January 2009

Welcome to the Club


tl jim rice.JPGI would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice for being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cooperstown is a very special place.  It is a place where baseball’s greatest are enshrined, and their accomplishments are honored.

When you stop and think about the records that Henderson set, it’s just amazing.

And I am so happy that Jim Rice has finally made it. 

This is long overdue, as he was a Hall of Fame player on the field, and Hall of Fame person off of it.

His statistics support it, and his contributions to the game define his career.

Congratulations Jim and Rickey.  I’ll see you both in Cooperstown.

Recapping the Rose Bowl


alg_paterno-trophies.jpgThis year’s Rose Bowl was a tough one for me.  I have always been a Pete Carroll supporter, even when he was hired and nobody in Los Angeles liked him.  Also, my affiliation with USC is a strong one and I am good friends with the athletic director and university president.

However, I am from Norristown, which is outside of Philadelphia.  And JoePa is a very good friend of mine and has been for many years.

I was very impressed with the hype surrounding the game.  This was to be a great game between two great teams.  Unfortunately, Penn State did not get off to a good start and played a poorly in the first half.

Pete Carroll, who always has his team in the finest condition, took advantage of the poor play of Penn State and almost ran away with it.

I spent about three hours with my friend Papa Joe at one of their workouts and we got to talking about a lot of good memories about our friendship over the years.

One of the stories he remembered very well was when I was managing and we came into Pittsburgh.  He called me and said that his son wanted to go to the game so I left him tickets.  Well JoePa and his wife were watching the game and they thought that maybe they’d put the camera on his son and they’d get to see him. 

All of a sudden he looks closer and says to his wife, “That looks like our son picking up the bats.”

I had made JoePa’s son my batboy, and he saw it on television.  Since he remembers the story to this day I guess it meant a lot to him. 

You don’t see too many guys like Joe Paterno.  He is class personified.

He never does anything to embarrass himself, his family or Penn State University.  The university should be extremely proud of the way he has handled his football teams over the years.  Not just the way they play on the field, but the way in which they handle themselves in the class rooms and in the community.

I hope he coaches for many more years, and I am proud to call him my friend.

Remembering Rod


Dedeaux.JPGLast Monday, January 5, was the two-year anniversary of the passing of my best friend, Rod Dedeaux.

I would like to take a moment to remember Rod, and some of the great things he did for the game of baseball.

I met Rod in 1963.  At that time he was the head baseball coach at the University of Southern California.  By the end of his career he put in about 44 years at USC, and was selected as the College Baseball Coach of the Century, which was just one of his many honors. 

Believe me, that was a well deserved acclaim.

I heard a lot about Rod before I met him because I had played with guys who had played for him at USC.  They all had great things to say. 

So I knew a lot about him, but he didn’t know anything about me.  I was a scout for the Dodgers and had just moved to Southern California from Pennsylvania.

Upon meeting him, we became instant friends, and until the day he died two years ago last Monday, we were inseparable.  We would go to the same functions, speak together in front of crowds, our families became friends and we would just go everywhere together.  He would take me to the Coliseum for football games, and for 40+ years, every SC football game I went to was with Rod.

Since the two years he’s been gone I haven’t been back to an SC game yet.  I just can’t do it.  I just can’t walk into the Coliseum without him.

I miss him tremendously.

But he was a great coach.  Everybody loved the guy.  His interest was not just about college baseball, but he worked very hard to build a bridge with Japanese baseball.  When I was selected as the manager of the 2000 USA Olympic team, I took him with me.  He was the coach of our Olympic team for many years, but was never able to win a Gold Medal.

Rod spent a month with me and my team in Sydney.  The kids on our team just loved him.  He played a vital role in us winning that gold medal because he spent as much time as he could talking to each of the players and helping them believe in themselves, and helping them get better.

He was great at that.  He was a wizard when it came to handling players.  He could get the maximum from each player, and got them to play for the name on the front of the jersey and not for the name on the back.

Losing Rod was like losing a brother.