Dodgertown, Utah; The Route of Champions

 

OgdenDodgers.jpgIn 1968, the Dodgers had what many people considered one of the best draft classes ever.  We had players like Tom Paciorek, Steve Garvey, Bobby Valentine, Billy Buckner and Sandy Vance come into our organization.  It was very important to teach these youngsters the Dodger way of playing baseball from the minute they set foot on the field.

That year also marked my fourth year as a minor league manager, and third in Ogden.  I was very excited to get these young ballplayers, these future Dodgers in and show them what it would take to make it to the big leagues, what they would have to do to get their mail at Dodger Stadium.

I have said it before, and will say it again; self confidence is the first step towards success.  When I got my hands on these guys that is exactly what I tried to instill.  You have to remember that most of these your players were right out of high school and away from home for the first time.  Plus, they weren’t the best of the best anymore.  This wasn’t high school baseball.  They would be playing against their real peers now, so I wanted them to be as mentally tough as they were physically.

One day we were witting by the pool and I told Billy Buckner to come over and get a pen and piece of paper.  He wanted to know why, and I told him to just do it.  I told him he was going to sit down and write a letter that would go like this:

Dear Wes Parker,
You don’t know me, but my name is Billy Buckner and I play for the Ogden Dodgers.  I want you to know that I am going to take your job away from you.  Tommy Lasorda is my manager, and he said he is a friend of yours, and that you are a great guy, but that I am going to play first base for the Dodgers.

Sincerely,

Billy Buckner

I had Valentine do the same thing, and I had Garvey do the same thing and so on.

Why?

Because I wanted them to believe in themselves.

And you know who took Parker’s job at first base?

Billy Buckner.

Valentine eventually made it to the Dodgers, Garvey eventually made it to the Dodgers, and you know, I’m talking about Rookie League level players who were so determined to succeed that they would stop at nothing.

It was a lot of fun, as we worked our tails off.  Through endless hours of hard work and determination we won the Pioneer League in 1968, which marked our third Pioneer League championship in a row.

Billy Buckner hit .344, Garvey hit .338 with 20 home runs, Valentine hit .281 with a .460 slugging percentage.

We finished 14 games above .500 with a 39-25 record and took home the league title.  The following season most of my players were promoted, and so was I as the Dodgers sent me to manage in Spokane where our triple-A affiliate played. 

But I loved my days in Ogden.  I am so happy to be back, and also happy that the Dodgers are affiliated here again.

So I say Thank You to all the fans who supported the Ogden Dodgers of the 60′s, and Thank You to all the Ogden fans who support the Raptors now. I hope you all have fun tonight at Lindquist Field, as I am truly humbled to be honored there tonight with the retirement of my jersey.

5 Comments

Dear Mr. Lasorda,
I wanted to thank you for taking the time to sign the baseball my son Gavin brought to the Raptor game last night. He was one of the little leaguers on the field at the start of the game. You made him the proudest 8 year old in the whole world. Thank you for being such a positive influence on Ogden and baseball in Ogden. It was such a pleasure to see you interact with the fans and the children. Thank you again and may God Bless you.

Samantha Andersen

Conratulations Tommy! See you in the secon half of the season and take good care of yourself
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com/

Tommy, congratulations on having your number retired! I enjoyed reading your story about Garvey, Valentine, and Buckner a lot and wanted to know if you could pick three players currently on the roster in Ogden to write letters like that to current Dodgers, who would they be, and who’s job will they each be determined to take?

Tommy, we’d love to have you speak at our 25th Anniversary dinner of the St. Louis Browns Fan Club on 10-8-09 along with Mike Veeck. Wow, what a team you two could make sharing stories about Mike’s dad, Bill Veeck. I sent you a letter inviting you, but have heard nothing back. Please let us know.
Bill Rogers, Editor, St. Louis Browns Fan Club
stlbrowns@swbel.net

Mr. LA-sorda,
I’ve been a Dodger fan since my first game my father took me to back in the early 1980′s. It was against the Montreal expo’s and we won, Mike Marshall hit a homerun to centerfield, Pedro Guerrero and Steve Garvey had hits. Ever since, you and Vin have been like uncles to me. Instead of being put bed with stories about knights in shining armor battling monsters, I was put to bed with stories about Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Tommy Davis, the Duke, Campy, and many more. I even knew about the Johnny “Rose” incedent with Juan Maracial as young kid. I was raised as a Dodger fan, I heard your interview the other night on Fox before the game on your feelings about the Dodger organization, absolutely loved it so much that I cried.It brought back so many memories, from all the little Dodgers programs we used to partake in to the Gibson HR when me and my dad flew off of the living room couch. When I have kids, I’m going to put them to bed with stories of Tommy and his boys. Thank you so much for every thing, you have given us so much more!-Rudy Jr.

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