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Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Telling the story of Major League Baseball is impossible without a long chapter on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In a 20-season period from 1947 to ’66, the Dodgers appeared in the World Series exactly half of the time. That memorable stretch included four of the organization’s seven championships and more than a handful of future Hall of Fame players.
But the 1980s and 2010s also feature some memorable teams, so our challenge is identifying the best of the best.
The order is subjective, especially since there is no perfect way to compare eras. Still, a few important factors were regular-season record, playoff finish and overall performance of the team.
While the franchise dates back to 1884, the nickname “Dodgers” arrived 48 years later. Teams before 1932 were not considered.
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During the franchise’s second year in Los Angeles, the Dodgers laid the foundation of what would become a dynasty.
When they won the World Series in 1955, the roster still featured Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese. Between then and 1959, though, they all retired. Brooklyn moved to L.A., and only two pieces of the core—Gil Hodges and Duke Snider—remained key players during the transition.
Meanwhile, the four-year period included the emergence of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale—two future Hall of Fame pitchers—and All-Star infielder Charlie Neal.
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David J. Phillip/Associated Press
In hindsight, the Houston Astros‘ sign-stealing scandal leaves Los Angeles wondering “what if” about the 2017 season. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic year for the Dodgers.
Now, that doesn’t remove the sting of losing a seven-game World Series. Yet the Dodgers posted an MLB-best 104-58 record, allowing just 3.6 runs per game. Clayton Kershaw finished second in the NL Cy Young Award race, while Kenley Jansen (fifth) and Alex Wood (t-ninth) also received votes for the award.
Six players hit 20-plus homers, including a team-best 39 from Cody Bellinger—who earned NL Rookie of the Year.
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JOHN LINDSAY/Associated Press
Like the 2017 Dodgers, the 1953 squad finished just short of the franchise’s first championship. In the World Series, it lost to the New York Yankees—an all-too-familiar result in this era.
But this lineup must’ve been fun to watch.
Roy Campanella racked up 41 homers and 142 RBIs, winning his second of three career NL MVP honors. Duke Snider amassed 42 and 126, respectively, with Gil Hodges (31/122) and Carl Furillo (21/92) close behind. Jackie Robinson and Jim Gilliam—the NL Rookie of the Year—combined for 174 walks and only 68 strikeouts.
Brooklyn accumulated 208 homers and 2,545 total bases, which were then the second- and 12th-highest marks in MLB history.
The 105-win Dodgers fell to the Yankees in six games.
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If you’ve ever watched the MLB postseason, you’ve probably seen a replay of Kirk Gibson’s iconic home run. That moment in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series has become a legendary highlight.
Gibson, the NL MVP, propelled the Dodgers’ bats during the regular season, too. Pitching, however, was the true strength of this Los Angeles team. Orel Hershiser received every NL Cy Young first-place vote following his 23-8, 2.26 ERA season.
Behind him, Los Angeles had Tim Leary (17-11, 2.91 ERA) and star rookie Tim Belcher (12-6, 2.91) in the rotation. Additionally, the relievers posted an MLB-leading 2.35 ERA as the Dodgers ceded a meager 3.4 runs per game while notching a 94-67-1 record.
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And in 1965, the pitching was even better.
Sandy Koufax continued an incredible run, posting a National League-low ERA (2.04) for the fourth straight year. He took home the second of three career Cy Young Awards and headlined a deep pitching staff that surrendered an MLB-low 3.2 runs per game.
Starting pitchers Don Drysdale (2.77 ERA) and Claude Osteen (2.79) both recorded sub-3.00 ERAs, and Johnny Podres (3.43) didn’t miss by much. Ron Perranoski (2.24 ERA in 104.2 innings pitched), Bob Miller (2.97/103), Howie Reed (3.12/78) and Jim Brewer (1.82/49.1) formed a reliable quartet out of the bullpen.
Thanks to these arms, 97-win Los Angeles overcame an average offense to beat the Minnesota Twins in the World Series.
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Two years earlier, the Dodgers had a nearly identical team. The offense was average, and the pitching was unquestionably elite.
Los Angeles scored 3.9 runs per game but allowed only 3.4, leaning heavily on the trio of Koufax, Drysdale and Podres. They combined to start 116 games, and both Koufax—the Cy Young and MVP winner—and Drysdale topped 300 innings pitched.
Miller split his time as a starter and reliever, providing 187 innings with a 2.89 ERA. Perranoski had a career-best season and registered a 1.67 ERA, 21 saves and 16 wins.
After a 99-63 regular season, the Dodgers swept the Yankees while ceding just four runs in the World Series.
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Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
As if comparing eras isn’t already hard enough, a pandemic-shortened season adds another twist to the measurement.
Los Angeles ended the 60-game campaign with a 43-17 record, which produces a .717 winning percentage. The sample size is obviously low—102 below normal, to be exact—but that’s the highest winning rate of the expansion era (since 1961).
Most notably, the Dodgers led the majors in runs per game (5.8) and finished second in runs allowed per game (3.6).
In the unique 16-team postseason, Los Angeles swept both the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres. Then, it recovered from a 3-1 NLCS deficit to stun the Atlanta Braves and bested the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series.
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The star-studded 1955 roster was a juggernaut.
Led by NL MVP Roy Campanella, the Dodgers piled up an MLB-best 5.6 runs per game and a 98-55-1 record. They swatted 201 homers, which ranked No. 3 in MLB history at the time.
Duke Snider paced Brooklyn with 42 homers and 136 RBIs, while Campanella (32/107), Hodges (27/102) and Furillo (26/95) all again provided major run production. Reese and Gilliam both totaled at least 35 extra-base hits on the season, too.
Plus, the rotation boasted 20-game winner Don Newcombe and World Series MVP Johnny Podres. Brooklyn ceded a National League-low 4.2 runs per game.
After losing to the Yankees in the 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953 World Series, the Dodgers finally won. Podres spun a shutout to give the Dodgers a 2-0 victory in Game 7.