After officially bidding farewell to Andre Ethier last year, Dodger fans said goodbye to another of the 2006 rookie class this week. Former first baseman James Loney officially announced his retirement from professional baseball on Friday, officially concluding a stellar baseball life. In 11 MLB seasons, his career totals come to a .284 lifetime average, 1,425 hits and 12.1 WAR. More importantly, it’s the end of a career whose very beginnings until now encompasses a huge swath of Dodger history.
The Dodgers' first draft pick the year Dodger Thoughts was born. End of an era. https://t.co/9eA4TYzIgI
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) May 10, 2019
James Anthony Loney donned Dodger Blue for the first time on April 4, 2006, appearing in 48 games that year. On September 28, with the Dodgers chasing a playoff spot at season’s end, Loney delivered his greatest single-game performance.
Facing the Rockies at Coors Field, he racked up 9 RBI, four coming on a second-inning grand slam that gave L.A. a 4-3 lead. He added a two-run shot in the sixth, helping to ensure the Dodgers won a typically Coors 19-11 slugfest. Los Angeles clinched a playoff spot in San Francisco two days later. More noteworthy, however, is that those 9 RBI made for half of Loney’s season total!
It was a harbinger of things to come. In his first playoff game in 2006, Loney looked like someone who had played 1,048 games rather than 48. Against the heavily favored New York Mets, he went 3-for-4 with 3 RBI. In 2007, he hit .331 in only 96 games played. His 2008 and 2009 seasons were nearly identical, racking up 13 homers and 90 RBI both years. He hit .280 or better almost every year in Los Angeles.
There is one highlight, however, that towers above the rest. It isn’t the greatest Dodgers moment of the 2000s (this is), but it is without a doubt the most important. It was game one of the 2008 NLDS against the Chicago Cubs, a team few (if any) thought the Dodgers had a chance at beating in a five-game series. The first four innings seemed to confirm as much, with the Cubs taking a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a two-run Mark DeRosa homer.
Then came the top of the fifth. Cubs starter Ryan Dempster retired two of the first three batters, allowing a walk to Rafael Furcal. However, Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier proceeded to draw two-out walks, filling the bases for Loney. Dempster tried to get a 1-2 pitch up over the plate, but Loney got every last bit of. Center fielder Jim Edmonds could only watch as it sailed into the Wrigley Field bleachers for a grand slam.
42,099 North Side fans fell deathly silent, and the tempo for the series had been set. The Dodgers won the game 7-2, then blasted the Cubs even worse in game two at 10-3. The stage was set for a cleansing game three victory at Dodger Stadium, completing the sweep for the club’s first postseason series victory in two whole decades.
Loney’s time as a Dodger came to an end in August 2012, being dealt to the Red Sox in the seismic Crawford/Gonzalez/Beckett “Bums Away” trade. He continued to be of value for other clubs, however, helping the Tampa Bay Rays win an AL Wild Card spot in 2013 with a .299 average, 13 homers and 75 RBI. He also helped an injury-riddled Mets team to an NL Wild Card spot in 2016, his last season in the majors before signing with the LG Twins in South Korea for 2017. His cumulative postseason stats are just as impressive as his regular season ones: .350, 16 RBI and three home runs.
With Russell Martin currently on the Dodgers roster, the sun hasn’t set entirely on the class of 2006 just yet. But Loney’s retirement is still one that tugs at the heartstrings of those who bleed the blue. His sound bat keyed three playoff teams and consecutive NLCS appearances, and made him part of one of the most cherished groups of players ever to thrill the denizens of Chavez Ravine.
What’s your favorite James Loney memory?