By: Jayden Ho
Fifty years ago, on June 23, 1973, the Dodgers suffered a loss to the Cincinnati Reds, scoring only 1-4. With only seven hits recorded, manager Walter Alston was determined to shake up his lineup before the nightcap of that fateful day. The answer, to his surprise, came in the form of utility infielder Steve Garvey.
It all started when Garvey was sitting at his locker. Alston approached him and posed the question, "Have you ever played first?" Garvey's experience as a first baseman was limited to a single time in Little League, another in triple A, and a few sporadic appearances in the early years of his major league career. Yet, instead of revealing the truth, he took a chance and answered affirmatively.
"Sure," Garvey had replied, a single word that would seal the fate of one of the most successful infields in Dodgers history. He joined Ron Cey, Bill Russell, and Davey Lopes that night, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The quartet dominated the Dodgers' infield for the next eight and a half years, earning a total of 21 All-Star Game appearances, four National League pennants, and a historic 1981 World Series title.
The infield of a baseball team can make or break a game. Comprising the first, second, and third basemen, and the shortstop, the infielders are responsible for catching and fielding balls hit between the three bases. The coordination, synergy, and skill of these players are instrumental in preventing the opposing team from scoring runs.
As Cey fondly notes, the infield is a significant piece of Dodgers history that's remembered even 50 years later. And this very history that was celebrated on Friday night before the Dodgers' game against the Houston Astros at the Dodger Stadium. The tribute included Garvey, Cey, and Russell - the three SoCal residents of the group - throwing out the first pitch and a pregame video homage.
Yet, more than the formal acknowledgments, the trio savored being together on the same field they'd called home for almost a decade. Russell likened their bond to family, reflecting on the importance of not taking their time together for granted. Their success, he believed, was the key to their long-standing unity.
Between them, their accolades were plentiful. Cey made six consecutive All-Star appearances from 1974 to 1979. Russell was featured in the Midsummer Classic thrice and Lopes achieved numerous awards, including a Gold Glove in 1978. And Garvey, thanks to his small fib, went on to become a four-time Gold Glove winner, an NL Most Valuable Player in 1974, and participated in eight consecutive All-Star Games through to 1981. Their collective efforts led the Dodgers to their first World Series victory in 16 years against the New York Yankees.
Reflecting on their achievements, Garvey spoke for the group when he said, "When you look at the accomplishments, the longevity, the contribution to the Dodger organization and baseball... all four of us have taken a lot of pride in it."