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Add Asterisk* to Dodgers’ ‘Best’ Record

October 1st, 2019 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

In the 1961 Major League Baseball season, Roger Maris of the New York Yankees hit 61 home runs to break Babe Ruth’s homer record of 60, set in 1927.

However, many fans of the Bambino, and perhaps those not enthralled by the laconic Maris one-upping the charismatic Ruth, clamored for an “asterisk” to be added to Maris’s total.

Why? Because Maris’s 61 homers came in baseball’s inaugural 162-game season, which tacked on eight extra games to the 154-game season Ruth and the ’27 Yankees had in 1927.

Midway through the 1961 season, no less than the commissioner of baseball, Ford Frick, suggested that the any new homer record “should be shown separately in the record books, with some distinctive mark” next to it indicating it had been done in a 162-game season.

A day later, prominent New York sports writer Dick Young suggested the asterisk.

Why are we talking about Ruth and Maris and records and asterisks?

Because the 2019 Los Angeles Dodgers have been quick to make clear that they set a franchise record with 106 victories, beating the 105 rung up by the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers who, like Ruth, spotted their future club eight additional games.

Get another asterisk ready!

Simple math demonstrates that the ’53 Dodgers won more games on a percentage basis than did the current, 2019 team.

The 1953 Dodgers won 68.2 percent of their games; the current Dodgers won 65.4 percent of their games.

The latter team needed those extra eight games to “break” the club record. In fact, the current Dodgers may not have reached 100 wins without those additional games; they won the final seven to take them from 99 victories to 106, the club record.

The 162-game club record, that is.

Not many people are talking about this because the 1953 Dodgers are nearly forgotten. The ’53 Brooklyn Dodgers team played on the other side of the country, and they failed to win an inaugural World Series, losing to the Yankees in six games. That first World Series championship did not come until 1955.

But that was a hell of a team. It featured Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Pee Wee Reese, all of whom were elected to the Hall of Fame. Plus Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Carl Erskine, Jim Gilliam … the Boys of Summer!

So, what to do?

I would like to see some sort of acknowledgement that the 1953 Dodgers had the better winning percentage and that the 2019 Dodgers would not have reached 100 wins, never mind 106, without those extra eight games.

We could begin by having the Dodgers mention in a media-release footnote that the 2019 Dodgers played 162 games; the 1953 Dodgers played 154. And given their 68.2 winning percentage over 154 games, those Brooklyn Dodgers could have been expected to win five more games, taking them to 110 — safely ahead of the current Dodgers.

The 1953 Dodgers also were projected to have a superior run-differential. In 2019 the Dodgers had a run differential of plus-273 (886 runs scored, 613 conceded) compared to the ’53 Dodgers’ 266 (955 runs, 689 allowed). But factor in eight more games for the ’53 club, and they move up to 1,005 runs and 724 allowed, a run-differential of 281.

Turns out, the current Dodgers needed a 162-game season to beat the 1953 club. Just as did Roger Maris, who got his 60th homer in Game 159, and 61st in No. 162 — the final game of the season.

The point: Celebrate the current stars, but don’t forget those who came before, whose achievements are more likely to be minimized than exaggerated.


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