LA Times Story #3

Here is the third story in my 10-part series in the Los Angeles Times.  It’s about my experience in the 2000 Olympics.

 

Hat and Flag.jpgThe 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney Australia was the biggest thing I was ever involved with. 

I wanted to be the manager of Team USA, and I’ll tell you why.  Everybody said you can’t beat the Cubans.  Cuba always fielded teams with the best baseball players from that country.  We always use players from the low minor leagues because the Olympics are played in the middle of baseball season so the big leaguers can’t participate.

So I wanted to be the manager because I believed that the United States could beat Cuba.

After I was named Manager, I met the team for the first time in San Diego.  I had never seen the players.  I did not know them.  The only guy I was familiar with was Pat Borders who played for Toronto, but the other 24 guys were all from the low minor leagues.  When Team USA was formed, Major League general managers were expending their rosters to 40 players and calling up their best minor leaguers for the playoff push, so many GM’s would not give us their best players.

I told my wife that 25 years later there would be a quiz; who’s the only man to help his country win a medal and win a World Series?  That’s going to be me.

“You don’t even know who the players are,” she said.

I don’t have to know who they are,” I answered.  “Just that they’re alive.  That’s all I care about!”

The day before we were to leave for Australia I sat my team down for a talk. 

I don’t know who you are.  I don’t know where you come from.  I don’t know if you’re married or single.  I don’t know if you’re good, mediocre, or bad.  But I’m going to tell you something right now; when this thing is all over the whole world is going to know who you are.  You know why?  Because you are going to bring that Gold Medal to the United States where it belongs in baseball!

You do not represent your family.  You do not represent the school you went to, or your home town, or the organization that signed you.  You now represent the United States of America, and you’re not going to do a damn thing to embarrass yourself, or our country.  All you are going to do is win.  You know why you’re going to win?  Because baseball is America’s game.  It doesn’t belong to the Cuban’s, or the Italian’s, or the Japanese, or the Korean’s.  It’s our game, and we’re not going to let those donkeys beat us!

And by-golly those youngsters played their hearts out. 

We beat the Cubans 4-0 to win the Gold Medal.  It was the first time that Team USA has won the Gold, and we haven’t won it since.

They say that coaches don’t get medals in the Olympics, which is true.  A lot of people felt sorry for me because I didn’t get a medal, but I tell them that I got my medal when I saw them put the Gold around my player’s necks.  I got my medal when I saw them raise the American flag.  I got my medal when they played our National Anthem. 

I cried.  I cried because I was so happy because I did something for my country.

That was my biggest thrill.  Winning that gold was bigger than my 50+ years with the Dodgers.  It was bigger than Major League Baseball.  It was bigger than winning two World Series.  People thought I was crazy for saying that but I told them that when the Dodgers win, the Dodger fans are happy but the Giants fans and the Padres fans aren’t.  But when you win a Gold Medal, all of America is happy.

This is where the Gold Medal in baseball belongs.  Our theme was: we did not come 5,000 miles to lose. 

And how sweet it was; the fruits of victory.

5 Comments

Tommy,

I like your last comment regarding that not coming 5,000 miles to lose. In that spirit, I feel that the Dodgers didn’t come 131 games on the way to 162 to lose. This season is way too special to lay to waste. So in spirit, I’d like to present to you and the Dodgers Nation a speech by my good friend Bluatlanta. Bluatlanta, although living in Louisana, BLEEDS Dodger Blue. His heart was born pumping it from day one on this great Earth. He wants to live in Los Angeles for one and only one reason: THE DODGERS!

Here is the locker speech for today’s game. Please if you can Tommy, get this to the players and management. Thank you.

Eddie

“Well boys…we’re 130 games into the season and we’re no better off than the first day. We started out at .500 and we’re still basically .500. Why do you think that is? Why is it that the Diamondbacks are in first place and we’re not? Is it because they’re better than us? NO! It’s not! I think you need to look at the guy sitting next to you and ask yourself this simple question. Do I want to let this guy down? Well? DO YOU?

Does all the hard work we’ve put in amount to this? A second place .500 season??? Does the guy sitting next to you deserve to be second place? What can YOU do to make sure that he finishes first? You see, guys, this isn’t about YOU. This is about something so much larger, so much more important. It’s about this organization…the same organization that deemed you worthy of wearing that uniform this year. The same organization that signs your paychecks and that proudly allows you to represent them on the field every day. The same organization that will draw 4 million people to your home games this year. You are but a piece of history…a minor addition to the tradition that IS Dodger baseball. I challenge you today to add to that formidable tradition in a way that will make proud the fans, your coaches, yourselves, and the man sitting next to you.

This is too important to squander. How shameful would that be? Would you be able to look the man sitting next to you in his eyes if you let him down? Think about it.

Today begins a 31 game season. Accept the challenge that has been lain before you. You will NEVER regret it. And neither will the guy sitting next to you. Now let’s get ‘em boys!!!

THIS is DODGER baseball!!!”

Reposted with permission from Bluatlanta.

Thats pictures awesome!! America Needs you :D Cool post! from nick, at http://www.nicholasfinnegan.com/

I know you probably will never manage again, but I still see you as a great motivator, Tommy.
I think you could actually motivate this present Dodger team. Larry Bowa just isn’t you.

Tommy in 1988. dodgers champs
20years later it will be the dodgers
Joe Torre 2008 to the world champions

Mr Lasorda,
Wishing you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY and a fabulous season! Thanks for the memories.
Teri Kahn

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