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Greatest moments in Dodger history, No. 12: Don Drysdale’s scoreless innings streak

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and the greatest moment countdown continues

I’m assuming everyone knows how this works by now, so I’m going to drop the explanatory introduction to these. If you need a reminder, click on any of the Nos. 20-25 greatest moments below.

Up next is a bunch of zeroes.

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No. 12: Don Drysdale’s scoreless innings streak (8,307 points)

Drysdale's streak continues

Watch the controversial play involving Dick Dietz here.

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Every Dodger fan knows that Don Drysdale once held the record for most consecutive scoreless innings with 58. But remember how it almost came to a halt early?

Drysdale’s streak was at 44 innings in the ninth inning and leading 3-0 against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on May 31, 1968. The Giants loaded the bases with nobody out. It seemed unlikely that the Giants would fail to score in this situation as Dick Dietz stepped to the plate. And while 44 straight scoreless innings was excellent, it would have been only the seventh-best all time.

Dietz worked the count to 2-2 when the next pitch hit him, forcing in a run and ending the streak. Or did it?

“The ball just sort of grazed Dietz on the elbow,” Drysdale wrote in his autobiography “Once a Bum, Always a Dodger.” “He was all set to head to first base and ending my streak. But Harry Wendlestedt, the plate umpire, ruled that Dietz hadn’t tried to get out of the way of the pitch, so Dietz stayed right there. Dietz had made no effort to avoid the pitch, and that was confirmed to me the next day. Juan Marichal, the Giants’ great right-hander, told me that Dietz had said in the dugout before he came to bat, ‘If it’s anything but a fastball, I’ll take one and that will end the streak right there.’ In other words, knowing that a hit batsman would bring in a run, Dietz was willing to get in the way of a pitch.”

Giants manager Herm Franks argued, but Wendlestedt stood by his call. Dietz returned to the plate with a full count. Dietz hit a shallow fly to left fielder Jim Fairey and the runner at third, Nate Oliver, didn’t try to score. The next batter, Ty Cline, grounded to first baseman Wes Parker, who forced Oliver at home. Then Jack Hiatt popped to first. The game was over, but not the streak. It was also Drysdale’s fifth consecutive shutout.

I was fortunate enough to interview Vin Scully for my Dodgers book way back in 2013. Here’s what he had to say about Drysdale:

“I think one of the things when you look back over the years, you had Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax and they were as different as left and right.

“Sandy was very quiet. If Sandy were going out to dinner with a player, it would be the third-string catcher, or a backup infielder, and they would just go quietly and have dinner.

“Don was the Pied Piper. If Don was going to go out to dinner, he’d have six or seven players with him. Don had a magnetism about him. Sandy, the other players thought he was absolutely unbelievable. Don was one of them. He was very outgoing, so there was no surprise that he would eventually go into broadcasting, because that was his nature. He was a very happy-go-lucky guy and the players loved to be with him because where he would go there would be fun, guaranteed. Party hats and noisemakers and all of that.

“But, when he stepped on the field, he was a totally different person. He was a tremendous competitor who would not mind at all trying to frighten the hitter.”

Drysdale is well-known to throw inside, and maybe hit a batter or two if he felt it was necessary. Now, that part of the game is frowned upon. Would Drysdale have adjusted to today’s game?

“He would not have adjusted,” Scully says. “The hitters and umpires would have had to adjust to him. The only difference really, the rewards are so great today, that no one really wants to hit anyone else. Because they realize ‘If I hit this fella, they are definitely gonna hit me and I’m making X million of dollars and I don’t want to get hurt. So, I think that is a definite feeling among the players.

“But you still have to pitch inside. You must pitch inside. And you are going to hit people once in a while. And if the numbers pile up where you are constantly hitting people, you get a bad reputation.”

“Look at Ian Kennedy with Arizona. [Kennedy had been involved in a couple of bench-clearing brawls in the 2013 season, one with the Dodgers].

“Kennedy is probably a lovely guy. But he knows to make his money that he must pitch inside, and he’s gonna hit a few people.

“Don would not have said ‘Well, I will bow to the wishes of the umpires.’ No, he would have continued to pitch inside.”

Previous greatest moments

No. 13: Four straight homers against the Padres

No. 14: Sandy Koufax’s shutout in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series

No. 15: Dodgers win 1981 World Series

No. 16: Roy Campanella Night

No. 17: Rick Monday’s 1981 NLCS home run

No. 18: Rick Monday saves the flag

No. 19: Winning the 1988 World Series

No. 20: Winning the 1959 World Series

No. 21: Sandy Amorós’ catch in 1955 World Series

No. 22: Cody Bellinger’s catch in 2020 NLDS

No. 23: Justin Turner’s walkoff homer in 2017 NLCS

No. 24: Sandy Koufax strikes out 15 in 1963 World Series Game 1

No. 25: Mike Scioscia’s 1988 NLCS homer

And finally

Don Drysdale’s Hall of Fame induction speech. Watch it here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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