In 1981, a 20 year old kid from Mexico came to the Dodgers and would make a lasting impact on the organization. Fernando Valenzuela had one of the best seasons ever by a rookie. He started the season 8-0 with five shutouts and an ERA of 0.50. He would end the year as the league leader in strikeouts, shutouts, and innings pitched. He would be the first and only pitcher in baseball to win both the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards in the same season.
In 1990, even though clearly not the pitcher he once was, Fernando threw a no-hitter against the Cardinals. It would be a swan song of sorts for Fernando, as that would be his final year with the Dodgers.
Not only was he a great pitcher, but Fernando would also become a cultural icon. His legacy was established after his phenomenal first year in 1981, and he quickly became a fan favorite for the Dodgers.
#9. Dodgers hit 4 home runs in a row in 9th inning against Padres; win in 10th
This was the greatest non-post season game I’ve ever seen. Down 4 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning, the Dodgers got back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs from Jeff Kent, J.D Drew, Russell Martin, and Marlon Anderson to tie the game, with the last two coming off all-star closer Trevor Hoffman.
Hitting 4 consecutive home runs is a feat itself (only done 3 other times before the Dodgers did it that night.) But to do it in the bottom of the 9th inning to tie the game, makes it even more special. Oh, and that wasn’t it. After that crazy comeback, the game was still only tied. And all that positive emotion seemed like it got killed when the Padres took the lead yet again in the top of the 10th. But as fate would have it, the Dodgers had more to come. Down a run, with a man on first, Nomar Garciaparra hit a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th, giving the Dodgers the victory, and capping an unbelievable night.
Additionally, this wasn’t just any old game in mid-June or July. It happened on September 18th 2006, in the middle of a tight pennant race between the Dodgers and Padres. The win put the Dodgers in 1st place in the NL West, jumping San Diego. After the game, I remember lying in bed for a while, unable to go to sleep, still thinking about what happened. Truly remarkable.
#8. Dodgers win 1965 World Series
The 1965 World Series was a classic, with the Dodgers prevailing over the Minnesota Twins in 7 games. Sandy Koufax famously decided not to pitch Game 1, as it fell on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. The Twins took command of the series after beating Don Drysdale and Koufax in games 1 & 2. The Dodgers would get a great pitching performance from Claude Osteen in Game 3 to get the victory, and then another from Drysdale in Game 4 to tie the series 2-2. Koufax threw a complete game shutout in Game 5 to take a 3-2 advantage going back to Minnesota.
The Twins would take Game 6 and force a 7th and deciding game. Dodgers manager, Walter Alston, choose to start Koufax on only two days rest. All Koufax did was go out and pitch another complete game shutout, giving the Dodgers their 4th championship. Koufax would win his 2nd World Series MVP.
#7. Sandy Koufax throws a perfect game
At Dodgers Stadium, on September 9th 1965, Koufax would pitch a historic perfect game against the Chicago Cubs. It was his 4th no-hitter of his career, a record at the time, and he struck out 14 batters, still a record for most in a perfect game performance. Koufax would strike out at least one batter in each inning, including all three he faced in the 9th. In 1995, the Society for American Baseball Research, voted it as the greatest game ever pitched.
The game itself goes down as one of the best pitched by two different pitchers. Opposing starter, Bob Hendley, also had a no-hitter going into the 7th inning. He would surrender only one hit, and the sole Dodgers run of the day would be unearned. The entire game had a total of two base runners.
Koufax’s greatness was becoming routine by 1965. His performance on this night though, will always be remembered as probably his greatest.
#6. Dodgers win 1981 World Series
After losing to the Yankees in the 77’ & 78’ World Series, the championship in 1981 had the feel of the Dodgers first title, when they would finally get past their rivals. In every game they won in the series, the Dodgers would have to come from behind for the victory.
The Dodgers would lose the first two games in New York, but then rebounded in Game 3 behind Fernando Valenzuela. In Game 4, the Yankees took a 4-0 lead, and led 6-3 going into the bottom of the 6th before the Dodgers would score 5 runs in the next two innings to get the victory. Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager hit back-to-back home runs in Game 5, and Jerry Reuss won a tight pitching duel to put the Dodgers one win away. In Game 6, the Yankees took an early 1-0 lead, but the Dodgers offence would blow up, scoring the next 8 runs. They would win the game 9-2, finally beating their rival, and giving that famous Dodgers infield a championship together.