Newly digitized film shows Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella in spring training.

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson slides into a practice sliding pit during spring training in 1951. (Still image from historicdodgertown.com).

Full-color video of the 1951 Dodgers in spring training — including Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese and Roy Campanella — is now available online at historicdodgertown.com.

Highlights of the never-before-seen silent film show the training regimen of the Dodgers at Dodgertown. Included in the footage are Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and Duke Snider. Aerial footage showcases the baseball fields, while the barracks used to house nearly 600 major and minor league players are also shown.

The players are seen training on the site that still exists for multiple sports activities. Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947, takes swings at field two, slides in the sawdust-filled sliding pit and practices double plays with partner Reese at shortstop. Campanella is shown during batting practice at field two. Pitcher Don Newcombe is also shown doing calisthenics at Field No. 2.

The video was acquired by Gus Steiger, a sports writer for the Brooklyn Times, the New York Morning World, the New York Journal-American, and for more than 30 years the New York Daily Mirror. His granddaughter recently transferred the film to digital format.

“We are pleased to share this rare footage in tribute to longtime New York sportswriter Gus Steiger, who had this original film and passed it along to his son, Joel,” said Peter O’Malley, Historic Dodgertown chairman. “I knew Gus and he had the respect of everyone in the Dodger organization.”

Joel Steiger, featured in the film as a boy exploring Dodgertown, said, “The original film is edited to four and a half minutes. Our family is happy that it is available for Dodger fans everywhere. I was fortunate to travel to Dodgertown as a boy on several occasions and visit this historic place. I have many great memories of it and the people there.”

Daily Distractions: Masahiro Tanaka rumors are rife; Dodgers and Yankees are interested in Japanese pitcher.

Masahiro Tanaka

The Dodgers and Yankees have reportedly made the largest offers for free agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. (Getty Images)

Watching the courtship of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka must be like making progress toward a major scientific discovery. The closer you get to the breakthrough, the more clear the discovery becomes. You know you’re on the brink. It’s exciting.

There were two really good scouting reports published today, each a practical take on what kind of pitcher Tanaka might be in the United States. Dan Szymborski, writing for ESPN.com, concludes that “the biggest test for Tanaka will be the command on his fastball. … Tanaka doesn’t have (Yu) Darvish’s raw stuff, so he’ll need to go after hitters like Iwakuma has done. This may result in more home runs than he allowed in Japan — just six in 2013 — especially if he’s pitching in Yankee Stadium, but that’s the tradeoff that worked for so well for Iwakuma in 2013.”

That sentence should come with a caveat: Darvish’s raw stuff would probably rank among the top 10 in the world. Maybe top 5. Tanaka’s offspeed pitches are pretty good, too. According to BaseballAmerica.com, his splitter and slider would both fetch at least a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

So what’s all that worth on the open market?

According to Nikkan Sports, at least $100 million over six years, plus a $20 million posting fee to be paid to the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Nikkan also reported that the Dodgers and Yankees have made the largest offer so far. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti made the strongest statement by any interested GM on Friday: “We’ll play it for as long as we can play it until we know that we’re out.”

Remember, Tanaka doesn’t have to choose the team that offers the most money. There are other factors at play.

Some bullet points for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Clayton Kershaw joins an exclusive group of Dodgers All-Stars.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw became the fourth Dodgers pitcher to appear in three consecutive All-Star Games. (Associated Press)


Clayton Kershaw didn’t start the All-Star Game — Matt Harvey did — though he did join a different exclusive group Tuesday.

Kershaw became the fourth Dodgers pitcher ever to throw in three straight All-Star games. He fared better than the last Dodgers pitcher to do so; Eric Gagné gave up a solo home run in the 2002 game to Alfonso Soriano, allowed three runs in one inning the following year, and tossed a scoreless inning in his final All-Star appearance in 2004.

Fernando Valenzuela pitched two scoreless innings in the 1984 All-Star game, one scoreless inning in relief of Nolan Ryan the following year, then pitched three (!) scoreless innings in his final All-Star appearance in 1986.

Don Newcombe (1949-51) is the other. Like Gagné, his third and final All-Star appearance was the only one in which he didn’t allow a run.

Whit Wyatt, Ralph Branca and Sandy Koufax were all chosen to pitch in three straight All-Star Games or more, but for various reasons did not.

Of course, some were still focused on one Dodger who wasn’t in the game Tuesday.

The American League won the game, 3-0, and will have home-field advantage in the World Series. Mariano Rivera threw a scoreless inning, was named MVP and will be responsible for every baby born today in New York City named “Mariano,” “Mo” or, perhaps, “Sandman.”

Some bullet points for a Slovakian Independence Day:

Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Picking a new WBC favorite; Cactus League attendance down; Mike Piazza ads.

WBC logoI started toying with this mental exercise last night: What if the state of California had a team in the World Baseball Classic?

Forget about how many players would decline invitations. Forget about generational eligibility — if you were born in California, you’re eligible (which is fine, since I had a better chance of making Team Wisconsin anyways). What would that team look like? Could it contend?

The answer is yes.

C: John Jaso, Mariners/Rod Barajas, Diamondbacks
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
2B: Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
3B: Ty Wigginton, Cardinals
LF: Ryan Braun, Brewers
CF: Coco Crisp, A’s
RF: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
DH: Prince Fielder, Tigers
UT: Skip Schumaker, Dodgers

SP: Jered Weaver, Angels
SP: CC Sabathia, Yankees
SP: James Shields, Royals
SP: Cole Hamels, Phillies
SP: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
RP: Sergio Romo, Giants
RP: Brandon League, Dodgers
RP: Addison Reed, White Sox
RP: Dale Thayer, Padres
RP: J.P. Howell, Dodgers
RP: Bryan Shaw, Diamondbacks
RP: Kris Medlen, Braves

Manager: Dusty Baker, Reds
Hitting coach: Mark McGwire, Dodgers
Pitching coach: Chris Bosio, Cubs

Apologies to C.J. Wilson, Mark Trumbo, Michael Young, Will Venable, Brandon McCarthy, Kyle Lohse, Mike Moustakas and Carlos Quentin. Perhaps you can dig into your family tree and find another state to play for.

On to some bullet points:

Continue reading

A three-headed salute.

Jackie Robinson statue

What has three heads, six blue stirrups and always smiles?

Find out for yourself on April 15, when the Dodgers give away a Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella statue to the first 40,000 fans at that night’s game against the San Diego Padres. April 15, always a big day at Dodger Stadium, marks the 66th anniversary of Robinson breaking MLB’s color barrier.

It’s also a 2-star game under the Dodgers’ new tiered pricing plan. There are no bobblehead giveaways on 2- or 1-star games this season, so this might be as close as it gets.