#52 The Four Musketeers

In 1625 a young man named d’Artagnan left home to travel to Paris, hoping to join the Musketeers of the Guard.  Although d’Artagnan was not able to join the elite corps immediately, he is befriended by three of the most formidable musketeers of the era – Athos, Porthos and Aramis, “the three inseparables” – and becomes involved in affairs of state.

SSOMG reaches back a few hundred years to draw a parallel from history.  Ok, so it was actually the three musketeers, plus d’Artagnan. 

For the Dodgers it was Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey; the longest-running infield combination there ever was.  This group of four stayed together and played together for almost 9 years (1973 – 1981).

In a day where it is rare to see a major league infield stay intact for more than a season or two, the four Dodgers were suddenly brought together by chance circumstances in the summer of 1973. Only Ron Cey played his entire career at the same position.  The others, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes and Bill Russell all started their careers at different positions, but as a result of timing and injuries, happenstance and manager-intuition, ended up at the right place at the right time on the night of June 23rd, 1973.

The Dodgers had actually started the ’73 season with different starters at each of the positions except shortstop, which was now considered a lock for Bill Russell.  But by the 3rd month of the season the fabulous and faithful four had become the starters, and remained so for more than the next 8 years.

Though the new combination led LA to just a 2nd place finish in ’73, by 1974 the team won 102 games and the National League pennant, led by all-stars Garvey and Cey.

LA would go on to win 4 pennants and one World Championship during the musketeer’s eight-year streak.  Though they may have never uttered the battle-cry, “all-for-one and one-for-all”, whatever kept them intact for that long seemed to work.  In major league history, the closest thing to the Dodgers’ quartet was probably the Cubs infield of the early 1900s. Shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers and first baseman Frank Chance – Tinker to Evers to Chance —the Cubs’ regulars from 1902 through 1910…but never a d’Artagnan-esque 3rd baseman to go along with the other three.

As in all stories, even sports stories, great things must come to an end.  Davey Lopes was the first to go, slowed by age and injuries he was traded to the A’s in 1981, though somehow managed to remain a part-time player for other teams for 6 more seasons.  Steve Garvey departed for the San Diego Padres in 1982, where he helped lead the Padres to a pennant in 1984.  Ron Cey was traded to the Chicago Cubs after the 1982 season, and ended his productive baseball career as an Oakland A in 1987.  Bill Russell continued as the starting Dodger shortstop through the 1983 season, and eventually went on to manage the ballclub after the departure of Tommy Lasorda due to health concerns.

SSOMG remembers the musketeers well.  Each of the four infielders were integral parts of some pretty strong Dodger ball clubs, including the Championship team of 1981, led by Rookie of the year, Fernando Valenzuela.  Garvey and Lopes and Russell and Cey each had good, if not great baseball careers, but these four shall forever be known as the infield the hung together for more than 8 years; a record that is not likely to be matched ever again; All for one and one for all…at least for awhile.

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