Last month, former Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman James Loney officially announced his retirement from baseball at the age of 35.
Having spent parts of seven seasons with Los Angeles, Loney compiled a .284/.341/.423 slash line over 3,378 plate appearances (896 games) as a member of the organization. He was eventually included in the mega trade with the Boston Red Sox in August 2012.
The 2002 first-round draft pick had established himself as a fan favorite and was responsible for many memorable moments during his time with the Dodgers.
While speaking to David Vassegh of AM 570 L.A. Sports, Loney revealed his favorite memory with the club was hitting a grand slam against the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the 2008 National League Division Series:
“On the field, I mean, I had a big grand slam in the playoffs against the Cubs in Game 1. I think they were the favorites to win the whole thing, and we swept them in the first round. That was the biggest moment for me, I think, individually. As a team, just going to the playoffs the three years I was there. It just never gets old, pouring champagne on the guys, having fun, just having that experience is what you play for. I think those are probably the two most memorable experiences on the field.”
It’s been nearly 11 years since Loney’s momentous swing, but he still remembers it vividly:
“I remember that at-bat like it was yesterday. I’m facing Ryan Dempster and he throws me two nasty split-finger pitches and I swing at both of them, so he has me 0-2. Then he throws me a high fastball for a ball. Right after that I knew 100% he was throwing me another split-finger for sure. I was just like, ‘Hey, you’ve got to be ready for this.’ It just wasn’t in a location that he wanted it, and when you’re locked in like that and it’s in a great area, you don’t miss it too often. I’m always going to have that memory. … It’s funny, I think the stadium was definitely deflated after that. I was trying to act too stoic and not be too excited but I was definitely ready to bust out laughing rounding third. It was a great moment. I remember we went out to dinner afterward, I was with some of the guys and I was getting some dirty looks. People were kind of trying to figure out, ‘Is he that guy who hit that ball just now?’”
Working with a 2-0 lead in the top of the fifth, Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster quickly recorded the first two outs of the inning, but then struggled with his command and loaded the bases for Loney.
Falling behind in the count, 1-2, Loney silenced the Wrigley Field crowd by crushing a two-out grand slam that gave the Dodgers a 4-2 lead in which they would not relinquish.
Los Angeles took Game 1 by a final score of 7-2 and went on to sweep the Cubs in three games. As for what’s next, Loney just participated in the Dodgers Alumni Game at Dodger Stadium — fittingly hitting a grand slam — and may join the franchise in the front office.