The Dodgers before Friday night’s game at Dodger Stadium honored Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey, and Bill Russell on the 50th anniversary of the first game that quartet started together, the longest-tenured infield in major league history.
Lopes was unable to attend, but Garvey, Cey, and Russell were on the field to throw ceremonial first pitches, and were honored with a tribute video.
Russell— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 24, 2023
An ode to the Legendary Infield. pic.twitter.com/5aOFhVNrns
Garvey, Lopes, Cey, and Russell were intact together for eight and a half seasons, from June 23, 1973, though the 1981 World Series. No other infield quartet in major league history stayed together that long.
“If we weren’t the best infield of all time, we were the most successful,” Cey wrote in his new autobiography ‘Penguin Power,’ written with Ken Gurnick. “Every member was a multi-year All-Star, we appeared in more World Series than any infield, and we won a world championship.”
Those four players were fixtures in the infield, and they all started together 833 times during the regular season from 1973-1981. The Dodgers had a .598 winning percentage in those games while scoring 4.48 runs per game on average, compared to .521 in the other 503 games during that span, averaging 4.02 runs scored.
That group went to four World Series together in eight and a half seasons, and won a championship in 1981, their final year together as a group. Garvey, Lopes, and Russell started all 45 Dodgers playoff games during those years. Cey started 40, only missing the 1981 National League Division Series due to a broken arm.
Russell was the first of the group to gain a foothold on his position, starting 118 games at shortstop in 1972. Cey took over at third base for the veteran Ken McMullen at third base in the first week of 1973, and less than two weeks later, Lopes took over at second base for Lee Lacy. Garvey, who played mostly an erratic third base during his first three years in the majors, rode the bench for over two months to begin 1973.
Catcher Joe Ferguson broke his thumb in late June, and manager Walt Alston wanted another power bat in the lineup so Garvey got some time at first base, with Bill Buckner moving to left field. Garvey started at first base in the second game of a doubleheader against the Reds on June 23 at Dodger Stadium, with Lopes at second, Russell at shortstop, and Cey at third base.
Lopes, batting leadoff, singled and walked, stole a base, and scored two runs. Garvey doubled and singled. Cey, who homered in the first game, walked and scored in the nightcap, but also pulled his right tricep muscle trying to make a throw from third base, and couldn’t finish the game. McMullen, his replacement at third base, hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning to win it for the Dodgers.
Cey missed three games but quickly returned to the lineup. By early July, The Infield was starting nearly every game together.
Cey was the only one of the group who was essentially always a third baseman. Garvey played mostly third base until the Dodgers found a home for his bat at first base out of necessity. Russell and Lopes were outfielders who made the transition to middle infield.
Their unmatched major league run together started under Alston, then played five years under Tommy Lasorda, who managed each of them in the minors. With so many moving parts, it’s incredible not only for The Infield to exist, but to endure like it did.
“The planets aligned big time for that to happen. We had to be good enough, long enough,” Cey wrote in ‘Penguin Power.’ “We had to have a management that embraced stability — even when it was known for developing young players and wasn’t hesitant to promote them.”
Garvey (eight), Cey (six), Lopes (four), and Russell (three) combined to make 21 All-Star teams while with the Dodgers, and played together on four pennant winners and one World Series champion. To play together for so long and to be that successful as a group makes The Infield one of the more remarkable achievements in franchise history.