Top Dodgers managers: Gurnick's take

June 16th, 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 are for fun and debate purposes only.

Here is our ranking of the top five managers in Dodgers history. Next week: general managers.

Dodgers' all-time team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | Bench | RHP | LHP | Relievers

1) Walter Alston
When players complained to the traveling secretary about a broken-down bus, Alston challenged the entire roster to step off the bus and “settle this right here.”

He’s the franchise leader for total games won (2,040) and World Series won (four, including the Dodgers’ first in 1955). He wasn’t a flashy showman but a steady hand, a relatively unknown Minor League manager who backed into the opportunity when previous Brooklyn manager Charlie Dressen was removed over a contract dispute and star shortstop Pee Wee Reese didn’t want the skipper job.

"I always imagined [Alston] to be the type who could ride shotgun on a stage through Indian territory,” Vin Scully said. “He was all man and two yards tall. He was very quiet, very controlled. He never made excuses. He gave the players the credit, and he took the blame. He was so solid, so American."

Alston lasted 23 years, was named manager of the year six times and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1983.

“He was a man you’d most like to be next to in a lifeboat. Or a foxhole,” Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray wrote. “Alston made mistakes, but they were never motivated by fear of failure. Alston never cut his losses. Or alibied his defeats.”

2) Tom Lasorda
“I said it because I believed it. And I wanted my players to believe it. You gotta believe.” -- Lasorda

In many ways, Lasorda was the polar opposite of Alston. Brash, rash and always ready to talk some trash, what Lasorda shared with Alston was a lengthy Minor League training and the savvy to get the most out of the players he had. With hugs and a hunger for winning and eating, Lasorda took over for Alston at the end of the 1976 season and went on to 1,599 regular-season wins and a pair of World Series titles, inheriting a nucleus of players he molded in the Minors. He retired after suffering a heart attack in '96, much to his surprise.

“I don’t get heart attacks, I give them,” Lasorda told team owner Peter O’Malley, who feared Lasorda would work and eat himself into a health risk.

3) Wilbert Robinson
Purchased from Baltimore along with another future Hall of Fame manager, John McGraw

“Uncle Robbie” is the third of four Hall of Famers on this list. He’s the only one whose name actually became the nickname of the club (Robins) during his 18-year tenure. A former catcher, Robinson was known for his utilization of pitchers. His clubs won a pair of pennants but also earned a “Daffy” reputation for its stretches in the second division. For five years, he held the unusual double role of manager/president.

4) Leo Durocher
“Nice guys finish last.” Attributed to Durocher, his actual quote reportedly was: “The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.”

If you think Lasorda was a character in the role, you should have seen “Leo the Lip,” a three-time All-Star during a 20-year playing career. As it ended, he became player/manager of the Dodgers. He was known for arguing with umpires, ordering pitchers to bean batters and for winning at all costs. He turned around the Dodgers from six consecutive losing seasons to 100-win pennant winners. But he also was suspended for the 1947 season for associating with gamblers. He missed the debut of Jackie Robinson, although he was one of Robinson’s earliest supporters.

5) Dave Roberts
Dodgers first African American manager

In four seasons, Roberts has the highest winning percentage on this list, never missing the postseason, with a pair of World Series appearances. His four-year win total ranks fourth all-time. Last year’s 106-win total is a franchise record.

Honorable mention: Charlie Dressen, Burt Shotton, Ned Hanlon, Don Mattingly, Jim Tracy, Joe Torre