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Dodgers' Top 5 left fielders: Gurnick's take

@kengurnick
April 28, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings

LOS ANGELES -- No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is our ranking of the top five left fielders in Dodgers history. Next week: center field.

1. Zack Wheat, 1909-26
Key fact: On Wheat’s recommendation, the Dodgers signed his boyhood friend Casey Stengel.

Zack Wheat was a rookie more than 110 years ago, and he’s still the Dodgers’ franchise leader in career hits, doubles, triples and total bases. He was Brooklyn’s starting left fielder for 17 years, succeeding in both the Dead Ball and Live Ball eras. He won a National League batting title in 1918 and an NL slugging title in ’16 en route to a career batting average of .317. Wheat was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1959.

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"One of the grandest guys ever to wear a baseball uniform, one of the greatest batting teachers I have ever seen, one of the truest pals a man ever had and one of the kindliest men God ever created," Stengel said of Wheat.

Although known for his hitting, Wheat was also a stylish, graceful outfielder.

2. Dusty Baker, 1976-83
Key fact: Baker is generally credited, with teammate Glenn Burke, for inventing the high five.

Dusty Baker Jr. provided offense, defense and leadership during eight Dodgers seasons, playing in three World Series, making two All-Star teams, winning a pair of NL Silver Sluggers and an NL Gold Glove. “Dr. Scald” peaked at 30 home runs and never drove in 100 but was a key element during a great Dodgers era. A native Californian, Baker chose uniform No. 12 because when he was young it was worn by his favorite player, Tommy Davis.

3. Tommy Davis, 1959-66
Key fact: Davis was a high school basketball teammate of Lenny Wilkens.

No Dodgers player has won a batting title since Tommy Davis did it in back-to-back seasons in 1962 and ’63. Clutch? His 153 RBIs in ’62 still stand as the franchise record, and his 230 hits that year are the most for any Dodgers player since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958. He hit .400 when the Dodgers swept the Yankees in the ’63 World Series, so the big stage was no problem. But Davis’ destined superstardom was derailed in ’65 when he broke and dislocated his right ankle making an awkward slide into second base. The injury robbed Davis of his power, and he was traded to the Mets after the ’66 season.

4. Gary Sheffield, 1998-2001
Key fact: Sheffield was the first Dodger with at least .300 BA, 30 HRs, 100 RBIs, 100 walks and 100 runs in two seasons.

For simply the best 3 1/2 offensive seasons as a Dodgers left fielder, that would be Gary Sheffield. He was twice an All-Star with an average slash line of .312/.420/.581 in his three full Dodgers seasons. He wasn’t fazed by the drama surrounding the trade that brought him to L.A. for Mike Piazza and might have ranked higher with better defense.

5. Jimmy Sheckard, 1897-98, 1900-05
Key fact: Sheckard led the NL in homers and stolen bases in 1903.

He played his prime seasons with the Cubs, so Jimmy Sheckard isn’t easily associated with the Dodgers. He also bounced around to the Baltimore clubs. But when he was with the Dodgers, he hit in the middle of the lineup, was a slugger and basestealer and was named by both SABR and STATS to their retroactive Gold Glove clubs of the Dead Ball era.

Honorable mentions
Their Dodgers stays were relatively brief, but Kirk Gibson and Manny Ramirez made spectacular impacts.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.