Wednesday, February 15, 2006

February 15th, 1948

Ron Cey Born

Ron Cey was known as "Penguin" supposedly because of his body type; Bill James says Cey had "low knees" which were evocative of penguins and hence the nickname was born. I don't really see it, but who knows? Maybe it was a had-to-be-there kind of thing.

Cey is best known as the third baseman of the Dodgers' infield--Cey at third base, Steve Garvey at first, Davey Lopes at second and Bill Russell at short--that stayed together for eight years (1974-1981, they had the same catcher for every year of that run but '81) which is easily the longest in history, no one even comes close. It was also pretty damn talented; it's no surprise the Dodgers won four pennants (and an average of ninety-two games, leaving out strike-shortened '81) during that time.

But above all it was the stability that impresses me. Perhaps the closest to the Dodgers' in third base consistency and performance were the Orioles' who had only Doug DeCinces and the great Brooks Robinson manning the hot corner from '74 to '81 but of course the rest of the infield changed around those two. In contrast, the Mets who are famed for their problems at third base (they've had more than one hundred twenty-one players at third over the years; David Wright would seem to have solved that problem, however) who managed six different starters in the period and an astounding thirty for the entire eight-year period. While the Dodgers had Cey reliably maintain his position more often than not, the Mets trotted out, among others three future managers (Joe Torre, Bobby Valentine, Rod Gardenhire), two members of the Miracle Mets (Wayne Garrett and Jerry Grote) and a member of the 1986 Mets (Wally Backman). They even tried Dave Kingman there for twelve games which must've been a trip. Kingman had bad reflexes for left field, God only knows what he was like at third base.

Getting back on track, the Dodgers infield was broken up when Steve Sax replaced Lopes in 1982, Cey was shipped out a year later to the Cubs where he continued to perform reasonably well; he retired as a still above-average hitter and is currently an upper-tier member of the Hall of Very Good.

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