One of my favorite things about New Years Day is The Rose Bowl. I used to love watching all the college football bowl games on January 1 (or 2 if the 1st fell on an NFL Playoff Sunday), but the Rose Bowl has always been king. The 2009 game features the USC Trojans, ranked 5th in the BCS and winners of 78 of their last 85 games, battling the BCS #8 Penn State Nittany Lions, led by the ageless Joe Paterno (the all-time leader, by one over Bobby Bowden, in NCAA Division 1-A or FBS coaching victories).
What better way to handicap the Granddaddy of Them All than by reviewing players of each school that have also played for the Dodgers!
John Montgomery Ward - a Hall of Famer who played up the middle for the Dodgers -- or "Grooms" if you prefer -- in 1891 (2B) and 1892 (SS), the club's second and third years in the National League. While putting up a 99 OPS+ over his two Dodger seasons, Ward also managed the club. Ward is generally credited with at the very least helping found the Penn State baseball team in 1875. The Penn State baseball media guide has a separate page entitled "The Legend of Monte Ward," which includes this outstanding quote about Ward's time as a Nittany Lion:
"However, the young pioneer never graduated from Penn State because he was kicked out of school for stealing chickens after numerous warnings from the administration."
Hard to top that one. Big advantage to Penn State. Also, Ward was a Dodger teammate of outfielder Oyster Burns, which allows me to bring out one of my favorite stats of the Manny Ramirez Dodger Era:
RBI Greater Than or Equal to Games Played, Dodger History (minimum 3 RBI)
Joe Tepsic - His entire MLB career consisted of six plate appearances with the Dodgers in 1946. He played in 15 games, so it appears he was mostly used as a pinch runner. Shockingly, his two career runs without a base hit are not the most in Dodgers history.
Bob Coulson - A light-hitting OF in the deadball era for the Dodgers, he put up a 78 OPS+ over the 1910-1911 seasons.
Phil Page - After three years out of baseball, a 28-year old Page joined the Dodgers in 1934. He pitched 10 innings over six games.
Rod Dedeaux - His entire MLB career consisted of two games at SS for the Dodgers in 1935, managed by Casey Stengel. After going 1 for 4 with an RBI, he eventually moved on to coaching, and won 11 College World Series titles with USC in his 46 years at the school. USC currently plays its baseball games at Dedeaux field.
Ron Fairly - A fixture of the 1960s Dodgers, Fairly was a starter on the 1963 & 1965 World Series championship teams. He bounced around between 1B and the OF as needed. He played the 15th-most games in Dodger history, and put up a 111 OPS+ in his 12 years as a Dodger, the club's first 12 years in Los Angeles.
Fay Thomas - The first USC player to make the majors, he pitched the third of his four MLB seasons with the Dodgers in 1932, posting a 51 ERA+ in 17 innings. According to the B-R Bullpen, Thomas portrayed Christy Mathewson in "The Pride of the Yankees."
Johnny Werhas - A corner infielder he accumulated only 109 PA over three seasons in the 1960s with the Dodgers. He only put up a 51 OPS+, and was thus traded for...
Len Gabrielson - He arrived in May 1967, and the outfielder showed some production, posting a 114 OPS+ over the rest of the season. Gabrielson led the 1968 Dodgers with 10 homers.
Bob Lillis - Signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951, he didn't see time in the majors until the club moved west in 1958. Primarily a backup SS and 3B, Lillis put up an 84 OPS+ in 3.5 seasons with LA.
Ray Lamb - A reliever for two seasons with the Dodgers (1969-1970), Lamb put up a 110 ERA+ with Los Angeles. Since saves became an official statistic in 1969, Lamb was technically the 6th Dodger to get a save, in a late September game that season.
Bobby Mitchell - No relation to the Pro Football Hall of Famer of the same name, Mitchell was an outfielder who went only 2 for 9 over the 1980-1981 seasons, but he was a walking machine, with two walks in 13 PA.
Stu Pederson - Pederson's entire MLB career consisted of 8 games in 1985 as a late-inning replacement in LF in September and October. Thanks to a pinch run and a sacrifice fly, Pederson is one of only two Dodgers in history to have at least one run and one RBI without the benefit of a hit.
John Cummings - A lefty reliever who put up a 111 ERA+ over parts of the 1995-1996 seasons, Cummings was later packaged with Joey Eischen for Chad "Eric Byrnes Before Eric Byrnes" Curtis (incidentally, Curtis struck out against Trevor Hoffman to end the final game of 1996 to give the Padres the division, even though both the Dodgers and Padres had clinched playoff spots the two previous days. Even though the final game of 1996 was essentially meaningless, it still pains me to see the highlight of Curtis striking out at seemingly every Padre game to this day.)
Chad Moeller - Moeller was called up in September 2007 as the 3rd catcher, and on a team with Russell Martin the 2nd catcher gets less action than the Maytag repairman. Moeller went 1 for 8 and took one for the team with a HBP.
USC has the advantage in quantity with 11 Dodgers, versus four Dodgers for Penn State. I want to give the edge to Penn State in quality with the Hall of Famer and chicken thief John Ward, but Ward's HOF worthiness didn't really come as a Dodger. Basically, the only Dodger of note from either school is the Trojan Ron Fairly. Throw in the Dedeaux factor, and the advantage clearly swings to USC. I was hoping the Dodgers would add another Trojan this offseason, but he instead signed with the hated ones up north.
As for the actual football game, I think it is a good matchup but USC will be too tough for Paterno's boys. My
jinx prediction is USC 31, Penn State 6.
Happy 2009 Everybody!