The Dodger decade of the 1920s got off to a roaring start with a National League pennant in 1920. But over the next nine years, Brooklyn could manage only one other season better than fifth place.
Pitcher Burleigh Grimes burst onto the scene in 1918 and made his presence felt in 1920 with a 23-11 record for a league-leading .676 winning percentage. The Dodgers had to squelch a challenge by the Giants late in the season to garner the N.L. flag. In a best-of-nine World Series against the Cleveland Indians, the Dodgers won two of the first three games, only to drop four straight and bow out.
The 1920 World Series will also be remembered for producing the first and only unassisted triple play in Series history. In the fifth game, Dodger pitcher Clarence Mitchell lined a shot to Cleveland's Billy Wambsganss with Pete Kilduff on second base and Otto Miller on first. Wambsganss speared the liner to the right of the bag, stepped on the base to double up Kilduff and tagged Miller, who was running with the shot and was nearly at second base on the play.
The longest Dodger game in history was played on May 1, 1920 when the Dodgers were in Boston to play the Braves. The game was played to a 26-inning, 1-1 tie. What made it so unique was that both starting pitchers -- Leon Cadore for Brooklyn and Joe Oeschger for the Braves -- each went the distance! Cadore yielded 15 hits while the Dodgers had nine before darkness halted play.
In 1921, the fifth-place Dodgers were led by Grimes, who had an N.L. leading 22 wins and 136 strikeouts. "Ol' Stubblebeard," as Grimes was known, won 21 or more games four times as a Dodger.
A great character arrived at training camp in 1922 by the name of Clarence Arthur "Dazzy" Vance. Born on March 4, 1891, the 31-year-old Vance pitched 11 seasons for the Dodgers, winning in double figures all but one year. The right-hander won a league-leading 28 games in 1924 and 22 games in 1925. He was the N.L. strikeout leader for seven consecutive seasons (1922-28) and was twice the ERA champion in the decade (1924 and 1928). The 1922 and 1923 seasons were nearly repeat performances and neither was a pretty sight, as the Dodgers wound up in sixth place in succession. But, in 1924, Uncle Robbie's troops put on a furious run at the pennant, moving up from 12 games back to first place in September, eventually losing to the Giants by 1 1/2 games.
In 1925, Brooklyn president Charles Ebbets was taken ill after returning from Clearwater, Florida in the spring and died on the morning of April 18 in New York. He was 66. The Dodgers were playing the Giants at Ebbets Field that day to begin a three-game series. The games went on as scheduled because Robinson said, "Charlie wouldn't want anybody to miss a Giants-Brooklyn series just because he died." Now acting president Ed McKeever was in charge. The day of Ebbets' funeral was cold and windy. McKeever caught a cold at the grave site that very day. He was stricken with pneumonia and within a week, he, too, was dead.
Grief stricken, the Brooklyn ballclub gathered itself around Steve McKeever and manager Robinson and the new directors to elect a president. Robinson was selected for the job, and would continue to manage as well.
Robbie's teams struggled for the balance of the decade, finishing in sixth place five consecutive seasons. Floyd Caves "Babe" Herman joined the Dodgers in 1926 as a first baseman but moved to the outfield to allow Del Bissonette a spot in the lineup. Herman batted over .300 in five of the six seasons he was with Brooklyn initially. He would return to close out his career in 1945. The incredible Zack Wheat would hit over .320 in six straight seasons before an injury slowed him down at age 40 and he batted .290.