April 2011

Can you guess which guy in this picture is me?

Tommy Lasorda in the white T-Shirt with the Connie Mack All Stars

Here is my story that aired last night on KABC 790 as part of the Lasorda at His Best series presented by Skechers:

When I was a youngster we played teams from all around the area.  I was picked to the local All-Star team.  There was a team called the Connie Mack All-Star team, and they would travel around and play you for a $100 fee.   We couldn’t afford that, but the Norristown News Herald put up the $100 and brought them to Norristown to play us, and I was going to pitch.

We beat them 4-1, and I drove in three or four runs.  After the game they came over to me and said they would like me to come down to 44th and Parkside tomorrow and try out for a team that is going to Baltimore for a big tournament.

I didn’t know how I was going to get to Philadelphia.  Our coach borrowed the People’s Cleaners panel truck to drive me down there.  When I got there Bobby Shantz was just finishing pitching, so I had to get in there real quick.

I pitched the last three innings and I struck out eight of the nine guys I faced.  After that performance they told me they were selecting me to go to Baltimore. 

That gave me the opportunity to pitch before scouts.  A scout saw me pitch and came to my house and wanted to sign me to a contract.

And of course I signed my first contract when I was 16 years old.

Battling Billy Martin

Tommy Lasorda circa 1956 with the Kansas City Athletics

Here is my story that aired last night on KABC 790 as part of the Lasorda at His Best series presented by Skechers:

When I was with the Kansas City Athletics we were playing the Yankees, and Tom Sturdivant was pitching a shutout against us.  In the seventh inning Suitcase Simpson hits a home run for us, and Enos Slaughter hits a home run, so now it’s 5-2.  He was so mad he decked a couple of our hitters.

Lou Boudreau, our manager, was mad.  He was walking up and down the dugout holler, “Everybody is afraid of the Yankees!”

“Hey Skip,” I said.  “Don’t say everybody is scared of the Yankees.  That organization I just came from, the Dodgers, we don’t fear anybody.  We respect them, but we don’t fear them.”

“You mean that?” he asked.

Yeah!

“Go down to the pen and warm up,” he told me.

I warm up and come out to pitch the top of the eighth inning.  Joe Collins was the hitter, and I dump him twice.  Sturdivant hits and I dump him twice.  Billy Martin comes up, and I dump him twice too and strike him out to end the inning.

When I go out to pitch the top of the ninth inning Hank Bauer is the hitter.  I dump him twice and strike him out, and as they are throwing the ball around the infield Billy Martin is up on top of the dugout steps creaming at me.

“I’ll get you before the year is out!”

“You wait.  I’ll get you Lasorda!”

“Come on out now banana nose!  You don’t have to wait!  Let’s go right now,” I hollered back.

He came out of the dugout.  We had a little battle and it was broken up.  When we went to New York I started a game against the Yankees.  Billy Martin saw me and told me that we shouldn’t fight each other because the Italians should stick together.

I told him that when a man calls me what he called me I don’t ask him his nationality.  Anyway, we became the best of friends until the day he died.

Aloha Mr. Hutton:

Here is my story that aired last night on KABC 790 as part of the Lasorda at His Best series presented by Skechers:

I’ll tell you a move I made that will shock you.  When I was managing Spokane we went into Hawaii, and I looked at the right field fence and it was 280 feet.  And I saw the left field fence, which was pretty far away. 

So every hitter I put in the line-up was left-handed. 

I called Tommy Hutton over and asked him if he ever played third base.

“Third base!” he said.  “Are you crazy?  No, why?”

Well you are playing third base tonight.

I had eight left-handed hitters in the line-up.  The announcers did not go with the team to Hawaii.  Instead, they would recreate the game.  Our trainer sent the line-up to the announcers.  They looked at it and saw Hutton at third base, and thought I was crazy.  They thought it was a mistake and asked for the line-up to be sent again.  The trainer sent it again and again saw Tommy Hutton at third base. 

Our general manager, Elton Schiller, called our trainer Herb Vike, and wanted to know why he kept sending the line-up back with Hutton playing third.  Vike told Schiller that Hutton really is playing third because I stacked the line-up with left handers. 

It worked.  We scored about eight runs in the first inning.

My opinion of the Dave Kingman tape:

Upper Deck

Here is my story that aired last night on KABC 790 as part of the Lasorda at His Best series presented by Skechers:

Jim Healy played an interview on his radio show that I did with one of his correspondents.  The game was against the Chicago Cubs, and Dave Kingman hit three home runs and drove in eight runs in 15 innings. When the game was over I was dejected as you could possibly be.

I was sitting in my office all alone.  This man, who worked for Healy, comes in and asks, “What is your opinion of Kingman’s performance?”

I proceeded to tell him what my opinion was.

Of course, when Healy played it on air there were a lot of bleeps. 

I’ve been married now for 61 years.  I have never used one word of profanity in front of my wife, Jo, or my daughter Laura, or anybody else’s wife or daughter.  But that day, on the baseball field and in my office, I was bad.  I didn’t like Healy playing it but you can’t do anything about it. 

To this day, that interview has been played over and over and over, so many times that everybody in the world knows about the Kingman tape. 

I think they even translated it into Japanese.

Don Zimmer’s dream:

Don Zimmer, Ralph Avila, Tommy Lasorda

Here is my story that aired last night on KABC 790 as part of the Lasorda at His Best series presented by Skechers:

Don Zimmer and I were teammates for a long time.  Everybody knew that he loved to go to the race track.  So one day he was sleeping and he had a dream.  He dreamt that he was flying in an airplane, and instead of people sitting in the seats there were big hats.  He dreamt that he was driving down the street in a car and instead of people walking on sidewalk there were big hats walking.

He broke out in a sweat, woke up and told his wife.

“I’ve got $3,000 left.  I am going to the track, and if I find a horse running named Hat I’m going to bet the $3,000 on him.”

He goes to the track, and three hours later he comes home dejected and depressed.

“What happened?” asked his wife.

“I went a bought a program,” he said.  “There wasn’t a horse named Hat, but in the fifth race there was a horse running named Hat Rack.  I figured that’s it, you put the hat on the hat rack, so I bet the $3,000 to win.”

They come out of the gate and Hat Rack is leading by nine lengths at the first turn.  They finally come down the stretch and he gets beat out by a nose by a horse that paid 90-1.

“What was the name of the horse that won?” she asked.

It was a horse named Sombrero…

The incomparable Yogi Berra:

Here is my story that aired last night on KABC 790 as part of the Lasorda at His Best series presented by Skechers:

They tell the story about Yogi Berra.  In New York, at that particular time, they used to pick the outstanding athlete in that area every year.  Yogi won it four or five times, and he won it again, so they wanted to get him something different than a plaque.  Dick Young, the sports writer, called Carmen, Yogi’s wife, to ask her if there was anything she wanted for them to present Yogi.

She told Dick she always wanted one of those big grandfather clocks.  She said if they got one of those she would really love it.

That night they presented Yogi with the grandfather clock.  About 1:30 a.m., or 2:00, everything was finishing up.  They had sat around talking and having a good time.  When everybody was leaving, Yogi picks up the clock and goes through the revolving door at Toots Shor’s.

Here comes a drunk staggering down the road.  He bumps into Yogi, and the clock flies one way, Yogi falls another way. 

Yogi said to the drunk, “Hey buddy, why don’t you watch where you’re going!”

And the drunk replied, “Why don’t you wear a wrist watch like everybody else!”

Joe DiMaggio was one of my heroes:

Here is my story that aired last night on KABC 790 as part of the Lasorda at His Best series presented by Skechers: 

Red Patterson, who was the Publicity Director for the Dodgers, asked me to do him a favor and drive Joe DiMaggio to West Palm Beach. 

“Oh my gosh!  Joe DiMaggio, and I’m going to drive him?  I idolized this man!”

So we get in the car and we are diving and driving, and I’m not saying a word. 

“What’s he matter dag (short for dago)?” he said.  “Don’t you talk?”

“I’m just so thankful to be sitting here with you I didn’t think I could say anything,” I answered.

“We dago’s need to stick together,” he said, which I thought was great. 

“You know something, you may not believe this,” I told him.  “But when I was a kid I made up a song about you.”

It went something like this:

Joe, Joe DiMaggio, we want you on our side

Joe DiMaggio, he hits it so far it goes over the wall

I’m telling you now, if you want to know

It’s Joe, Joe, DiMaggio

 

And then it was something about eating pasta fagioli!

Vin Scully is the greatest of all time:

Here is my story that aired last night on KABC 790 as part of the Lasorda at his Best series presented by Skechers:

The best way to describe Vin Scully is this: There was a time when the batter hit the ball and he was rounding the bases.  He slid in to third base, and the umpire called him safe.  But the fans didn’t believe it until Vin Scully said he was safe.

Vin is the greatest I’ve ever seen or heard.  He is a tribute to the Dodgers; he is a miracle man.  He has the greatest voice, and the tremendous ability to create a picture for people that were listening.  He makes you feel like you are at the ballpark watching the game in person.

He has helped me a lot.  When times were tough, after a tough loss, he was there for me and would build me up.  

I have never once heard him criticize anybody.  I have never once heard him say a bad word about anybody.  I never once heard him say no to anybody who wanted his picture or autograph. 

For me, Vin Scully is Mr. Dodger.  For over 60 years he has represented the Dodgers to the highest degree of class, dignity and character. 

I hope he never stops, because when he leaves God bless the man who is going to have to replace him.

Hollywood Joe instead of Broadway Joe?

Getty Images

Here is my story that aired on KABC 790 as part of the Lasorda at His Best series presented by Skechers:

When I started out as a scout for the Dodgers I covered the state of Pennsylvania.  I was watching a ballgame in the upper part of the state and a guy comes over to me and asks if I was a scout. 

“I am a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers,” I told him.  He also wanted to know if I saw anybody I liked. 

“I like the center fielder,” I told him.  “Do you know him?”  He did, and he offered to set up a meeting.

“Do you have an Italian restaurant here?” I asked.  There was, so we set the meeting up there for 6:00 p.m.

I’m sitting in the restaurant waiting for the kid.  In he comes, and I look him over.  He had a little goatee, but was a well-built kid.  I told him I was interested in signing him to a professional contract.  He told me he couldn’t do it because he promised his mother he would go to college.

“What college are you planning on attending?” I asked.  He told me it was between Kentucky and Alabama.

What I didn’t know at that time Bear Bryant was at Kentucky, and whether he was going to move or not.  If he was going to move to Alabama, which he did, this kid was going to follow him there. 

I offered him $8,000, but he turned me down, and went on to become one of the greatest football players in this country.

From the state of Pennsylvania, like many great quarterbacks, the kid was Joe Namath.

Jerry Reuss the tie cutter:

Jerry Reuss Throws a No-Hitter in 1980

Here is my story that aired on KABC 790 as part of the Lasorda at His Best series presented by Skechers:

We were playing I Montreal, and we went to this very nice restaurant.  Everybody has a special tie that they really like and always want to wear.  I had a special tie on that I loved very dearly.  We sat down to eat, and Jerry Reuss, Steve Garvey and Jay Johnstone were at another table.

The waitress came over and told me that those three guys would like to buy me a drink.

“I don’t accept drinks from strangers,” I said.

Well here comes Reuss.

“You think we are strangers?” he said.

He grabbed my tie and cut it about three inches below the knot.  I wanted to cry when he cut that tie…

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