A legend takes the last long walk off the mound

Don Newcombe

One of the best parts of covering the Dodgers was seeing Mr. Newcombe in the stands three hours before game time.  At the time I knew Don worked for the Dodgers but I didn’t know about his habit of being in the stands 2 – 3 hours before every game in the box seats just off the tunnel entrance that takes you toward the dugout.  My first thought upon seeing Don Newcombe in person was that he stood taller than any man of his age should have stood. Ramrod back could have used a picture of Don Newcombe in the definition.   Matt Kemp would always stop by and give his respects. Later I heard that Kenley Jansen became very close to him. I wanted to talk to him more than I wanted to talk to any current Dodgers but I could never muster the courage to bother him with my insignificant questions. This man had seen everything, been through everything. Oh to pick his mind at our leisure, what a treasure trove that would have been.

When I first read about Don Newcombe as a young child I thought I was reading about a Hall of Famer. His list of early career achievements was as good as it gets. Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award (when it was only one for both leagues), and MVP. Back than wins were indicative of your pitching prowess so his 47 – 12 record over the 1955/1956 seasons stood out.  When I perused his baseball encyclopedia page (the baseball reference of my time) I wondered what happened, how did he go from winning 27 games and the MVP at age 30 to having only one more winning season over the next four seasons? How did it end so quickly for him? Only later did I learn about the addictions that helped derail his career. And much much later via Jon Weisman did I find out about how the Dodgers slagged his arm.

Jon Weisman told me that he wanted to write a book about Don Newcombe but that because of certain reasons we won’t go into detail here he was unable to do that book. Instead Jon wrote Brother in Arms about all the great Dodger hurlers and of course, Don Newcombe got one of the biggest chapters. It is in this chapter that you might be stunned at how much Don Newcombe was used. Jon was gracious enough to put that entire chapter online today.

I would recommend everyone to check out that chapter or better yet, buy the book. There is no need for me to go into the details of Don Newcombe because I can’t add anything to what Jon already wrote regarding his accomplishments and what he meant to the Dodger community.

With Don dying, the Dodgers still have two legends from the 1955 Championship team in Tommy Lasorda and Sandy Koufax.  Carl Erskine and Roger Craig are the only other two members of the 1955 Championship team still alive.

I’m not a faith-based person, but I can certainly imagine a world where Don Newcombe comes striding off the mound to meet Roy Campanella and shake his hand once again while the 1955 Team gives him a rousing round of applause for everything he did during his second act.

Player▲ Place of Death Year Age Tm G
Carl Erskine\erskica01 AAA – Still Alive 1955 28 BRO 42
Tom Lasorda\lasorto01 AAA – Still Alive 1955 27 BRO 4
Roger Craig\craigro01 AAA – Still Alive 1955 25 BRO 21
Sandy Koufax\koufasa01 AAA – Still Alive 1955 19 BRO 12
Don Newcombe\newcodo01 AAA-Just Passed 1955 29 BRO 57
Dixie Howell\howeldi02 Binghamton NY 1955 35 BRO 16
Bob Borkowski\borkobo01 Dayton OH 1955 29 BRO 9
Don Zimmer\zimmedo01 Dunedin FL 1955 24 BRO 88
Duke Snider\snidedu01 Escondido CA 1955 28 BRO 148
Johnny Podres\podrejo01 Glens Falls NY 1955 22 BRO 32
Jim Gilliam\gilliji01 Inglewood CA 1955 26 BRO 147
Chuck Templeton\templch01 Irving TX 1955 23 BRO 4
Don Bessent\bessedo01 Jacksonville FL 1955 24 BRO 24
Ed Roebuck\roebued01 Lakewood CA 1955 23 BRO 47
Pee Wee Reese\reesepe01 Louisville KY 1955 36 BRO 145
Sandy Amoros\amorosa01 Miami FL 1955 25 BRO 119
Rube Walker\walkeru01 Morganton NC 1955 29 BRO 48
Russ Meyer\meyerru01 Oglesby IL 1955 31 BRO 18
Frank Kellert\kellefr02 Oklahoma City OK 1955 30 BRO 39
Jim Hughes\hugheji02 Palos Heights IL 1955 32 BRO 24
Don Hoak\hoakdo01 Pittsburgh PA 1955 27 BRO 94
Joe Black\blackjo02 Scottsdale AZ 1955 31 BRO 6
Bert Hamric\hamribe01 Springboro OH 1955 27 BRO 2
Jackie Robinson\robinja02 Stamford CT 1955 36 BRO 105
Carl Furillo\furilca01 Stony Creek Mills PA 1955 33 BRO 140
Billy Loes\loesbi01 Tucson AZ 1955 25 BRO 22
Clem Labine\labincl01 Vero Beach FL 1955 28 BRO 60
Karl Spooner\spoonka01 Vero Beach FL 1955 24 BRO 29
Gil Hodges\hodgegi01 West Palm Beach FL 1955 31 BRO 150
Walt Moryn\morynwa01 Winfield IL 1955 29 BRO 11
Roy Campanella\camparo01 Woodland Hills CA 1955 33 BRO 123
George Shuba\shubage01 Youngstown OH 1955 30 BRO 44
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