If you think it is tough for a Major League hitter to battle a Major League pitcher, try battling leukemia as a little boy, or as a young woman. Try battling myeloma. Try spelling it! That’s tough enough in itself! If you think it’s tough to play for nine innings, or to play 162 games, imagine how tough it is to go through chemo, crippling fatigue, morphine dependency, endless needle pricks, and chronic aches. Imagine going through it for just one day!
Today was a very special day at the City of Hope. Over 1,600 bone marrow transplant survivors and their friends and family gathered for a reunion. I was grateful to be amongst them, and to have the opportunity to see the embodiment of courage, and yes, of hope.
People gathered under tents, with plates full of delicous bar-b-qued chicken and hot dogs to celbrate life and the belief in its possiblities. These people have looked death in the face and have won. They had bright smiles, and the look of gratitude on their beautiful faces.
They are my heroes.
I told them that they had to believe in themselves. My father told me many years ago that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. It’s a tough, tough task to stay strong while battling for your life, and I commend and admire each person who fights that battle.
Today I was moved beyond words.
I commend Frank McCourt for his vision in partnering with the City of Hope and with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to creat ThinkCure. It is a foundation devoted to raising funds to research the cure for cancer. I don’t know when it will be, or by whom, but one day we will have a cure, and it is because of everyone who has banded together to fight this disease.
City of Hope has one of the largest, most successful bone marrow transplant programs in the world. To date, more than 8,500 people have received a bone marrow transplant at City of Hope. Bone marrow transplantation is a procedure that is considered standard treatment for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
City of Hope was one of the first hospitals in the world to perfrom bone marrow transplants. They began doing them in the 1976, the same year I began managing the Dodgers. My pitchers have complied many saves over me 20-year career, but far fewer than the lives that have been saved at City of Hope.
Each year, every patient who has received a bone marrow transplant at City of Hope is invited to the reunion event to celebrate their health and reunite with oter patients, their physicians and nurses.
I would also like to commend the nurses, and doctors, who have pledged a life of service towards others, who help those in their most desperate hour. When patients have doubt, they provide faith. When patients are in despair, they bring hope.
I wish all of those who have been inflicted with cancer, or who have stood next to someone they love while they fight the battle, I wish you the best of luck.
There have been over 260 Popes, 43 U.S. Presidents, but there are only 16 managers in the Hall of Fame. Now that’s a tough fraternity to get into!
All kidding aside, I have been invited by President and Mrs. Bush to the White House to receive His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at a special ceremony tomorrow on the South Lawn. To say that I am honored to receive such an illustrious invitation is an understatement. To be amongst two of the world’s leaders is truly an honor and privilege. I just wish my parents could be alive to see it.
I like to tell the story about when the Pope arrived at LaGuardia Airport and rushed to the curb to get a cab. He told the driver that he had to be at a very important meeting in 30 minutes. The driver said there’s no way he could get him to the meeting on time so the Pope said to get in the back and that he would drive.
So they’re going down the highway, 60, 70, 80 miles an hour and a Highway Patrolman pulled them over. He walked over to the cab and immediately rushed back to his bike and got on the two-way radio.
“Chief, chief, you won’t believe who I pulled over Chief. This guys is big, I mean really big, Chief!” exclaimed the cabby.
“My God Mario, you’re excited. Who is, the president of the United States?”
“Bigger than that, Chief.”
“Well who is it, Frank Sinatra?”
“Bigger than that, Chief.”
“I don’t know, Mario. Who is it?”
“I don’t know who he is, but he’s got to be big because he’s got the Pope driving him!”
I have had the honor of meeting two other Popes, and proudly display the Papal blessings, printed on beautiful parchment paper, in my office.
Maybe I could trade one of my World Series bats for the Pope’s staff…
In any case, I hope to represent the Dodgers, and Major League Baseball to the highest degree of class, dignity and character. This is something I will never forget, and something I will hold in my heart forever.
I would like to thank the McCourt’s for allowing me to attend the ceremony. They are truly gracious people, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for all they do for the Lasorda’s.
In 1949 I happened to be playing in the Sally League in Greenville, South Carolina and one day I look into the stands and I see this beautiful girl. I happened to know the girl who was sitting next to her, and her name was Margaret Goldsmith who sold tickets at the local movie theater.
I asked Margaret what that girl’s name was and she said Joan Miller.
I told Margaret to ask her if she would go out with me. She whispered in her ear and she shook her head, no.
I told Margaret to ask her if she’d give me her phone number. Again she whispers in her ear and again she shook her head, no.
So finally I called Margaret down to the end of the stands and asked her to do me a favor and see if she could delay that beautiful girl and give me a chance to come out and meet her.
So in the ninth inning I was sitting at the end of the bench with my cleats untied and my jersey unbuttoned, and when the third out was made I was in the clubhouse, in the shower, out of the shower putting my clothes on and in the parking lot and they were still there.
Margaret had deliberately left her sweater on the seat, so she had to go all the way back to get the sweater which gave me enough time to shower and get out there.
I met Jo’s mother, her sister, her brother-in-law and her other sister and her husband. I told her mother that I would be a twenty-game winner if I was dating her daughter.
I found out where Jo worked and I called her to ask her out. She said no.
I called about 10 times and each time Jo would say no. On the 11th time I said, “Look, I know I’m no movie star but I’m not that bad either.”
I continued, “Just go out with me once and if you don’t like me after that, fine, I won’t bother you any more.”
So she finally agreed to meet me for lunch. So we went to lunch and we took a booth and I sat across from her and I kept looking across at her. She was so beautiful and humble, and I said to her, “You might laugh, but I’m going to marry you.”
Well, she laughed.
One year later we married. Today, April 14th, 58 years ago.
I took that girl out of SC. We opened the season by playing an exhibition game in Baltimore. I took her home to meet my parents and my family. Then we opened the season in Springfield, Massachusetts. From there we went to New York to play in Jersey City. We stayed in Manhattan and saw a stage play. Then we went on to Montreal and that was the beginning of it.
I was making $500 a month, and I had to borrow $500 to get married. I went to Branch Rickey and told him I was getting married.
“Good, good,” he said as he loved it when players were married. He would really insist on it.
I told him I had saved some money in Panama but it was stolen and that I needed $500.
He told me to go see Buzzie Bavasi for the money, which I did. When I saw Buzzie I told him I needed $500 and that Mr. Rickey told me to see him.
“For what,” he barked, to which I told him I was getting married.
“How in the world are you getting married,” he yelled.
“Are you crazy asking me that,” he went on.
“$500, I can’t believe it,” he said trying to dissuade me.
So Buzzie lets me have the $500 and I bought a ring. I told him to deduct money from my pay checks, and when I got my first check nothing had been deducted. I told him to take $100 out per month.
He wanted to take it out when we got in the playoffs, but I told him I wanted it taken out right away, but he would never take it out.
So at the end of the season Buzzie put a letter before me and told me to sign. I asked him what it was and he told me it was a letter to Mr. Rickey thanking him for loaning me $500 and that I was glad I could pay it all back.
So every year on our anniversary, Buzzie would send Jo a bouquet of flowers with a note that reads, “Sorry.”
He figured it out, that with compounded interest I now owe him about $75,000.
But here we are celebrating today our 58th wedding anniversary. If I could have seen God and given him a description on a little piece of paper of what I was looking for in a wife he couldn’t have given me anyone finer than Jo.
She has stood by me through thick and thin, and I love her dearly. When times were tough she was there for me. When we were away from each other because of baseball she would always remind me that she and the children understood why I was away. She would always put my picture on the table while they were eating to remind them that I was away earning a living.
They said it would never work for a, Italian Catholic Yankee marrying a Southern Baptist, but they were wrong, and boy is I glad. She is the best, and I love her with all my heart.
The 50th Anniversary ceremony before yesterday’s game was beautiful. There were Dodgers from every decade, all wearing their uniforms. From the flannels of the 50′s and 60′s to the home-whites in the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s, it was great to see legends like Duke Snider and fan-favorites like Erik Karros come from the bullpen to their respective positions.
And the reaction from the crowd was heartwarming. The applause and adoration was almost as loud as the B1 flyover.
I had the pleasure of seeing two of my favorite ex-players, Kenny Landreaux and Steve Sax. They were great players, and Sax was a breath of fresh air. He played baseball like my wife shops; all day long.
The only thing with Sax was his intelligence never quite reached the same level as his playing ability. In other words, he wasn’t the brightest guy.
One day we’re playing in San Francisco. I had been harping on Sax to stop hitting the ball in the air because he was a line drive hitter, and to use all parts of the field. So before the game we are standing behind the cage during BP, and Sax comes up to me and says, “Hey Skipper, I think I’ve got your hitting theory down pat.”
”That’s great Saxy.”
”Eighty percent of the time I try to hit the ball up the middle,” he said.
“Twenty percent of the time I try to hit the ball to left and the other twenty percent I try to hit it right.”
I looked at Kenny Landreaux who was standing right next to me and said, “Did you hear what he just said?”
Now Kenny was dumber than Sax. He went to Arizona State University, and I often wondered what the requirements were for admission. Do they check you to see if you’re breathing?
Landreaux said, “Skip, I’ve been in the big leagues for 13 years and that’s the best hitting theory I’ve heard yet.”
And I had to win pennants with these guys!