Short Stops

Dodgers Autographed Plate

It is a simple memento, a souvenir of a never to be forgotten trip, but it is quite likely the most unique piece of Brooklyn Dodger memorabilia in existence.

The souvenir is a porcelain plate made by the Noritake Factory with Mt. Fuji in Japan hand painted onto the plate. What is most striking about the plate are the autographs that appear, those members of the Brooklyn Dodger organization who made a visit to play a series of exhibition games in the fall of 1956.

Although the autographs are now more than 65 years old, their brightness and clarity on the plate sparkle as if the autographs had been signed just yesterday!

Twelve Baseball Hall of Famers are included in the 40 members of the Dodgers’ travel party who signed this one-of-a-kind plate on November 6, 1956, presented to Dodger President Walter O’Malley, who organized the Goodwill Tour to Japan.

The names jump out at you, revealing a new surprise for each name discovered on the plate. First, you spot the signature of first baseman Gil Hodges at the 12 o’clock position on the plate, and then your eye picks up “Oisk”, Carl Erskine. Next, you see a florid “R” and “C” for pitcher Roger Craig.

The Baseball Hall of Famers are here: Working in a clockwise direction, you can find Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Dodger Coach Billy Herman, Dodger Manager Walter Alston, Pee Wee Reese, and National League umpire Jocko Conlan. Then, slightly off center are the signatures of Duke Snider and Don Drysdale. Finally, moving back to the top, broadcaster Vin Scully’s name is in juxtaposition to the Gil Hodges signature. The plate also includes the signature of Sotaro Suzuki, noted Yomiuri sports columnist who was inducted into the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame. And, just to the left of Suzuki’s signature, is Hall of Fame Dodger President himself, Walter O’Malley. 

Several other great Dodger names are signed onto the plate. Don Newcombe, the Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player in 1956, pitcher Clem Labine, who pitched 10 scoreless innings to win game six of the 1956 World Series, and relief ace Ed Roebuck. There is Jim Gilliam, the great second baseman and Dodger coach of whom Walter Alston once said, “Never made a mistake on the field.” Looking closely, you can spot the name of Bob Aspromonte, the last Brooklyn Dodger to play in the Major Leagues and the name of Jim Gentile, who would later hit 46 home runs and drive in 141 runs for the Baltimore Orioles in 1961.

Several Dodger players on the trip to Japan who signed the plate later became managers of Major League teams. Walter Alston was already managing the Dodgers, but Don Zimmer, Roger Craig, Billy Herman, and Bob Lillis would all be at the helm in future seasons as a Major League manager.

Members of the Walter O’Malley family added their signatures as made by Kay O’Malley, the wife of Walter O’Malley, and daughter Terry and son Peter, later to become President and Chairman of the Board of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And, it is the signature of Dodger President Walter O’Malley who puts the finishing touch on this remarkable piece of memorabilia as the team President adds the date, November 6, 1956.