Arlington, Texas — No dogpile, no champagne and a mask on nearly every face — the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated their first World Series title since 1988 in a manner no one could have imagined prior to the coronavirus pandemic. They started the party without Justin Turner, too, after word was received late in the game that their red-headed star had tested positive for COVID-19.
Turner was removed after the seventh inning of Los Angeles’ 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 on Tuesday night after registering Major League Baseball’s first positive test in 59 days, and wasn’t initially on the field as the Dodgers enjoyed the spoils of a title earned during a most unusual season.
He returned about an hour after the game, hugging longtime teammate and star pitcher Clayton Kershaw and sitting front-and-center for a team photo next to manager Dave Roberts with his mask pulled down under his bushy beard.
“Thanks to everyone reaching out!” Turner tweeted. “I feel great, no symptoms at all. Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of LA.”
The 35-year-old Turner has been a staple in the Dodgers’ lineup for seven of their eight consecutive NL West titles. A late-blooming slugger who helped reshape the game by succeeding with an upper-cut swing, Turner is L.A.’s career leader with 12 postseason home runs, including a pair in this Series, in which he hit .364 and also played stellar defense.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” World Series MVP Corey Seager said. “If I could switch places with him right now, I would. That’s just not right.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed Turner’s positive test moments after presenting the World Series trophy to Los Angeles — a jarring reminder of all that’s been different in this season in which the perennially favored Dodgers finally broke through. They were in three of the last four World Series.
Mookie Betts, who came to the Dodgers to make a World Series difference, had a mad dash to home plate in the sixth inning to put Los Angeles over the top.
It marked the end of a frustrating championship drought for L.A. — and perhaps just the start for Betts and the Dodgers, whose seventh World Series title was their sixth since leaving Brooklyn for the West Coast in 1958.
“I had a crazy feeling that came to fruition,” Roberts said. “It’s just a special group of players, organization, all that we’ve kind of overcome.”
Betts bolted from third for the go-ahead run on Seager’s infield grounder, then led off the eighth with a punctuating homer.
“It was absolutely phenomenal. This team was incredible,” said Seager, also the NLCS MVP who had franchise records with his eight homers and 20 RBIs this postseason. “We never stopped. We were ready to go as soon as the bell was called. Once it did, we kept rolling. You can’t say enough about what we did this season.”
Players were handed face masks as they gathered for their post-game celebration, although many of their embraces came mask-free even after Turner’s positive test.
About 2 1/2 weeks after the Lakers won the NBA title while finishing their season in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, the Dodgers gave Los Angeles another championship in this year when the novel coronavirus pandemic has delayed, shortened and moved around sports seasons.
The MLB season didn’t start until late July and was abbreviated for the shortest regular season since 1878. And the expanded postseason, with 16 teams making it instead of 10, almost went the full distance.
There were plenty of fans in Dodgers blue at the new $1.2 billion home of the Texas Rangers, the stadium with the retractable roof where they played 16 games over three weeks. And the roof was closed for the final one, with misty conditions and a game-time temperature of 39 degrees outside.
“This year has been crazy, but no matter what, we’ll look back on this and we’re World Series champs. To get to say that and get to be part of that, it’s so special no matter what,” Kershaw said. “The only thing that may have made it better would be to be at Dodger Stadium.”