Breaking up the band

Some people still consider Yoko Ono as the reason that the Beatles broke up. And as recently as yesterday, she has denied that she was responsible for it. She can say that all she wants to, but it won’t make a difference to Beatles fans who want somebody to wear the shirt–metaphorically speaking–for what happened more than forty years ago. It’s unfair to her, but life surely isn’t fair.

If Yoko played guitar, and was put into the band’s lineup by their record label, it might be another story. Let’s say Geoge Harrison was put out of the band, and Yoko took his place on lead guitar. Then the fans would have a legitimate beef about Yoko. The Beatles wouldn’t be the same as they had been before, and there wouldn’t be anything Yoko could do, short of turning herself into George Harrison.

Enter Steve Sax. By the time he came up to the major leagues in late 1981, the Los Angeles Dodgers already had their own version of the Fab Four. The infield of Ron Cey at third base, Bill Russell at shortstop, Davey Lopes at second base, and Steve Garvey at first base, had been playing together since 1973.

When free agency came to baseball in the mid-1970s, any of them could have gone off to play somewhere else. But they all stayed in LA, and led the team to the World Series in 1977, 1978, and 1981, when they finally broke through and won the championship.

At the start of the 1982 season, the defending world champions made their move by trading Davey Lopes to Oakland. Lopes was nearly 37 years old, and the team had a 22 year-old Steve Sax waiting in the wings to take over second base. As you can imagine, Dodger fans didn’t like the move. They got used to seeing their infield together, and now this young kid was coming in to break it up. The disintegration happened quickly once Lopes left, with Cey leaving for the Chicago Cubs in 1983, and Steve Garvey (it’s still painful for this Cubs fan to type his name) going to San Diego that same year. Only Bill Russell remained, and the breakup had to be hardest of all on him, watching his three infield mates each go their separate ways.

Time marches on, and we’ll never again see as durable an infield as the Dodgers had back then. And I’m certain that Steve Sax, or someone like him, had to come in and break it up. But it couldn’t have been easy for him. At least Yoko Ono can probably relate.

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