Dodgers’ Top 5 first basemen: Gurnick’s take

March 31st, 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. We also asked fans to weigh in on Twitter:

Here is our ranking of the top five first basemen in Dodgers history. Next week: Second basemen.

1) Gil Hodges, 1943-61
Key fact: His 43.3 Wins Above Replacement (per Baseball Reference) leads all Dodgers first basemen. Needing 75 percent of the vote, Hodges was named on 63.4 percent of writers' ballots in his final year of Hall of Fame eligibility

He was a powerful hitter and a graceful fielder. Only Mel Ott and Willie Mays had more consecutive 100-RBI seasons than Hodges’ seven. He had nine fewer home runs than Tony Pérez in 2,748 fewer at-bats. He was an eight-time All-Star and won the Gold Glove the first three years it was given. He missed 2 1/2 seasons serving in the Marines during World War II, including a stint fighting on Okinawa, but still played on seven pennant winners and two World Series champions. From 1949-59, he averaged 30 HRs and 101 RBIs. From 1943-60, his 370 HRs trailed only Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Eddie Mathews, Stan Musial and Duke Snider -- all Hall of Famers.

“I saw him and I said: ‘[Rogers] Hornsby or [Jimmie] Foxx.’ That’s what I said.” -- Branch Rickey Jr., after first seeing Hodges at a tryout camp in 1943. Hodges signed for $1,000.

“He is the kind of boy who makes his scout’s job safe for 20 years.” -- Branch Rickey Sr.

2) Steve Garvey, 1969-82
Key fact: Excluding players linked to PEDs and the banned-for-life Pete Rose, the only eligible player with more All-Star appearances than Garvey’s 10 not in the Hall of Fame is Bill Freehan (11)

From 1974-80, Garvey was the epitome of consistency, with a batting average between .297 and .319 and an OPS between .808 and .852, never finishing lower than 14th in MVP voting. He was at his clutch best in the postseason, with a .910 OPS. His NL record of 1,307 consecutive games played will probably never be broken. He was a hit machine, with at least 200 of them in six different seasons. Eight of his All-Star appearances were with the Dodgers, but he left as a free agent to join the Padres for his final five seasons.

“I always thought of my career as a body of work and not just about numbers,” Garvey said.

“I remember my dad taking me here to Dodger Stadium from Las Vegas … and I saw you with that red 6 on your jersey, and it was one of the greatest days of my life. As a Little Leaguer, I always wore 6. I know your batting stance as well as the faces of my own children.” -- Jimmy Kimmel, at Garvey’s induction into the Legends of Dodgers Baseball

3) Jake Daubert, 1910-18
Key fact: Holds the NL record with 392 sacrifices

If you haven’t hit triple digits in birthdays, you didn’t see Daubert play, but he won back-to-back batting titles in 1913-14. The only Dodger to do that previously was Hall of Famer Willie Keeler in 1897-98, and the only one since was Tommy Davis in 1962-63. Daubert was traded to the Reds by Brooklyn owner Charles Ebbets after Daubert sued for (and won) the balance of his salary in 1918, a season cut short by World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic.

4) Dolph Camilli, 1938-43
Key fact: Led the NL in homers and RBIs in 1941

Camilli's 1941 campaign won him the NL MVP and helped the Dodgers reach the World Series for the first time since 1920. It was a pretty big deal during the Spring Training of 1938 when the Phillies traded Camilli, who had a 1.034 OPS the previous season, to the Dodgers. He drove in at least 100 runs for Brooklyn in four of the next five seasons. He was traded to the archrival New York Giants in the summer of 1943 but refused to report and instead managed in the Pacific Coast League.

5) Wes Parker, 1964-72
Key fact: In 1,108 games at first base, his fielding percentage was .996

If you want to teach someone how to play first base, get a video of Parker, who won six consecutive Gold Glove Awards. And defense wasn’t his only skill, as he hit .319 (fourth in NL) in 1970, when he also led the league with 47 doubles.

Honorable mentions
Eric Karros was a mainstay for more than a decade, a Rookie of the Year with five 30-plus HR seasons. Adrián González had a pair of 100-plus RBI seasons in Los Angeles.