With the Dodgers finally retiring Fernando Valenzuela’s number, there’s been plenty said about the impact Valenzuela had on the Dodgers franchise. Yes, he was an incredible pitcher, but this move honors more than his athletic abilities. It’s about the way he redesigned the Dodgers’ fan base, giving Latino fans someone to rally around. Few other Dodgers have had quite the same impact — you don’t hear anyone talking about Kershawmania or The Justin Turner Effect — but here’s a look at some players who changed the way fans saw the team, if only for a moment.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wears number 30 in honor of Maury Wills, who transformed baserunning and stealing across the league and dazzled fans across the L.A.
“Almost single-handedly, Maury turned baseball from its love affair with plodding, one-dimensional sluggers and got the game to consider pure speed as serious offensive and defensive weapons,” pitcher Tommy John said of Wills’ impact.
That influence continued long after Wills stopped terrorizing pitchers on the base paths. He taught a new generation of ballplayers how to analyze pitchers and steal opportunities for maximum success, including Roberts, who says he heard Wills’ advice in his head when he ran for second base during the 2004 ALCS and set the Red Sox on their way to breaking their 100-year World Series drought.
We’re not saying Gibson’s number should be retired, but it’s impossible to ignore how one swing changed everything for Los Angeles in 1988. Like Roberts’ steal for the Sox, Gibson’s homer propelled his team to a World Series win and forced the baseball world to pay attention. Plus, we got not one but two iconic broadcast calls from that night: after all, it’s a rare Dodger fan who can’t tell you what comes after “In a season of the improbable...”
There must have been something in the Chavez Ravine air in 1988, because that’s the year Orel Hershiser set his record-breaking streak of 59 scoreless innings. Though he himself considered the record unbreakable, he managed to make it happen and narrowly held on through some 1-0 wins that could have easily derailed the whole endeavor. Hershiser continues to be an important part of the Dodgers’ story as a broadcast announcer.
L.A. loves Justin Turner because of how much Justin Turner loves L.A. On the field and in the clubhouse, he’s known for being a leader. But outside of the stadium, Turner and his wife, Kourtney, have tirelessly fundraised to support veterans, those with food and housing insecurity, foster kids, and children with serious illnesses.
“His impact, whether I see him at an event we’re doing or he pops up to help for a cause very quietly — he’s been a person who likes to lead with his heart,” said L.A. major Eric Garcetti.
The Long Beach native was nominated for his fifth Roberto Clemente Award this year, winning it for the first time in 2022, and plans to continue his work in L.A. despite his move to Boston.
For someone as talented as Clayton Kershaw to be so humble — even dismissive — of his own accomplishments is a rare thing. But it’s part of his legacy, and no matter how his career ends, he’ll be remembered in Los Angeles as much for his loyalty, relentless drive for self-improvement, and unpretentious nature as he will be for his skill.
“I didn’t really expect it,” he said of the crowd’s reaction after he broke the Dodgers’ strikeout record in May 2022. “I didn’t know the fans would know or honestly care that much. So it was special for me.”
And when Roberts took Kershaw out of a perfect game just a month earlier, the pitcher admitted that a younger version of himself would have probably been angry at the call. The Kershaw of today, though, kept it simple: “It felt like the right decision.”