayed on as a third-base coach for Los Angeles, and then, miraculously reappeared on the field during the '65 season to help the Dodgers claim the World Series. He resumed coaching the following year and helped the Dodgers to another World Series. He stayed on as a coach with the Dodgers until he passed away in '78. Ron Cey:
A power-hitting bulldozer, Cey held the Los Angeles home run record for more than two decades with 228 dingers. Known as the Penguin because of his boxy build and unusual run, Cey knocked out 20 or more home runs in 11 consecutive seasons, eight of those seasons with the Dodgers. Cey's big bat and reliable work at third earned him six consecutive trips to the All-Star Game during his 12-year career with the Dodgers. Cey also turned out to be invaluable to Los Angeles in the post season. Despite the Penguin being pegged in the head by Goose Gossage during the 1981 World Series, Cey's co-MVP series performance dug the Dodgers out of a two-game hole with four straight victories. Pedro Guerrero:
Named co-MVP along with Cey in the '81 World Series, Guerrero was on his way in while Cey was on his way out. Guerrero cranked out five RBIs to lock the final game of that World Series, but even more impressive was his performance over the next two years. The ultra athletic third baseman became the first Dodgers player to post 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases in '83 and again in '84. Guerrero piled on another impressive season in '85 by leading the National League in slugging, on-base and home run percentages and finishing the year third in MVP voting. It was the same year that Guerrero fell two shy of breaking Ted Williams' record of reaching base 16 consecutive times. Defensively, Guerrero was athletic enough to play almost any position and offensively he was even more valuable to the Dodgers. He finished six of his 10 seasons as a member of the Dodgers with a batting average of .300 or better. Adrian Beltre:
A defensive wall at third base, Beltre was a five-tool player who broke into the Majors at the age of 19. He posted a .951 fielding percentage during his seven years at third for the Dodgers. During his first full season with the Dodgers in '99, Beltre struggled defensively, though, committing 29 errors. But he emerged with 36 multi-hit games and finished the season strong, batting .302 in his last 17 games. His final year with the Dodgers in 2004 was his finest. Beltre led the Majors with 48 home runs and ranked among league leaders in batting average (.334), RBIs (121), hits (200) and slugging percentage (.629). Beltre had seven multi-home run games and his season total of 48 also tied him with the Major League record for most home runs hit by a third baseman. He finished the season and his career with the Dodgers by coming in third in MVP voting.
Becky Regan is an associate reporter at MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.