My Last Game as Manager of the Dodgers
In 1963 the Dodgers were playing the Yankees in the World Series. I was a scout in ’63, so my wife Jo and I were sitting in the Upper Deck at Dodger Stadium watching the game. I said to her, “You see that dugout down there? One day I will be managing the Dodgers in the World Series in that dugout.”
Fourteen yeas later, I was managing the Dodgers in the 1977 Fall Classic against the Yankees.
It was my first year as Manager, and I wanted to win so badly I could taste it. I dedicated myself to the Dodgers, and turned down a few offers to be the manager of other teams. I wanted that job, and I thought that my loyalty and hard work would pay off, and of course it did when Peter O’Malley and Al Campanis gave me the opportunity that I worked tirelessly to earn.
When I became Manager, 17 of the 25 players on our roster played for me in the minor leagues, and another four players on that roster had come through our system. While I was managing in the Dodgers’ minor league system, I tried to instill a few things into the players:
1) Self confidence was the first step to success.
2) Play for the name on the front of your jersey, not for the name on the back.
3) If we all get on one end of the rope and pull, we can pull the rest of the teams with us. But is one half got on one end, and the other half got on the other end we could pull all day but all we’d do is pull against ourselves.
4) The Dodgers are the greatest organization in professional baseball.
I wanted my players to be as proud of representing the Dodgers as I was. I always felt like being a Major League manager meant more than winning or losing on the field. I tried to represent the Dodgers to the highest degree of class, dignity and character, as there were only 26 managers in the entire country.
If you say to someone that you are a Padre they’d ask when you became a priest. If you say you are a Twin they’d ask about your brother or sister. If you say you are an Indian they’d ask what reservation you came from. If you say you are a Cardinal they’d say work hard, next step is to be the Pope.
But when you say you are a Dodger people know right away that you are with Major League Baseball.
The word “Dodgers” is synonymous with baseball.
What I enjoyed so very much, and miss tremendously, is the camaraderie I shared with my players. We would work day and night, together, with one common goal, which was to win.
I am so thankful to each and every player for all their hard work, dedication, loyalty, and friendship. They put me in the Hall of Fame. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart for helping me live a dream for 20 years.
In the history of baseball there are only four managers to manage the same team for 20 years or more: Connie Mack, John McGraw, Walter Alston and myself. I am so proud of that, and so thankful that my players continued to give me the opportunity to manage by playing so hard for me.
People ask me if I miss it, and of course I do. But, I am more grateful for the 20 glorious years I managed the Dodgers, and will always cherish the memories from living a life doing what I loved to do.
Oh yeah, and on my last day in ’96, we beat the Astros 4-3!