Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and let’s get right to No. 20 in our countdown.
The 25 greatest Dodgers, No. 20: Zack Wheat (11 first-place votes, 4,581 points)
Zack Wheat really ought to be much higher on this list. He played for the Dodgers from 1909-26 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1959. He is still the all-time Dodger leader in games played (2,322), hits (2,804), doubles (464), triples (171) and total bases (4,003). Of course, the fact there aren’t a lot of people alive who saw Wheat play probably hurt him in the voting.
Wheat’s best season might have been 1918, when he led the league with a .335 batting average. Or it might have been 1916, when he hit 32 doubles and 13 triples and led the league in slugging. Or it might have been 1922, when he hit .335 with 29 doubles, 12 triples, 16 homers and 112 RBIs. Or it might have been any number of other seasons. He finished with a .317 career batting average.
Wheat was once asked his secret for playing so well for so long. His answer: “I smoke as much as I want and chew tobacco a good deal of the time. I don't pay any attention to the rules for keeping in physical condition. I think they are a lot of bunk. The less you worry about the effect of tea and coffee on the lining of your stomach, the longer you will live and the happier you will be.”
Wheat died in Missouri on March 11, 1972. He was 83 years old.
Note: A reminder, 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 will be presenting the top 25 in points. We will be counting down Nos. 25 to 11, one each weekday, for the next three weeks. Then we will time the top 10 so No. 1 unveils on March 29, the day the season opens. There will be separate newsletters for any news that comes out of spring training.
Go see “Black Panther.” It’s really good.