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On this date, the Dodgers’ famed infield began their 8½-year run

Garvey, Lopes, Russell & Cey first started together on June 23, 1973

Dodger Infield circa 1995 Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images

Forty-seven years ago today, the Dodgers started Steve Garvey at first base, Davey Lopes at second base, Bill Russell at shortstop, and Ron Cey at third base in the second game of a doubleheader against the Reds at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers won 5-1 thanks to a three-run home run from Ken McMullen, who filled in at third after Cey pulled his right tricep muscle. The game became notable later on as the first time the Dodgers’ famed infield started together in a major league game.

The wonderful Mike Noren at Gummy Arts drew some baseball cards commemorating the anniversary of the quartet’s first game together in the Dodgers infield 10 days ago.

But that group’s first start together came on June 23, 1973.

It took a while to build to this moment. Russell was the only one of the group to start on opening day. There was a thought given to Cey opening the season at third base, but that instead went to McMullen, back with the Dodgers after eight years away.

From John Hall in the Los Angeles Times on opening day (1): “You know about third base where either Ken McMullen or Ron Cey will open this evening as the 13th new hot corner hotfoot in the last 15 seasons. Once a Dodger opens at third, it’s about the last ever heard of him.”

Since moving to Los Angeles in 1958, the Dodgers only had three players start at third base on opening day more than once up to this point — Jim Lefebvre (1966-67) and Steve Garvey (1970-71) did in consecutive years, and McMullen spread his out, with first-game starts in both 1963 and 1973.

McMullen started the first five games of the season at third before a muscle spasm in his back sidelined him, opening the door for Cey at the hot corner. McMullen only played 125 total games in his three-season return to the Dodgers.

After all that instability at third base in their first 15 seasons in Los Angeles, Cey became the norm, starting nine straight opening days at third base from 1974-82.

Lopes didn’t start in any of the Dodgers’ first 16 games, though he appeared seven times as a reserve, totaling all of four plate appearances. Lopes saw a few innings in the field at shortstop, third base, and right field before taking over for Lee Lacy as the starter at second base on April 22.

“I’ll leave Lopes in for a while,” manager Walt Alston told the LA Times (2). “I don’t want to make too many changes. I received some complaints last year.”

Lopes started 133 of the final 146 games of the season.

For Garvey, who only started seven times in the Dodgers’ first 71 games, it was his first start in eight weeks.

Ross Newhan in the Los Angeles Times wrote two days after that first start for the group about how Garvey requested a trade prior to the June 15 deadline: (3)

Garvey smiled Sunday and said: “I haven’t said ‘Play me or platoon me,’ but platooning would be a step in the right direction, a step toward playing regularly.”

Manager Alston, intent on keeping his bench as sharp as possible, said he would spot start Garvey at first, removing Buckner, who has hit in seven straight games, against certain left-handers.

Beginning with that June 23 start, Garvey would start 72 of the final 90 games of the season at first base.

Once Alston came around to having Garvey, Lopes, Cey, and Russell in the same infield, he stuck with it. By the time Tommy Lasorda took over as manager in 1977, having already managed all of them previously in the minors, all four were established regulars, and all but Lopes had made at least one All-Star team.

But I wondered in their 8½ seasons together, just how many games did all four players start together in the infield? They were all regulars during the entire run, but all it takes is one sitting out, either by injury or getting a day off, to throw things off.

Garvey, Lopes, Cey, and Russell started 810 games together in the field as Dodgers. That amounted to just over 60 percent of the team’s games during those 8½ seasons.

Starts for The Infield

Year Total starts LA games Pct Longest streak
Year Total starts LA games Pct Longest streak
1973 52 91 57.1% 13
1974 120 162 74.1% 34
1975 72 162 44.4% 24
1976 87 162 53.7% 20
1977 86 162 53.1% 27
1978 130 162 80.2% 32
1979 128 162 79.0% 20
1980 99 163 60.7% 12
1981 36 110 32.7% 11
Totals 810 1336 60.6%
*1973 games started with that first start together on June 23.

In three seasons the quartet started over 100 games together (plus another at 99), the first of which was the pennant-winning year in 1974. That season saw their longest streak of consecutive starts together, a 34-game stretch from August 9 to September 15. They had a 32-game start streak in 1978.

They played in four postseasons together, making the World Series each time (1974, 1977, 1978, and 1981), totaling 45 games. Garvey, Lopes, and Russell started all 45 playoff games together, while Cey started 40, only missing the 1981 division series against Houston with a broken forearm. That makes 850 games started together for the group, who combined for 21 All-Star selections during their run with the Dodgers.

It was quite a run together for The Infield.

  1. “Here’s Baseball,” by John Hall, Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1973.
  2. “Dodgers Concerned as Andy Loses, 4-2,” by Ross Newhan, Los Angeles Times, April 23, 1973.
  3. “It’s June — McMullen’s Bustin’ Out All Over,” by Ross Newhan, Los Angeles Times, June 25, 1973.