With so much talk about the chemistry of the Dodgers, I want to take a moment to talk about team chemistry. Having chemistry begins with having the right attitude, a winning attitude.
In order to taste the fruits of victory, all 25 players, the manager, coaching staff and front office have to get on one end of the rope and pull together. If half of the players get on one end of the rope, and the other half gets on the other end of the rope, they can pull all day and all they?ll do is pull against themselves. However, if they all pull together, they will pull the rest of the teams with them.
To have chemistry, every player in the clubhouse has to play in an unselfish fashion. They have to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not for the name on the back. For example, if the club is down by a run with a runner on second an no outs, the batter has to hit the ball on the ground to the right side of the diamond, advancing the runner to third where he can score 11 different ways that he can?t score from second.
Another example of putting the team first comes when you have runners on second and third with no outs. The batter must hit the ball, on the ground, to the right side. If he does, one run scores and the baserunner advances to third. The next batter must hit the ball, on the ground, to the right side as well because another run will score. You have two outs, but you have scored two runs. That is playing for the team.
A winning attitude is grounded in self-confidence. You?ve got to believe; you have to believe you can win any game you play. You have to believe you are a championship team. If you do, you will practice like a championship team, and if you practice like a championship team you will play like a championship team. If you play like a championship team, that?s where you will finish.
This team believes. They worked tremendously hard in spring training under the Florida sun. They worked on the fundamentals of the game. Jim Tracy had them believing in, and working on, the fundamentals. They worked hard, and they worked as a team. The winning attitude of this team started there, with the desire to be the best.
This team has desire. They want to win the division, the pennant and the World Series.
We have a very talented group of players. We have an outstanding coaching staff and a great front office. Everyone in the Dodger organization, from Mr. McCourt down, wants to taste the fruits of victory and be the best organization in Major League Baseball.
This is LA baseball.
Although the Dodgers lost last night, five times they have come from behind, in dramatic fashion, and won. Whether the heroics come from Milton Bradley?s bat, Cesar Izturis?s glove, Derek Lowe?s arm or Jeff Kent?s competitive drive the bottom line is the Dodgers won.
Frank McCourt and Paul DePodesta have withstood a lot of criticism for moves they made on and off the field. Frank promised to bring the fans an exciting brand of baseball back to Dodger Stadium. This team fits the bill.
I am very pleased with our 12-3 start. There?s an old saying in baseball: Win ?em in April and you don?t have to win ?em in September.
I was on the 1955 Brooklyn team that opened the season by winning 10 in a row, losing two and winning another 10 to go 20-2. In 1977, my first year as manager, our record was 17-3 after 20 games and 24-6 after 30. Well, the Brooklyn club won the World Series, and my ?77 club won the National League Pennant. I hope our start this year will end up with Jim Tracy and company hoisting the World Series trophy above their heads this October.
I have been very impressed with the play of Jeff Kent. The acquisition by Paul DePodesta is tremendous. He is a tough competitor. He wants to beat you at all costs, and his gritty play reflects his passion for winning. If you put him at the plate with the game on the line, he will deliver. He knows how to hit in clutch situations and drive in big runs.
Let?s not forget Jeff is a future Hall of Famer. There?s a locker waiting for him in Cooperstown because he has hit more homeruns than any other second baseman in the history of the game.
As we resume play tonight in Colorado, I want all Dodger fans to be proud of our team. I want you to get behind our players and have fun watching them compete. They?ll play their hearts out for you because they want to win, and they believe they can win every game they play.
This is LA baseball.
I’ve posed for a few pictures over the years. I’ll show you some of them here.
I’ve been with the Dodgers for 56 years now, and have seen a lot of talented, driven and special players in my day.
But none more competitive than Jackie Robinson. I played with him in Brooklyn, and can say from experience that he had the heart of a lion.
Jackie characterized all of the above qualities, and did so while representing the Dodgers to the utmost degree of class, dignity and character. Jackie also represented Major League Baseball’s progress, and the vision of Walter O’Malley and Branch Rickey thus establishing the Dodger tradition of innovation.
When you hear talk of a five-tool player nowadays, you have to look at Jackie as the prototype. He could beat you with his bat, he could beat you with his legs and he could beat you with his arm. More than anything though, he wanted to beat you bad if you weren’t wearing a Dodger uniform. So much so that when he was traded to the Giants at the end of his career, instead of reporting, he quit because he hated them so much he just refused to go into their clubhouse.
Before Jackie became a Dodger, he lettered in football, baseball, basketball and track and field at UCLA. His athleticism was only bested by his character. Branch Rickey chose Jackie because he knew what kind of guy he was. There were more talented players in the Negro Leagues than Jackie, but there was more at stake than just baseball.
Mr. Rickey knew what Jackie would have to endure. Playing in Brooklyn was one thing, but when the Dodgers would leave Vero Beach after Spring Training, we would start playing games in Miami and work our way to Brooklyn through cities like Tampa, Mobile, Chattanooga, Nashville, Birmingham, Louisville, Washington D.C. and into New York to play a few games against the Yankees.
Our spring games overflowed with fans. In fact, so many African-American fans came out to watch Jackie they would have to rope off sections of the outfield for crowd control. Jackie would have to take a lot of abuse both on and off the field, but the "Captain," Pee Wee Reese protected him and all the other teammates supported him. Mr. Rickey had to release a few Southern players who refused to support Jackie as a Dodger before they brought him to Brooklyn.
When Jackie was on the field, he was exhilarating. Every at-bat was exciting, and when he got on base, things happened. Our opponents would take shots at him at every base he reached. He knew what they were trying to do, but he never backed down, he never half-stepped, he never relinquished his competitive zeal. He played baseball like he was still in a pair of shoulder pads taking handoffs in the UCLA backfield. His style was not one of reckless abandon. He knew what he risked every time he stepped on the field, but he refused to be intimidated.
Jackie was also a good friend. He loved to shoot pool with the guys and was very social with everyone in our clubhouse. I’ll never forget what he said to me during my Major League debut. I was struggling a bit and had a few runners on base. Jackie came to the mound from second base and said, "Settle down now. We’ll get you a double play and get out of this." His encouragement meant the world to me.
As we remember Jackie, and honor his legacy throughout the Majors, let’s try to exemplify one of his most profound statements: A life is only important as the impact it has on other lives.