July 2008

Manny

Manny 1.JPG
We welcome Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

We are very happy to have him here.  He is one the of the top batters in Major League Baseball, and he very well could go down as one of the top 10 batters in the history of the game.

He is a 12-time All-Star.

He is an 11-time Silver Slugger Award winner.

He ranks 23rd on the all-time home run list with 510 HRs.

He is the type of player that gives us the extra power in the lineup that we feel will propel us into the post season.

We have a tremendous nucleus of players, and with Manny in the middle of our lineup, we feel we will be playing baseball in October.

Congratulations to Frank McCourt, Ned Colletti and the Baseball Operations staff who pulled this deal off.

And most importantly, to the fans, enjoy watching this player wearing Dodger Blue.  I know I will.

Los Angeles Times

I have been given the opportunity to write 10 first-person articles for the LA Times about my life in baseball.

Below is my first article.  It ran yesterday.  Enjoy.

 

As far back as I can remember I wanted to be a Major League Baseball player.

Instead of obeying my parents and doing household chores on weekends, I would sneak out to play baseball with my neighborhood teams. I would take my bucket, soap and scrub brush up to the bathroom on the second floor to clean, but instead of scrubbing I would climb out of the window, shimmy down the pipe on the side of our house, crawl on the ground under the window to the street, run five miles to Elmwood Park and play baseball.

We would wait at the park for the other teams to show up.  We would play the Irish kids from St. Patrick’s, or the African American kids from the East End, and while two teams played, the third team would wait for the game to end, and then play the winner.  And that’s how it went all day long.  People ask me where I got my competitivness and I tell them Elmwood Park, because we never wanted to lose and sit on the swings waiting for the next game.

Growing up in Norristown, Penn., I was a Yankees fan, and when I was 13, I used to actually dream that I was pitching for the Yankees, in Yankee Stadium.

I would look around the field and see players like Bill Dickey, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and, of course, the Babe.

All of a sudden I would feel my mother shaking me, saying, “Wake up, Tommy. It’s time to go to school.”

“Why didn’t she leave me alone,” I would exclaim. That dream was so real.

I signed a contract with the Phillies at the age of 16. I played for their class-D team, in Concord, North Carolina and then spent two years in the Army. In 1949 I was drafted by the Dodgers and sent to Greenville, South Carolina where I met my wife.  From there I was sent to one of their three Triple-A affiliates, the Montreal Royals.

Tommy Lasorda-3-HS-Brooklyn-NBLA.jpgIn 1954 I had finally made my way to Brooklyn and was playing for the Dodgers. We were playing the Yankees in an exhibition game, in Yankee Stadium. I was warming up in the bullpen and Yogi Berra was the hitter.

Walter Alston went to the mound and signaled for the left-hander.

As I took that long walk from the bullpen to the pitcher’s mound, I looked around Yankee Stadium.

When I got to the mound I had a tear in my eye and Alston asked if I was going to be able to play.

I said, “I have been here many times, but in my dreams.”

When I got Yogi out, it was proof that dreams become realities.

When I returned to Yankee Stadium in October, 1977, I returned in style. It was my first season managing the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the two biggest teams in the history of baseball would meet in the Fall Classic. We lost that series, and lost again to the Yankees in 1978. I was heartbroken each time, but proud of my guys.

For three years when I would go to sleep and pray to God, I would say, “Dear Lord, if you see it in your heart let the Dodgers play in another World Series, please, let it be against the Yankees.”

 
I wanted to beat the Yankees so badly that my hate for the putrid pinstripes was palpable.
While they were hoisting trophies and taking champagne showers, we were grimacing with the thought that we were better.

 
While they were getting fitted for rings, we were getting suited for revenge.
But while they were partying, we were working hard to get better. While they were on the links, we were in the batting cages taking swing after swing after swing trying to wipe away the pain of Mr. October hitting three home runs to win the last game of the 1977 Fall Classic. And the pain of watching that same villainous Hall of Famer stick his hip out to obstruct a double play throw in the ’78 Classic that would give the Yankees the game.

 
I was only one of two managers in the history of the National League to win Pennants in his first two years.  The other was Gabby Street, Manager of the Cardinals, who accomplished that feat in 1925.

My 1981 Dodgers were an exciting team. They played baseball the way it should be played, with passion, hustle, desire and determination. Of course, those values were instilled into them as they developed in our farm system. Twenty-one of the 25 guys on our roster were Dodger products. I managed them in the minors when they were youngsters right out of high school.

 
The day before Opening Day, Jerry Reuss was scheduled to start but hurt his ancle running.  I gave the ball to an 18 year-old rookie from Mexico, Fernando Valenzuela.  He went on to pitch a shutout, and win eight straight games

The Series was electric. I still remember in Game 3, Valenzuela was in a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning. Everybody thought I was going to take him out. I went out to the mound and in my very best Spanish I said, “Listen Fernando. If you don’t give up any more runs to this team we’re going to win this game 8-4.”

Fernando looked at me and said in perfect English, “Are you sure?”

We had dropped the first two games, but came back to win the next four in a row. The pitching was tremendous, and so were the position players, as we had an unprecedented tri-MVP award handed out to Steve Yeager, Ron Cey and Pedro Guerrero for their outstanding, unselfish performances. The team was more than a collection of ballplayers; it was a group of brothers.

 
There is a saying around baseball: It’s great to be a Yankee. But Branch Rickey indoctrinated us with our own saying: I’m proud to be a Dodger. Every day managing the Dodgers I tried to instill that pride in my players, and I couldn’t have been any happier for our success, or any prouder of the tremendous effort given by each player who wore a Dodger uniform that season. They earned the title champion, and they earned it as a team.

TitleTown

TitleTown.jpgA couple of weeks ago I was on ESPN making our case as to why Los Angeles should be named TitleTown.  Not only is Los Angeles Titletown, it is the sports capitol of the WORLD!

Combine all the championships the Dodgers have won with that of USC, UCLA, and, of course, the Lakers. 

Look at the coaches that have coached in LA: Rod Dedeaux (11 College World Sereis titles for USC), John Wooden (10 NCAA titles), Sue Enquist (11 Women’s Softball titles), Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, John McKay, John Robinson, Ben Howland, and don’t forget about Pete Carrol.

And there are many, many more…

Here’s a link to the video clip:

TitleTown — Los Angeles

Just scroll down the video bar until you see the TitleTown Los Angeles link.

 

All-Star Game


All Star.gif
Sparky Anderson made me one of his coaches for the 1977 All-Star Game.  It my first year as Manager of the Dodgers and we were battling the Reds all year, so for him to make me one of his coaches was a real honor.

Before the game, Sparky, Danny Ozark, and I were standing on the steps of the dugout at Yankee Stadium.  We were all looking around in disbelief. 

We said to each other, “Can you believe this?”

The three of us were big league managers, and in Yankee Stadium for the All-Star Game, while what felt like not too many years prior we were all sleeping in the barracks of Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida as minor league players for the Dodgers.

This year’s All-Star Game was just as emotional.  The pregame ceremony was one of the greatest collections of Hall of Famers outside of Cooperstown.  They lined us up at their position, so players like Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt stood at third base, and players like Reggie Jackson and Willie Mays stood in the outfield.  As the AL and NL starters were announced they would run to their respective positions and flank the Hall of Famers.

I stood behind the plate with Earl Weaver and waited for Clint Hurdle and Terry Francona.

The game went into extra innings, and I was happy to see the way Clint and Terry held players back just for that situation.

I managed in four All-Star Games and each time I would tell my players that I might not use everybody, but that they are still All-Stars even if they don’t get in the game.  I wasn’t going to get caught without enough players to win the game.

Even though the National League lost, and the Dodgers won’t have home-field advantage in the World Series, it was still a great game, and I was so impressed with Russell Martin.

Remember this Dodger fans; in the five World Series that we have won in Los Angeles, we didn’t have home-field advantage for any of them.

I would like to congratulate the Commissioner for putting on one a tremendous Mid Summer Classic.  He and his staff did an outstanding job, and the fans had a great time, as did the Hall of Famers.

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