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Dodgers rewind: Jim Lefebvre

Switch-hitting second baseman won 1965 NL Rookie of the Year

Jim Lefebvre

We have another Dodgers rewind for you on today’s Leading Off with True Blue LA podcast, looking back at the well-traveled baseball career of Jim Lefebvre.

Lefebvre grew up in Inglewood and was a batboy for the Dodgers at the Coliseum during his tenure at Morningside High School. He turned down a bigger signing bonus from the Angels to join the Dodgers, and after three years in the minors made the team as opening day second baseman in 1965.

He was a part of the first all-switch-hitting infield in major league history, along with shortstop Maury Wills, third baseman Jim Gilliam, and second-year first baseman Wes Parker. Lefebvre led the Dodgers with 12 home runs as a rookie, tying outfielder Lou Johnson, and was instrumental to the late pennant drive. Lefebvre beat out Joe Morgan for National League Rookie of the Year.

Lefevbre is one of only six Los Angeles Dodgers to lead the team with home runs as a rookie, and he followed that up with 24 home runs in 1966 to lead that team, too. His home run in Game 1 of the 1966 World Series accounted for one of LA’s two runs in the entire series. Only one other LA Dodger led the team in home runs in their first two (real) seasons.

As many of his Dodgers teammates in the 1960s, Lefebvre was an occasional guest star on television shows, including Gilligan’s Island and Batman. Lefebvre played eight years for the Dodgers before accepting a big offer to play for Lotte in Japan.

Lefebvre in his post-playing days was a coach for the Dodgers, including for one year on the major league staff. That led to a falling out with manager Tommy Lasorda, including a tussle at KNBC television studios in Los Angeles before the 1980 season.

Lefebvre later managed the Mariners, Cubs, and Brewers, and helped build China’s baseball program, including an Olympic win in 2008.

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Episode link (time: 29:05)