Dodgers Dugout: The 25 greatest Dodgers of all time, No. 5: Don Drysdale
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and let’s get right to No. 5 in our countdown.
The 25 greatest Dodgers, No. 5: Don Drysdale (22 first-place votes, 35,463 points)
Don Drysdale teamed with Sandy Koufax during the 1960s to form one of the most dominating pitching duos in history.
In 1962, Drysdale won 25 games and the Cy Young Award. In 1965, he won 23 games and helped the Dodgers to their third World Series title in L.A. In 1968, he set a record with 58 consecutive scoreless innings, a record that was broken by Orel Hershiser in 1988.
Drysdale was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984 and had his number (53) retired by the Dodgers that same year.
Drysdale was also one of the last of the breed of pitchers who weren’t afraid to knock a batter down with a pitch to get his point across. His 154 hit batsmen is still the modern National League record. Or, as Mickey Mantle once put it, “I hated to bat against Drysdale. After he hit you he’d come around, look at the bruise on your arm and say, ‘Do you want me to sign it?’”
Drysdale himself talked about his rule for knocking down batters: “My own little rule was two for one. If one of my teammates got knocked down, then I knocked down two on the other team.”
A torn rotator cuff forced Drysdale to retire in 1969 at age 33. He became a broadcaster, including a stint with the Angels from 1973 to 1979 and again in 1981. He rejoined the Dodgers as a broadcaster in 1988 and remained with the team until his death in 1993.
Drysdale’s radio call of Kirk Gibson’s World Series homer in 1988 is truly one of the great calls of all time. You can listen to it here.
“Two out. The tying run aboard, the winning run at the plate, and Kirk Gibson standing at the plate. Eckersley working out of the stretch, here’s the three-two pitch … and a drive hit to right field (losing voice) WAY BACK! THIS BALL IS GONE! (followed by two minutes of crowd noise) This crowd will not stop! They can’t believe the ending! And this time, Mighty Casey did NOT strike out!”
On July 3, 1993, Drysdale was in Montreal for the Dodgers-Expos series when he died of a heart attack in his hotel room. People became concerned when he failed to show up for the bus ride to the stadium for that day’s game and hotel employees found him in his room. He was only 56.
Vin Scully was told of Drysdale’s death but couldn’t say anything about it on the air until Drysdale’s family could be notified. Once they were, he told Dodgers fans of the news, saying, “Never have I been asked to make an announcement that hurts me as much as this one. And I say it to you as best I can with a broken heart.”
Note: I received 8,382 ballots from newsletter readers who sent me their choices for the top 10 Dodgers of all time. Points were assigned based on ranking, with the first-place choice getting 12 points, second place getting 10, third place eight, down to one point for 10th place. After tabulating the ballots, I have been counting down the top 25 in points. I’ll get to No. 1 on March 29, the day the season opens. There will continue to be separate newsletters for any news that comes out of spring training.
Next up (on Thursday) is No. 4, which is quite the appropriate place for him to finish.
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.