To be a true legend of Dodger baseball, a player must do more than merely rack up superlative stats. They must amass those stats with an identity that resonates with the fanbase. Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax and Fernando Valenzuela became immortal by backing up their trailblazing ethnic and racial identities with historic play. Orel Hershiser broke the sturdiest pitching record possible despite a physique that didn’t seem suited for a starter. Yasiel Puig, for all the debate swirling around his legacy, will no doubt live on in many fans’ hearts for his bat-flips and cannon arm that electrified Chavez Ravine night after night.
Andre Ethier carved out his respective legacy in Dodger blue chiefly due to one feat: walk-off hits. Lots of them. His nickname of “Captain Clutch” is one of the most apropos in baseball history, for whenever he strode to the plate with a winning run on base, that run always came home. Whether it came on a well-placed single or an arching home run, he made every kind of clutch hit look easy.
Absolutely will never forget this guy pic.twitter.com/mz4yYJfRQx
— Justin Turner (@redturn2) December 24, 2018
In no year did Ethier better live up to his moniker more than in 2009. In that season alone, he notched an incredible 6 walk-off hits, 2 of them coming in back-to-back games. A decade later, and with Ethier’s official retirement in July 2018 in the rearview mirror, I’ll be taking DN readers back to each of these unforgettable moments on the exact date they occurred.
The first of these came early in the season on May 2. With the San Diego Padres in town for a Saturday night game, Randy Wolf took the mound for L.A. opposite Chris Young. The Friars struck quick with a one-out HR in the top of the first, courtesy of Edgar Gonzalez. From thereon, though, the game was a pitching battle save for a Rafael Furcal RBI single that scored Wolf in the third.
With the score still 1-1, the Dodgers had a chance to walk it off in the bottom of the ninth when Russell Martin, on second following his leadoff single and a walk to Casey Blake, took third on a two-out wild pitch. But Mark Loretta proceeded to ground out, sending the game into extras. The Padres threatened with two on in the top of the 10th, but reliever Guillermo Mota was able to escape the jam.
It was on to the bottom of the 10th, with Rafael Furcal lacing a single to center to lead things off. Orlando Hudson followed with a groundball single that moved Furcal to third, leading Luke Gregerson to intentionally walk Manny Ramirez. With the bases loaded and nobody out, up strode #16. On a 2-1 pitch, Ethier drove a ball deep to right that hit the wall for the most resounding single imaginable. Furcal scored without a doubt, cuing Randy Newman on the stadium speakers and sending 47,680 fans home happy.
The Dodgers improved to 17-8, with a 4.5-game lead in the NL West. As it would turn out, things were just getting started for Andre Ethier, who would make moments like these almost routine as the season went on.
The winning hit is the first featured in the clip below:
Andre Ethier was a true Dodger legend walking among us all.