Today is a Dodgers rewind day on Leading Off with True Blue LA, and in this episode we look back at Jack Fimple, a rookie catcher who was thrust into literally everyday duty on his second day in the majors, all for a division winner.
Looking back at the 1980s, Mike Scioscia was the name for Dodgers catchers, but after the 1982 season the position was very much in flux. Scioscia struggled in 1982, his second full year, and at the winter meetings they struck a deal with the Rangers for All-Star catcher Jim Sundberg. The trade, which would have sent Burt Hooton, Mark Bradley, Dave Stewart, and a minor leaguer named Orel Hershiser, fell through because Sundberg wanted his contract revised.
The Dodgers stayed with Scioscia along with longtime veteran Steve Yeager as his backup for 1983, but even those plans went awry. Scioscia hurt his shoulder in May, and missed the rest of the season. Yeager took over for the next two-plus months.
Fimple, who came to the Dodgers from Cleveland in the Rick Sutcliffe trade, was called up for his major league debut on July 30. One day later, Yeager was hit by a pitch and broke his wrist. Fimple took over for Yeager and singled in the ninth, and would score the winning run.
Fimple started the next 24 games in a row, until Yeager came back, and started 48 out of the final 61 games of the year. Fimple had some key hits early on, and with 10 RBI in his first 23 games the San Bernardino Sun noted, “They’re calling it Fimple Fever.”
The fever didn’t quite catch on, but Fimple was quite serviceable for a backup catcher, hitting .250/.300/.358 with an 82 OPS+ and a solid defensive reputation. It’s just that he was playing every day. Fimple started two of the four NLCS games that year, going 1-for-7 with an RBI.
Fimple was mostly in the minors after that, playing only 37 more major league games across three seasons, and had surgery to repair his UCL after the 1984 season. He was also a part of reported trade talks with the Phillies, who wanted Fimple, Bob Welch, Tom Niedenfuer, Sid Bream, and Ralph Bryant to part with third baseman Mike Schmidt. The Dodgers, per UPI, did not want to part with Bryant.
Episode link (time: 16:22)