Eric Karros was pretty much the perfect Dodger.
A local UCLA boy. Looks to make a schoolgirl swoon. Serious power in his bat. Never in trouble. Maybe the best hair in baseball — ever.
Karros played 12 successful years here and became the Los Angeles Dodgers’ all-time home run hitter. That’s right, it’s Karros. Not Mike Piazza; not Steve Garvey.
But when the Los Angeles Times recently asked online readers to name their 10 greatest Dodgers of all-time, more than 14,000 ballots were cast and Karros received … four votes.
“Wow,” ex-Dodger Orel Hershiser said. “Wow.”
“That’s amazing,” said Tim Wallach, a former Karros teammate and current Dodgers bench coach.
Hey, Los Angeles, where is the love? All Karros did was end his career third on the franchise list with 270 home runs — behind only Duke Snider (389) and Gil Hodges (361) — fifth with 582 extra-base hits and sixth with 976 runs batted in.
Karros appeared nonplussed when told of the result. Took it completely in stride. Even made a little jab at himself.
“The four people who voted for me got it wrong,” he said. “I’d be the first to tell you I wouldn’t be in a top-20 list of Dodgers.”
Whether he deserves to be part of the top 20 is certainly debatable. A lot of accomplished players did not make the impressive list, including Piazza, Ron Cey, Johnny Podres, Willie Davis, Dazzy Vance, Bill Russell and Zack Wheat.
But just four measly votes? It’s not like Karros has disappeared. He’s a baseball analyst for Fox and has been on the air for some network or local TV station since he retired in 2004. He still lives in Los Angeles, yet stadium organist Nancy Bea Hefley probably gets more love.
Karros said he’s always greeted warmly by fans at the stadium, at the airport, anywhere in the Los Angeles area.
“I’ve always felt very appreciated by the fans in L.A.,” he said. “I couldn’t have had a better experience as far as my relationship here with everybody. I make my home in L.A. I love it.
“As far as I’m concerned, the four people who put me in the top 10, they need to be checked because I’m definitely not in the top 10 of the Dodgers’ list historically.”
It’s not like Karros is just now unappreciated. He has a long history of it.
Try this one on: Karros never made an All-Star team. Not in 1995 (.298 average, 32 homers, 105 RBIs), not in 1999 (.304, 34, 112) and not in 2000 (25 homers and 70 RBIs at the break).
Karros did allow that he felt he should have made the All-Star team in ’95 and 2000, though that’s not the part that stings.
“In 2000, [Mark] McGwire was hurt,” Karros said. “He publicly comes out and says I should be on the team. And then on top of that, in that year at the All-Star break there was not a first baseman in the National League who had more home runs or RBI than I did. Of course I’m going to get on it, right?
“So not only do I not get on it, but then ESPN — I’ll never forget this — runs a special with Dan Patrick about the guys who got snubbed. I didn’t even get on the all-snubbed list.”
Karros played in an era when there were several outstanding NL first basemen — McGwire, Todd Helton, Andres Galarraga, Fred McGriff, Jeff Bagwell — but you’d think he would have slipped into the All-Star game at least once.
And now this belated little indignity.
“Eric was always a fairly quiet guy,” Wallach said. “He wasn’t putting himself out there. I’m sure that may have had something to do with it.
“He just came out every day and did it the right way. I know in the ‘90s he was without question one of the top two or three guys here.”
Karros played at the same time that Piazza dominated headlines. And his teams never won a World Series title, so there is that. No one who played primarily in the ‘90s made the final top-20 list.
But 14,383 people cast ballots and the L.A. Dodgers’ all-time leader in home runs picked up four votes?
“There is no reason, other than that’s an anomaly,” said Hershiser, now a team broadcaster. “It’s not like there’s any kind of reputation. If anything, his reputation is stellar. I don’t understand the oversight.
“He is an absolutely great guy. He was a great teammate. That is really an odd outcome.”
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