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Richard Pennington (리처드 패닝턴)

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The Los Angeles Dodgers: 500 Fascinating Facts

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The Detroit Tigers book and this one were written in essentially the same time and place—2008 in Daegu, Korea. To be honest, I do not remember which one I began first. But I know I went back and forth. I was determined to finish both projects.

I rather enjoyed the point-counterpoint of the Tigers’ Ty Cobb and the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson. Both were born in Georgia, although Robinson grew up in southern California. Cobb, a European American, played center field from 1905 to 1926 in the American League, whereas Robinson, a black, was primarily a second baseman from 1947 to 1956. Both were superb batsmen, both could torment opposing pitchers on the base paths, and both were handy with their fists. Cobb spent six years as a manager, but Robinson never so much as coached a major league team—by no fault of his own. In Cobb’s long career, he did not play on a World Series winner; Robinson helped the Dodgers win it all in ’55. Cobb was given 74 years on this planet, compared to just 53 for Robinson. Both were military veterans; Cobb served in World War I, and Robinson was acquitted in a court martial in 1944 for his stout response to a European-American soldier who strove to maintain Jim Crow on an Army bus. Neither suffered fools gladly. Both were quite intelligent and articulate, although Robinson had more formal education than Cobb. There is no evidence that the two men ever met, but I have seen a photo of Cobb shaking hands warmly with Robby’s black teammate Don Newcombe, so it is quite possible that they did. I have a feeling they would have liked each other and had some interesting conversations.

This book contains some real nuggets, from the Dodgers’ days in Brooklyn and after they moved to the West Coast in 1958. Robinson is the transcendent figure in franchise history, but attention must also be paid to some of the other great players (Zack Wheat, Sandy Koufax and Mike Piazza, for example), managers (Wilbert Robinson, Walt Alston and Tommy Lasorda), fans (Hilda Chester), owners (Walter O’Malley) and announcers (Vin Scully). How about outfielder Len Koenecke? Cut from the team in 1935, he boarded a Detroit-to-Buffalo flight while intoxicated, insulted the stewardesses and tried to barge into the cockpit. He was beaten to death by the co-pilot with a fire extinguisher. Or how about the Dodgers playing at Memorial Coliseum their first four seasons in LA? That historic edifice was terribly suited for baseball. Who remembers the joint holdout of Koufax and Don Drysdale before the 1966 season? They claimed with straight faces that they might retire and pursue thespian glory in nearby Hollywood. Needless to say, they were back on the mound soon enough. And then there was Lasorda’s profane tirade when a sportswriter innocently asked about Dave Kingman hitting three home runs in the New York Mets’ 15-inning defeat of the Dodgers in 1978. The book’s final Q&A pertains to the ongoing divorce proceedings of owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie, replete with accusations of adulterous relationships and insubordination.