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Bill Plaschke

All the old feelings come rushing back this night

October 05, 2008|Bill Plaschke

White towels fluttering. Jacketed fans screaming. A chilly sky pierced by chilling screams.

Randy Newman on the loudspeakers. Horns in the parking lot. Dancing on the field.

A deep chant from the most ancient parts of grand old Chavez Ravine.

Sweep . . . sweep . . . sweep.

It's been 20 years, so the memory is fuzzy, but I think I recognize this . . . oh yeah.

The Dodgers have won a playoff series.

Have they ever.

On a night when the old stadium rocked like a giddy teen, the Dodgers shed the baggage of a 20-year postseason series drought by tossing the darling Chicago Cubs back into irrelevancy with a sweeping 3-1 victory.

"Right now, this is the place to be!" shouted Manny Ramirez above the noise of the sort of on-field postgame party we haven't seen here since 1988.

Players threw their caps in the air and wrestled each other to the ground. Fans stayed in their seats rocking and waving. Frank and Jamie McCourt hugged and mugged.

In keeping with a new Dodgers victory tradition, Russell Martin later led the players back to the field to spray champagne on the fans, and why not?

The Dodgers didn't just win this National League division series, they stomped that sucker flat.

They swept the Cubs in three games. They led the Cubs in 23 of 27 innings.

Their three starting pitchers went at least six innings each, allowing two runs or less. Seven of their eight position players collected RBIs.

A week ago, when there was talk of the World Series, the Dodgers were long shots. Today, from the tip of Rafael Furcal's bat to the bottom of Derek Lowe's sinker, they might be the favorites.

They head to the National League Championship Series this week against either Philadelphia or Milwaukee, and will clearly not be intimidated by either.

"We did it once!" shouted Ramirez. "Believe me, we can do it again!"

On one of the most wonderful evenings at Chavez Ravine in many years, the Dodgers showed they not only have the juice of the present, but the karma of the past.

Did you know this clinching occurred on the 53rd anniversary of the day the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first and only world championship?

In 1955, it was Johnny Podres throwing a shutout. On Saturday, it was Hiroki Kuroda throwing 6 1/3 shutout innings.

In 1955, it was first baseman Gil Hodges driving in two runs. On Saturday, it was James Loney driving in two runs.

Duke Snider and Don Newcombe, two members of that 1955 team, threw out Saturday's first pitch.

Jonathan Broxton, after striking out Mark DeRosa to end an eighth-inning threat, threw Saturday's final pitch, a third strike to Alfonso Soriano followed by a punch of relief.

"Thank you fans, this is for you!" shouted Furcal. "This is for you!"

It is for baseball purists everywhere, these Dodgers players that have only been together for a couple of months but are performing as if they have been waiting for this all their lives.

Take the first inning, when, against Cubs starter Rich Harden, they played what can once again be called Dodgers baseball.

Martin knocked a two-strike fastball down the left-field line for a double. Manny Ramirez grounded a one-strike fastball into left field for a single.

After carefully watching three pitches -- two balls, one strike -- Loney banged a ball into the right-field corner for a two-run double.

In the fifth inning, both Furcal and Martin turned patience into runs, Furcal walking and Martin eventually turning a 2-and-0 count into an RBI double.

The 3-0 lead was more than enough against a Cubs team that, let's face it, should be embarrassed.

From the moment Loney hit the grand slam in the fifth inning of the series opener, they seemingly crumbled under the weight of their now century-old burden.

Cursed? It's more like, quit.

They have the best record in the National League over 162 games, yet they can't show up for more than four postseason innings?

They score the most runs in the National League during the season, yet they manage just six runs in three postseason games?

They allowed the fewest unearned runs in the National League during the season, yet they commit six errors in three games?

At times, it seemed the Cubs were trying not to win.

In the fourth inning, Geovany Soto doubled and took third on Jim Edmonds' grounder. With the infield playing back, he was in position to score on DeRosa's grounder to third baseman Casey Blake.

But Soto never left the base. He just stood there while Blake threw out DeRosa, and the inning eventually ended on Harden's strikeout.

The fans roared then, as they roared all night, after which they were thanked by Dodgers Manager Joe Torre after he dragged his champagne-soaked body back on to the field.

"Dodger fans, you are very, very special!" shouted Torre to the crowd Saturday. "Just don't go away, we'll be back next week."

For the fans, an invitation.

For the baseball world, a warning.

--

Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.

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