The Dodgers lost both Don Drysdale and Roy Campanella within a week of each other in 1993. (Ken Levine | Getty Images)
When thinking of a team, our thoughts often naturally turn to the players on the field. After all, the players are why we watch the games. They are the ones in front of the camera, creating the memories in our minds' eye. The 1993 Dodgers were a team on the rise, with some young players about to create many memories.
The 1992 squad lost 99 games, the first Dodger team in 87 years to finish in last place. They had the worst record in MLB, but because of the draft rules of the time the Dodgers did not get the first pick in 1993. Picks alternated by league, and the American League had dibs that season, which meant the 64-98 Mariners got the top pick, and used it on Alex Rodriguez. The Dodgers, with the second pick, chose Darren Dreifort.
On the field, the 1993 team was an improved bunch. They had a rookie catcher named Mike Piazza who set the world on fire with 35 home runs, the most by a Dodger since Duke Snider in 1957. Eric Karros, the man who would set the LA Dodger record for home runs, was in his second full season. Raul Mondesi made his major league debut that season as well.
The pitching staff had youngstersand Pedro Astacio to go along with veterans Orel Hershiser, Tom Candiotti, and Kevin Gross. All five starters made at least 30 starts, the last time the Dodgers have had as many as four pitchers accomplish that in one season. They also had Ramon's little brother, a 21-year old Pedro, who provided 107 innings of excellent relief (and two spot starts), but that's another story for another time.
While we look at a team on the field, given what we see, we often fail to see the behind the scenes efforts of those we don't see. While 1993 was a year of improvement on the field for the Dodgers, it was a terrible year off the field. During spring training, former Dodger Tim Crews died as part of the awful boating accident involving fellow Cleveland Indians Steve Olin and Bobby Ojeda. Then, on June 26, Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella passed away. However, the events of July 3 were unique.
The Dodgers were in Montreal for a weekend series. Don Drysdale, the Hall of Fame pitcher, was now part of the Dodgers' announcing crew, along with Vin Scully and Ross Porter. As the game was getting closer to starting, Drysdale still hadn't arrived at the ballpark. Before long, and before the game, the club found out that Drysdale had died in his sleep at the team hotel. The problem was, nobody from the team could get a hold of Anne Meyers-Drysdale, his wife.
The game began, and Scully, Porter, and Jamie Jarrin had to go along with their business as though nothing had happened, not wanting to announce the news before first contacting Drysdale's family. The announcement wasn't made until the top of the eighth inning, per the Los Angeles Times:
"Friends, we've known each other a long time," Scully said, "and I've had to make a lot of announcements, some more painful than others. But never have I ever been asked to make an announcement that hurts me as much as this one. And I say it to you as best I can with a broken heart.
"Don Drysdale, who had a history of heart trouble--you may remember a couple of years ago he had angioplasty--was found dead in his hotel room, obviously a victim of a heart attack, and had passed away during his sleep."
I can still remember where I was when I heard that news. I was at my brother Kelly's house, and we were watching the game. We heard the heartbreak in Scully's voice as he informed us of the horrible news. That the broadcast crew and front office members like longtime traveling secretary Bill DeLury held their tongue while simultaneously working tirelessly to get a hold of Drysdale's family is commendable, and a great example of teamwork, done behind the scenes.
On the field, the 1993 Dodgers went 81-81, an 18-game improvement over the previous year. They also got the pleasure of eliminating the 103-win Giants on the final day of the season. But 1993 was a tough year overall.