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08/16/08 11:30 PM ET
Dodgers celebrate the 90's
Club produced five NL Rookies of the Year during decade
By Michael Schwartz / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Saturday was considered a good day for the Dodgers, even before the players hit the field for batting practice. The Dodgers held their final 50th anniversary luncheon of the season, this one featuring players from the 1990s to cap the organization's celebration of each of the decades it has been in Los Angeles. The luncheon benefited the Dodgers Dream Foundation. The Dodgers' Women's Initiatives Network put on a clinic with Jeff Kent and former players before the luncheon, with Joe Torre, Don Mattingly, Matt Kemp and Russell Martin attending. The event benefited ThinkCure, the Dodgers' official charity, whose radio telethon to raise awareness and funds for cancer research has received $111,000 of donations as the start of the telethon on Friday. "Today was a wonderful doubleheader, and we haven't even had the ballgame yet," said chief marketing officer Charles Steinberg. "It's been one heck of a day, and we haven't even opened up the gates yet, but all of it is cast in the context this weekend of ThinkCure. It's been a festive day." Although the Dodgers did not win a playoff game in the '90s, they did have five straight National League Rookies of the Year from 1992-96 as Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo and Todd Hollandsworth all won the honor. But other commitments kept all of them away, although Karros -- on duty with FOX -- will be signing autographs in Autography Alley on Sunday and signed copies of Dodgers Magazine for all the fans in attendance at the luncheon. Steinberg had also hoped to get Chan Ho Park to make a surprise appearance, as Park starred for the Dodgers in the '90s before returning this season, but he was also unavailable. "Each decade had its positives and had its challenges, and the biggest challenge with the '90s [is] one, a lot of ballplayers are still playing," Steinberg said. "But the other challenge is not everybody's always available, so you had visions of having the five Rookies of the Year, but understandably in mid-August, they had other commitments in place they had to be." Todd Zeile highlighted a quintet of players who returned, along with manager Tommy Lasorda, a fixture at these reunions. Zeile was joined by Jim Gott, Billy Ashley, Matt Luke and Don Aase. Vin Scully drew a round of applause after making a guest appearance, during which he told the crowd his 59-year tenure as Dodgers announcer has made him feel as if he "were standing on a curb and watching a huge parade of talented players go by." Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon, the artist who made the most appearances in American Bandstand history, attended the event and later performed "Palisades Park" and "The Dodgers are the Heart of L.A" in center field before the game. Zeile said it was a "huge thrill" to play for his hometown Dodgers and said his only regret was not being able to spend more time in Los Angeles after signing a long-term contract there, before he was traded to the Marlins in the Piazza deal. Luke, who played for the Dodgers in 1998, also grew up as a Dodgers fan and said he feels "very fortunate to be part of this family." He called it a surreal moment and a dream for him when he played first base at Dodger Stadium just like his hero Steve Garvey used to do. Ashley returned to the event largely for his young girls, as his first daughter was born in 1997 during his last year in Los Angeles and second to last year in the Majors. "I think this is more for them, for them to see me see these guys, a little bit of the rich history that this organization's provided," Ashley said. "That's what it's all about." Cindy Murphy, a Dodgers fan for decades, has attended the last three reunion luncheons and has had a "blast" because they put fans on the same level as their heroes and allow them to interact with those former Dodgers. Steinberg said the reaction from the fans has been "overwhelmingly positive" because of how personal, intimate and accessible the luncheons have been. Saturday's luncheon was the last scheduled event, but Steinberg left open the possibility of putting on a massive celebration with all the Dodgers from the last 50 years if the team plays deep into October. "Wouldn't that be a great finale to a 50th anniversary?" Steinberg asked.
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.