Dodgers release historical tome of team history
Contributors include array of voices past and present
The Dodgers have been in existence for 122 years, dating back to 1890 when they were the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. A few years ago, it came to the attention of staff members in Los Angeles that were numerous books written by authors chronicling the team's rich history, but the organization itself had never written the official history of one of baseball's most revered franchises -- until now.As part of the 50th Anniversary of Dodger Stadium which will be celebrated throughout the 2012 season, the Dodgers have created an official illustrated history book entitled "Dodgers: From Coast to Coast -- The Official Visual History of the Dodgers" that can be purchased online at Dodgers.com for $40.
The book chronicles the colorful history of the Dodgers dating back to the team's roots in Brooklyn, and includes rare photographs and documents, unique memorabilia and never-before-seen photos. Highlights include the arrival of Jackie Robinson in 1947 and a first-person interview with him from a 1971 Sport Magazine luncheon, the story of the team's pioneering move to Los Angeles in 1958 and an intimate look at the Dodgers' six world championships and postseason glory. It also details how the Dodgers' historic baseball legacy merged with Hollywood, tells the story of Dodgers phenoms Sandy Koufax, Hideo Nomo and Fernando Valenzuela and profiles current rising stars Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp.
"Putting this book together was a fun challenge," said Dodger team historian Mark Langill, who compiled the book with the organization's publications director, Jorge Martin. "I wanted to show fans things that they hadn't seen before -- in terms of rare artifacts or even photos or stories they hadn't heard. I think that was the challenge because the Dodgers are such a famous franchise -- hopefully readers will find some surprises they haven't seen, not only from the Los Angeles years, but going back to the Brooklyn years as well."
Langill and Martin do not dissapoint. Not only is the 256-page book loaded up with hundreds of photos and rare pieces of Dodgers memorabilia cultivated from the team's vast archives, but also from a network of former players, fans and collectors, who were honored to contribute to the book.
"The key was trying to bring something to the table that would conjure up emotion," said Langill, who joined the Dodgers organization in 1994 after covering the team as a beat writer for the Pasadena Star News. "Whether you're a player, a collector or a fan in the stands -- there's a reason why you collected that stuff for all those years and preserved it so carefully. It means something to you and you want people to go back and have that feeling of nostalgia, have a feeling of pride, having a feeling that the memories they have are that important to be included in this."
The book begins with an introduction by Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully, who is beginning his 63rd season with the Dodgers, and a foreword by Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda. Its 256 pages feature original essays told by former Dodgers Ron Cey, Tommy Davis, Roy Gleason, Shawn Green, Eric Karros, Wally Moon, Wes Parker, Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia and Steve Yeager as well as Ann Meyers Drysdale.
It also includes never-before-published stories by renowned sportswriter Roger Kahn, Dodgers broadcaster Charley Steiner, Dodgers.com beat writer Ken Gurnick, Los Angeles Daily News columnist Tom Hoffarth and longtime baseball writer Ronald Schafer.
"That's the highlight of the book for me," said Martin. "Hearing from people like Moon, Davis, Green and Karros, telling the stories of when they were players. They tell it almost as well as the pictures themselves. Kahn's essay about what it was like going to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn as a kid, holding his dad's hand and what it was like back then."
"Getting that perspective today on things that happened more than 70 years ago. That's an incredible story. Gurnick on Dodgertown, Hoffarth about the infield of Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey, Schaefer on Brooklyn. Those are the stories that really make it special, that really make a great compliment to some of the amazing photos we have on display in the book."Scully said in the book's introduction: "In many ways, I've often thought that the franchise is somewhat a reflection of life itself ... The joys and heartache ... all of that has really helped me feel how important the organization has been to all of baseball, to all of the fans and, very much, to me. This book does a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the Dodgers." "I am so happy that this book will be available to Dodgers fans," Lasorda said. "It is an outstanding account of the history of the Dodgers and a piece of history that I am proud to be a part of. If you love the Dodgers, you will love this book." The two men who put the book together hope that the nearly two years they devoted to this project meets the espectations that Dodgers fans around the world would have for the official history of a team with a pedigree that ranks with the other elite historical franchises in baseball. "I hope people who read the stories and look at all the great photos and memorabilia, get from this book how special the Dodgers are in so many ways," said Martin. "They see the angst of the early years, the years of 'dem bums.' The heartache of losing all those World Series during the "Boys of Summer" years, winning it all in '55 and opening up Dodger Stadium in 1962. The home run quartet in '77, five rookies of the years in the 1990's and the championships in the 1960's and 1980's out here in Los Angeles. To get a taste of all that from the people who lived it and to get that feeling back. That's the priceless thing about this book." "I hope everyone enjoys it," said Langill. "It was an honor to work on it and it was an amazing experience to be able to have access to all the items, all the stories and the tremendous cooperation we got from everyone involved. I hope people see the book and know that the people who put it together feel very strongly about the organization; not only where it ranks in Los Angeles, but anyone around the world who has followed this franchise called Dodger Baseball for so long. It's a very special place and a very special team. Hopefully they enjoy the book." "Dodgers: From Coast to Coast -- The Official Visual History of the Dodgers" is published by Skybox Press/Abrams.
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @bennypmlb This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.