Fresh off their 2020 World Series victory, the Dodgers franchise now has seven championships. Each one has its own special place in team history, and each club had its share of great players. But which one is the greatest Dodgers team of them all?
Playing in different eras, it’s difficult to compare the greatness of each team. But we’ll try, nonetheless. Below, we examine each of the Dodgers championship teams and rank them one through seven as the best in franchise history.
Let the debates begin.
7. 1959 Dodgers
The 1959 Dodgers went 88-68 in the regular season and beat the Chicago White Sox in the World Series in six games. The ’59 team didn’t have many of the same stars that they had in 1955 when they won their first title. Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, and Don Newcombe were gone. Duke Snider and Gil Hodges were still there, but both were near the end of their productive years, and not the same players they were earlier in their career.
Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres led the way for the Dodgers pitching staff. Drysdale had an especially strong year, earning his first All-Star selection. Sandy Koufax was still coming into his own and was only 8-6 on the year with a 4.05 ERA.
On paper, the ’59 Dodgers were just an above-average team, but they found ways to win. They were third in baseball in one-run victories that year. Although a very strong club in their own right, the 1959 Dodgers fall a little short compared to other championship teams on this list.
6. 1988 Dodgers
The 1988 Dodgers went 94-67 and won the NL West. They upset the New York Mets in the NLCS and beat the heavily favored Oakland A’s in the World Series. Gibson. Hershiser. You know the story.
In ’88, the Dodgers weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut. They hit only 99 home runs total, fifth lowest in baseball. They also had the 3rd lowest team OPS (.657.) Kirk Gibson carried the offense all year and was the only player on the team with an OPS over .760. Their pitching led the way for most of the year, posting the second best team ERA. Everyone knows about Orel Hershiser and his Cy Young campaign in ’88 but the Dodgers also had Tim Belcher and Tim Leary put up sub-3 ERAs as well. Fernando Valenzuela, who had been the anchor of the rotation for the last seven seasons, got injured and had to miss the last few months of the year, including the playoffs.
The ’88 team is hard to judge because, on paper, they shouldn’t have been that good. But they had the best pitcher in the game in Hershiser and the MVP in Gibson. Baseball is not usually a sport where only one or two star players can carry a team, but Hershiser and Gibson did that to an extent. Of course, the team did get timely contributions from everyone, especially in the postseason. Add that all up, and it was a recipe for a championship team.
5. 1981 Dodgers
Following the players’ strike in 1981, the MLB season was split in two. The Dodgers won the NL West in the first half and finished with an overall 63-47 record. They beat the Astros in the divisional round and then beat the Montreal Expos in the NLCS. In the World Series, they finally overcame the Yankees, who had defeated them in the 1977 and 1978 World Series.
Offensively, the ’81 Dodgers had a solid lineup, albeit not a great one. The famous 1970s infield of Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey were at the end of their run. Their production was not the same, and 81’ would be the last year they all played together. However, the Dodgers did have other players like Pedro Guerrero and Dusty Baker who helped pick up the slack offensively.
Of course, the story of the 1981 season was Fernando Valenzuela. The rookie phenom from Mexico took the league by storm and ended up winning both the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Awards. The rotation also had Jerry Reuss and Burt Hooton to help the Dodgers post the 3rd lowest team ERA that year.
The 1981 Dodgers could be compared to the 2020 Dodgers in many ways. They both played in a weird, shortened regular season. Both teams had been to a couple of World Series in the previous few years and came up short each time. And like the 2020 club, the ’81 team was a group with some seasoned veterans along with some young talent, and it was the perfect mix.
4. 1965 Dodgers
The 1965 Dodgers went 97-65 in the regular season and beat the Twins in a classic seven game World Series. The Series was known for a brilliant performance by Sandy Koufax who tossed two shutouts in Games 5 and 7.
A common theme among many of the Dodgers championship teams is having strong starting pitching but weak hitting. The 1965 Dodgers exemplified that. They were dead last in baseball in home runs (78) and had the 3rd lowest OPS (.647.) However, the Dodgers made up for the lack of hitting with great base running. They led the league with 172 stolen bases, 62 more than the next team. Maury Wills had 94 of those steals.
Their pitching was outstanding, as had become the norm over the last several years. Behind Koufax and Drysdale, the Dodgers either led the league or were close to the top in practically every major pitching category. Claude Osteen and Johnny Podres rounded out the best rotation in baseball.
Despite their weak hitting lineup, the Dodgers found ways to score just enough to win games. And with the pitching they had in 1965, that scoring didn’t have to be very much.
3. 1963 Dodgers
The 1963 Dodgers finished the regular season with a 99-63 record and won the pennant by six games. In the World Series, they beat the Yankees in 4 games, the first time a Yankee team had been swept in the fall classic.
Once again, pitching was the primary strength for the Dodgers in ’63. But this staff, in particular, might have been their best of all-time. As great as Koufax was throughout all his other years, ’63 was his greatest season. He won the Cy Young and the MVP that year and led the league in ERA (1.88), WHIP (0.875), FIP (1.85), strikeouts (306), and Wins (25.) Drysdale was great too, winning 19 games and posting a 2.63 ERA. Closer Ron Perranoski had a great year with 16 Wins, 21 Saves, and a 1.67 ERA over 69 games. He’d finish fourth in MVP voting.
Unlike 1965, when the offense was a real weakness, the ’63 Dodgers weren’t that bad. They were still below average in many categories like OPS (.666), OBP (.3309), and home runs (110), but they did have some good production from guys like Frank Howard who hit 28 home runs, and Tommy Davis who led the league in hitting that year (.326.) Maury Wills hit .302, the highest mark for his career, and was his typical thieving self on the basepaths.
If the Dodgers offense had been a little better, you could make a strong case for the ’63 club being the best Dodgers team of all-time. Even without it, you probably could. That’s how dominant their pitching was that year. It was truly lights out… just ask the Yankees.
2. 2020 Dodgers
Ah, the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers. You remember that team, right? In an unprecedented year, the Dodgers went 43-17 over a shortened 60-game season. They had to play an extra round in the playoffs but eventually overcame the Brewers, Padres, and Braves before defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series.
This year’s Dodgers team was undoubtedly the best in baseball. Unlike other championship years where the Dodgers had one or the other, the 2020 club had both elite offense and pitching. They hit more home runs than any other team (118) and scored the most runs per game (5.82.) They were second in OPS, OPS+, and fifth in OBP. They had two MVPs in the lineup with Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger. They got a career year from Corey Seager (.943 OPS.) They had the best offensive catcher in the game in Will Smith (163 wRC+.) Justin Turner hit over .300 and had a .400 OBP. A.J. Pollock was third in the league in home runs. The lineup accolades go on and on.
On the pitching side, they led the league in ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and FIP. In his 13th year, Clayton Kershaw anchored the starting rotation and posted a team-best 2.16 ERA. Walker Buehler didn’t have a typical great regular season but turned it on when it mattered in the playoffs. The Dodgers also benefited from the depth of their rotation, with young arms like Julio Urias, Dustin May, and Tony Gonsolin all making key contributions.
The 2020 Dodgers finished with a .717 win percentage and were on pace to break the Seattle Mariners MLB record of 116 wins set in 2001. It’s impossible to know if the Dodgers would have kept up that pace over the course of a 162-game season. But what they did in the time they had was remarkable. They played all facets of the game extremely well, and even with the shortened season, it’s not hard to make the case for the 2020 team being the best in franchise history.
1. 1955 Dodgers
The 1955 Dodgers went 98-55 in the regular season and went on to win the franchise’s first championship when they finally beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.
The ’55 club had the game’s best offensive, hands down. They led the league in home runs, team OPS, team Avg, and runs/game. Roy Campanella won the MVP, hitting .318/.395/.583 with 32 home runs. Duke Snider was runner-up in MVP voting and hit 42 bombs while posting an absurd 1.046 OPS. Gil Hodges hit 27 home runs and Carl Furillo added 26. Pee Wee Reese was a key piece at the top of the lineup like he’d been for the last 10+ seasons. The ’55 Dodgers also had a guy named Jackie Robinson, who didn’t have one of his best regular seasons but came up big in the postseason, including his iconic steal of home in Game 1 of the World Series.
The Dodgers also had solid pitching in ’55, led by Don Newcombe who won 20 games. Johnny Podres was solid all year and pitched a historic Game 7 that sealed the World Series victory. The ’55 Dodgers also had a rookie who only pitched in 12 games that year but would go on to be a pretty good player for them in the future. That rookie was Sandy Koufax.
The ’55 Dodgers had five Hall of Famers on the team, not to mention all-time team greats like Gil Hodges, Carl Furillo, and Jim Gilliam. Their offense was unmatched, and their pitching was very good as well. More than anything, it was the fact that it was this team who finally gave the Dodgers franchise their first championship. That goes a long way. As great as all the championship teams were, the 1955 Dodgers were the best of them all.