Column: Justin Turner’s ginger-tinged world comes up golden again for Dodgers in Game 1 win
Los Angeles Times sportswriters Andy McCullough and Dylan Hernandez discuss the Dodgers winning Game 1 of the World Series over the Houston Astros, 3-1.
In this world, in Justin Turner’s world, the pumpkin is still a carriage, the mice are still horses and the rags are still a jeweled gown.
The clock never struck midnight on Turner and it never will.
The former nonroster player with the majestic red mane is now an October legend, the 32-year-old late bloomer’s postseason for the ages continuing with a two-run home run that broke a sixth-inning stalemate and vaulted the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros in the opening game of the World Series.
Turner redirected an up-and-in cutter by Dallas Keuchel into the left-field pavilion, providing a new generation of Angelenos with another memory for which they waited their entire lives.
Nine days earlier, he floated around the bases at Dodger Stadium after he rifled a walk-off home run in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs. Tuesday night, he soared again, taking in the roar of the crowd as he circled the infield.
Animal, the red-haired character from the Muppets, appeared on the stadium’s video scoreboard and chanted, “Jus-tin! Jus-tin!” The 54,000-plus fans in attendance chanted with him.
“Loud, it was loud,” Turner said. “That was probably just as loud as it was on the walk-off homer. This place was the most electric I’ve ever seen it, which it should be, the first World Series here in 29 years.”
However this postseason ends for the Dodgers, Turner has already secured his place in franchise history.
The sentiment was shared by his teammates.
“You can’t teach what he’s doing,” starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. “No mechanics or anything can teach the mind-set and the competitiveness, the clutchness, whatever that is. It seems like every single night, he’s in the right position to come up with a big hit.
“We’re going to ride him because I don’t know if there’s an easy way to get him out. He’s been unbelievable for us.”
Kershaw’s claims are backed by the numbers. Turner’s 14 runs batted in are the most by a Dodgers player in a single postseason. The third baseman’s four home runs in these playoffs are second-most to Davey Lopes’ five in 1978.
Turner has 26 career postseason RBIs, equaling the franchise record established by Duke Snider.
“It’s crazy,” Turner said.
Turner spoke about what it’s like for him to show up to work at Dodger Stadium every day, how he feels when walks out of the elevator and past a gauntlet of trophies and retired jerseys.
“It’s something that I don’t take for granted,” Turner said. “I feel extremely proud to be able to put on the same uniform as those guys that have their names on the wall and it’s something that I don’t just walk by every day with my blinders up. I try to soak it in every chance I can.”
Especially because of how he reached this point.
Turner is in his fourth season with the Dodgers. He has been their everyday third baseman for three years and made the All-Star team this season.
The concept of Turner being a good player lost its novelty some time ago, but that doesn’t make his journey any less improbable, any less unbelievable. This was the same player who was discarded only four years ago by the New York Mets.
When he was a utility player for the Mets, did he ever imagine this was in him?
“No,” he acknowledged. “I was just trying to survive.”
And resigned to the idea he was a utilityman.
“I don’t think anyone grows up dreaming to be a utility guy in the big leagues,” Turner said. “But I certainly wasn’t angry that I was a utility guy in the big leagues. I was just happy to be in the big leagues.”
Marlon Byrd is best-known in baseball circles for flunking a couple of drug tests. Turner thinks of him as a generous mentor on the Mets who changed his swing, and, by extension, his life.
In the winter following his release from the Mets, Turner was invited by Byrd to work with Chatsworth-based hitting coach, Doug Latta. Turner worked on launching the baseball into the air, a change in philosophy that eventually transformed him into one of the most feared hitters in the game.
Justin Turner and Clayton Kershaw hug after defeating the Astros in Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jensen points to the sky after getting the final out.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clayton Kershaw is congratulated by coaches and teammates after the Dodgers beat the Astros, 3-1, in Game 1.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Justin Turner connects for a two-run homer off Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel in the sixth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Justin Turner hits a two-run home run aginst the Astros in the 6th inning in Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Yasiel Puig congratulates Justin Turner after he hit a two-run home run aginst the Astros in the 6th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Teammates happily greet Justin Turner after he hit a two-run homer off Houston starter Dallas Keuchel.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chris Taylor, left, congratulates Justin Turner who hit a two-run home run aginst the Astros in the 6th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw touches his nose with his tongue during the seventh-inning stretch during Game 1 of the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Enrique Hernandez catches a fly ball by Astros Josh Reddick inthe 8th inning in Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel looks up at a foul ball as he strikes out against Clayton Kershaw.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw is greeted with high-fives in the dugout after a succesful third inning sacrifice bunt.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The Astros’ George Springer strikes out against the Dodgers in Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clayton Kershaw flashes a look of disgus after giving up a solo homer to Alex Bregman in the 4th inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The Dodgers’ Kiki Hernandez is tagged while striking out by Astros catcher Brian McCann in the 5th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Corey Seager tries to break up a fifth inning double play as Astros second baseman Jose Altuve relays a throw to first on a grounder by Logan Forsythe.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The Dodgers’ Corey Seager hits a single against the Astros in the 5th inning in Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodger Cody Bellinger’s jersey in Game 1 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor runs towards first base after hitting a solo home run off the first pitch of the game against Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor gets a hand slap from Los Angeles Dodgers first base coach George Lombard after hitting a solo home run off the first pitch of the game against Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor hits a solo home run in the first inning against the Houston Astros.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor homers on the first pitch from Houston Astros starter Dallas Keuchel.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor hits a solo home run off the first pitch of the game against Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor hits a solo home run in the first inning against the Houston Astros.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodger fans cheer as pitcher Clayton Kershaw gets a strikeout against the Astros in the 1st inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clayton Kershaw gave up one hit with 11 strikeouts in seven innings against Houston in Game 1 of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Comedian and Dodger fan George Lopez waves a flag above the home team’s dugout before game one of the World Series at Dodger Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Fans cheer opening ceremonies as Dodgers reserve Joc Pederson sits alone in the dugout before Game 1.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Police, fire and military personnel unfurl a large U.S. flag before the start of Game 1.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up in the outfield before the start of the World Series.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Turner, who attended Mayfair High in Lakewood and Cal State Fullerton, signed a minor league contract with his hometown Dodgers. His role on the team increased every season, so much so the Dodgers rewarded him last winter with a four-year, $64-million contract.
“He just comes up with big hits, not only in the regular season, but the postseason especially,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s that guy you want in big spots. He doesn’t scare off.”
One of Turner’s first baseball memories was watching Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series at his grandparents’ house. Turner is now the one creating memories for others.
It’s all pretty surreal and Turner knows it. At the postgame news conference, he shared a story about how Sandy Koufax told him the 162-game regular season was work and that now was the time for him to enjoy himself.
“Must be fun to name drop Sandy Koufax,” the moderator teased him.
Turner laughed. He was living a dream.
The Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series
Video: Kenley Jansen, Cody Bellinger, Rich Hill talk about losing Game 7
Video: Analysis: Dodgers lose Game 7 and the World Series
Video: Yu Darvish talks about using his slider for Game 7
Video: Kenley Jansen and others talk about winning Game 6
Video: Analyzing the Dodgers Game 6 win
Video: Clayton Kershaw on starting Game 5 of the World Series
Video: Dave Roberts Talks Rich Hill and Kenley Jansen pitching in Game 6
Video: Dave Roberts talks preparing for Game 7
Video: Here it is, Game 7, and Bill Plaschke knows who wins
Video: Rich Hill talks about Game 6 of the World Series
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez
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.