The Dodgers have an excellent history of right fielders. I took a look at the history of who the main right fielders were in franchise history and ended up considering 10 different candidates. The question of who the greatest Dodgers right fielder of all time is not an easy one to ask. We’ll take a brief look at each one and spotlight some of them. Dodgers Nation gave fans an opportunity to vote for their choice for their all time Dodgers right fielder with the results below.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) April 4, 2020
I’ll take a deeper look at the right fielders and we’ll see where it all ends up. As I ponder the statistics I am choosing to compare them to their contemporaries as much as possible. The game has changed over the years and so have the players. Even through the 1970s many players had jobs in the off-season to help earn their living. The technology and knowledge of today has changed some of the parameters of the game. Batting average was held in a lot higher regard than it is today and on base percentage was not near as important as it is today. At the end of the day, players strived for what they thought was best. In another generation, some of the numbers we value today will not be as important.
The All-Time Right Fielder Candidates
As I stated above I took a look at all the main right fielders in Dodgers history and came up with ten that stood out. The following table goes in chronological order of each player starting with the great Oyster Burns from 1888.
Oyster Burns was acquired by the Brooklyn Bridegrooms on August 10, 1888 from the Baltimore Orioles for somewhere between $3,500 to $4,000. He was coming of his best season in 1887 (and his best ever) and had a lot of productive seasons for the Bridegrooms. His best season as a Bridegroom/Dodger was his last full season in 1894. He was done by the age of 31 in 1895.
Only 5′ 4″, “Wee” Willie Keeler was on the Grooms for just 20 games in 1893 before he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. Brooklyn got him back in 1899 after he had hit .388 for Baltimore. His time with Brooklyn was also very productive. It is just too bad he wasn’t with them for his best years. He basically played 4 years with Brooklyn as averaged almost a 4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) after averaging over 5 WAR with Baltimore. Keeler was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.
Most obscure cap logo in the Hall of Fame? Willie Keeler's 1912 one-year Dodgers cap, worn as a coach: pic.twitter.com/E135d6asuN
— Todd Radom (@ToddRadom) January 6, 2015
Raised in Glendale, California, Babe Herman played for the Brooklyn Robins starting in 1926. He had six excellent seasons with Brooklyn before being traded after the 1931 season. Herman was a born at the wrong time as he had Designated Hitter written all over him. He definitely could hit but was an awful fielder and base runner. His last season in organized ball seemed to be 1938, he came back in 1945 during World War II to play for the Dodgers.
With the Dodgers, Dixie Walker was a perennial All-Star and an MVP candidate. He didn’t have a ton of power but drive in a lot of runs while also having a very good on-base percentage. Walker is well known as being a ring leader against Jackie Robinson integrating baseball. Later in his life he apologized and called it “the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.” Later he went on to be a coach with the Dodgers.
“The Reading Rifle” because of his throwing arm, Carl Furillo had ten or more assists from right field in nine of his seasons. He was a huge part of the 1955 World Series winning team and lead the National League in hitting in 1953 with a .344 batting average. Overall, he had some strong seasons and is easily the leader in games played for a Dodger right fielder.
A graduate of Centennial High in Compton, Reggie Smith came home to Los Angeles when the Dodgers traded for him on June 15, 1976 (the old Trade Deadline). His previous two seasons with St. Louis were elite but he started poorly in 1976. The Dodgers jumped to get him and it paid off. He had a good second half in 1976 then was back to elite for the next two seasons. Injuries marred the rest of his Dodgers career but his first half of 1980 was amazing and the fans voted him in as an All-Star starter. He couldn’t play the outfield in his last season with the Dodgers but he still helped the Dodgers with the 1981 World Series as a pinch hitter.
Raul Mondesi was the 1994 Rookie of the Year for the Dodgers to begin a very good stint in LA. His best season was 1997 when he slashed .310/.360/.541. He also was a member of the 30/30 club that same year. For a bit people compared him to Roberto Clemente as he was a good all around player with a great throwing arm. After a career high of 33 home runs he was traded to the Blue Jays in the Shawn Green trade as his other hitting numbers started to go down.
The Dodgers made the big move to acquire Shawn Green from the Blue Jays after 2000. He had a underwhelming first season with the Dodgers but the next two were elite. Not only that but he as a star in “Backyard Baseball”. In 2001 he set the franchise record with 49 home runs and followed it up the next year with 42. After that he started to fade and was trade after the 2004 season for, what turned out to be, not much. He ended up retiring after the 2007 season at the age of 34.
One of the first things that Ned Colletti did as the general manager was trade for the then-unknown Andre Ethier. For the next 12 years Ethier was a fixture with the Dodgers, even in the seasons he was injured. A true fan favorite he earned the nickname “Captain Cluth” for his many walk-off hits. His last appearance as a Dodger he drove in a run in the 2017 World Series. He deserved better as he was part of the team that was robbed by the Astr*s.
Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene in June of 2013 and helped inject some life into a struggling team. There was nobody more interesting to watch on a baseball field. There was no doubt he would to something worth talking about on the field. His 2013 and the first half of the 2014 season led many to think the Dodgers had a superstar on their hands. However, some power started to fade and both the 2015 and 2016 season were filled with injuries and issues. He came back to have some decent seasons before being salary dumped to the Reds after 2018. There was only so much a team could take. Still, he is regarded as a fan favorite by many.
Best Overall Career With The Dodgers
Carl Furillo played all or parts of 15 seasons with the Dodgers and was part of two World Series winners. Overall, he was a real good player and did it for a long time. Dixie Walker and Andre Ethier were also highly considered.
Best Single Season
In his one and possibly only season as a right fielder Cody Bellinger, had an amazing 2019. He had 47 home runs with 115 RBI as he slashed .305/.406/.629 and even 15 stolen bases. What sets him apart from players like Shawn Green and Reggie Smith is that his defense was dominant. He made many excellent catches and threw out 10 base runners in only 115 games in right field. For his efforts he was awarded the National League MVP.
Shawn Green’s 2001 and 2002 and Reggie Smith’s 1977 and 1978 are neck and neck with a great two year run. Green’s was more of a peak as he was above average in the surrounding seasons while Smith was only slowed down by injury.
15 years ago today, Shawn Green hit 4 HR in game for @Dodgers vs Brewers
Green's 5-game stretch May 21-25:
.667 BA, 9 HR, 17 RBI, 14 hits pic.twitter.com/VbnllbkY89
— ESPN Los Angeles (@ESPNLosAngeles) May 23, 2017
The Dodgers signed Darryl Strawberry as a free agent after the 1990 season and the expectations were sky high. His first season with the Dodgers was above average and it looked like he would blossom. However, injuries and drugs stopped him and the Dodgers released him right during the 1994 season.
Like Strawberry, Yasiel Puig had Hall of Fame talent but they only had themselves to blame. With Puig he had various issues with other players and the coaching staff. He just took too much air out of the room and I truly wonder how hard he worked at his craft. Fortunately for Puig, it’s not too late for him to figure out how to blend his personality and with his talent to be a star. He seems to be a good guy but being a person others want on their team means something is still off.
One of the all-the great managers was Casey Stengel. However, he was a right fielder for Brooklyn from 1912-1917. Big Frank Howard was a part the of World Series team in 1963 before being traded to the Senators. He ended up with 382 lifetime home runs. The Dodgers had high hopes for Mike Marshall in the early 80s and he did get a ring with them in 1988. Willie Crawford played a lot of right field for the Dodgers in the 60s and early 70s. Gary Sheffield and Matt Kemp played some right field for the Dodgers but mostly played in the other positions.
The GOAT Right Fielder For The Dodgers
I’m going to exclude Cody Bellinger just because he had not had enough time in right field. While the Dodgers were a power house in the mid to late 1970s, Reggie Smith was the number three hitter. Back then, the best hitter batted in the three spot. His time was limited by injuries but I’d take the 1977, 1978 and first half 1980 Reggie Smith over anyone else who has had significant time as a right fielder. He was a switch hitter who hit for power and average while drawing a significant amount of walks. His 19.4 WAR was basically over three and a half seasons.
Happy 75th bday Reggie Smith! Smith was a 7x All-Star & won a Gold Glove. 1969-73 with Red Sox averaged .294 24 81 .867. Batted .306 with .894 OPS next 2 years for Cardinals. With Dodgers in 1977, hit .307 32 87 1.003! Hit 29 HR with .942 OPS in 78 & .900 OPS in 1980. pic.twitter.com/6CxtFqpZCs
— Scott F (@TheFrizz87) April 3, 2020
What a blast it was to look at some history of this excellent group of players. So many “Hall of Very Good” players but only Willie Keeler is in the Hall of Fame and he only played five of his nineteen seasons with the franchise. By the way, Reggie Smith has ten more WAR points than Keeler and should be in the Hall of Fame. Of course, the Dodgers have two of the best right fielders in baseball right now. I just hope we see them in action, soon.