We were in Iraq at Saddam’s summer house. There must have been about 500 troops there, and those of us who were on the tour. I don’t know what came over me. I must have been so moved by the presence of so many of our brave soldiers who were there serving our nation and protecting us.
All of a sudden I began to sing, “God Bless America.”
At first it was just me, but then people started to join in. Within a minute everybody in the house was singing that beautiful song.
I’m not sure if everybody was crying, but I know I was, as I am so proud of the men and women of our Armed Forces for their service, sacrifice, bravery and duty.
I served two years in the Army during World War II. My father, who was an Italian immigrant, told me and my four brothers that the United States is the greatest country in the world, and that we must do everything we can to keep it that way. He told us that we may even have to give our lives to this country. Now that’s a father telling his sons they may have to die protecting America!
I love this country, and hold our soldiers in the highest respect. Especially those who have paid the ultimate price.
Happy Memorial Day, America.
Tonight I will give the commencement address to the graduating class at Cypress College. I am going to tell them what it will take for them to succceed when they get into the real world. They are kind enough to recognize my life experience with an honorary degree.
Although I never stepped one foot in college, this will be my eighth degree. Here are the seven:
1. Pepperdine University (1996)
2. St. Thomas University (!997)
3. Cal State Long Beach (1998)
4. University of Phoenix (1997)
5. Concordia University (2003)
6. University of Hawaii (2006)
7. Argosy University (2008)
Today I will give motivational addresses to the California Peace Officers Assocation at 3:30 pm, and then to the Disabled Veterans Alliance at 7:00 pm.
Both organizations represent outstanding individuals who commit themselves to protecting us and our way of life.
By speaking I hope to express our appreciation and respect for thier service and sacrifice. I have the utmost repsect for the men and women who wear their respective uniforms and dedicate their lives to us, the citizens of the greatest country in the world!
A few weeks ago the Colorado Rockies, and the baseball world, lost a dear fiend, a consummate executive, and a strong leader in Keli McGregor, the President of the Colorado Rockies. Keli died unexpectedly, and I miss him tremendously. However, his legacy will be carried out by the Rockies on the field, and by his wife Lori and four children off the field.
When I met Keli for the first time he was a giant of a man standing 6’5″. However, I quickly learned that he had a heart as big as his body with a personality that would shine throughout. Keli and I became friends right off the bat. I respected him so much because of the principled way in which he lived his life.
He loved his family.
He loved God.
He loved our country.
And he loved being the president of the Rockies.
He lived his life and made his decisions based on two principles that I think are fundamental to a well-balanced life: love and respect.
Everybody who followed him, loved him. Everybody who dealt with him, respected him. Everybody who had the pleasure of being in his company felt loved and respected too because that’s how he lived his life, as giving love and respect is the only way of getting it back.
I will miss Keli, but as I watch the Rockies this season and beyond, I will remember him as a tremendous and outstanding man, and a great friend.
I love Willie Mays. It’s just too bad that he’s a Giant.
I have had the privilege and honor of being Willie’s friend for many years, and although we were rivals, I respect him tremendously as one of the best ever to play baseball. People ask me who the greatest player ever was and I always answer with two names: Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.
Willie and I were also teammates. We played in Winter Ball together in Cuba for Almendares. We also played against each other in Winter Ball in Puerto Rico. In fact, I struck Willie out with one of my curveballs, and to this day when I remind him of that he replies, “Struck me out? Was I dead?!”
Willie once wrote me letter, and in that letter he said, “Do you remember that homerun I hit off you in Puerto Rico? It still hasn’t landed!”
I don’t know about that, but I do know that Willie was an amazing player, and I love him very much.
Happy 79th birthday, Willie.
I loved going in to New York to play the Mets. New Yorkers love baseball, and they love their Mets.
At Shea Stadium the fine officers of the NYPD used to be on guard. I would holler to them and say, “Hey guys, hold your heads up high, you represent the second greatest police force in America!”
They used to go crazy after I said that and get all over me.
So after one game the clubby told me there was a group of officers waiting outside the clubhouse door for me. When I came out they presented me with an old, scuffed-up ball that read, “To the second greatest manager in all of baseball.”
Every time I go to New York I look forward to talking to the fine men and women of the NYPD. They wear their uniforms with pride, dignity and character, and I couldn’t be any prouder of the outstanding job they do.
I was the third base coach for the Dodgers from 1973-76. In 1975 we lost to the Cincinnati Reds by 20 games, and in ’76 we lost to the Reds by 10 games. In 1977 I became Manager of the Dodgers, and during that offseason I went all around the country telling everybody that the Reds would never beat the Dodgers again.
When I got back to LA, AL Campanis called me in to his office and told me that I can’t talk that way because the Reds are a great ballclub and their team is stacked with future Hall of Famers.
I said, “Al, I said it because I believe it, and I want my players to believe it.”
When I was coaching it frosted me to see our guys lose to the Reds like that. I believed we had a better ball club. For Spring Training in ’77 I made a few new rules:
1. Nobody wears the color red in our clubhouse
2. I hate the Reds and so do you
3. You’ve go tot believe that you are a better ballclub
We went on the win the National League pennant, and in doing so beat the Reds by 10 games for a 20-game swing.
Tonight we start a three-game series against the Reds in Cincinnati, and I hope the tradition we set in the late 70′s continues today.
Yesterday my wife, Jo and I, celebrated our 60th anniversary. I wrote a letter to God about her because I love her so much, and am so thankful to have her.
Here it is:
April 14, 2010
I thank you every day for blessing me with my beautiful wife, Jo. Today we celebrate our 60th anniversary, as we were married under your eyes on April 14, 1950. If I could have written down on a piece of paper what I wanted in a wife, you couldn’t have given me anyone finer than Jo.
The love I have for Jo, I learned from loving you. Just as you have filled my life with light, and my heart with love, I hope I have passed that overflowing feeling to her. With all my heart, I made a commitment to her, to be a loving husband and a dedicated father, and I lived my life to fulfill that commitment.
Together we started a life built on the hope of a prayer. They all said it would never work, an Italian Catholic from the north and a Southern Baptist.
Together we built a family, and looking in the eyes of our children we realized the meaning of your love and the significance of life’s purpose.
Together we danced the dance of life, and through the good times and the bad, I am so thankful that Jo carried me with her grace and her faith. Where there was darkness she gave me light. Where there was despair she gave me hope. Where there was doubt she gave me faith. It’s your love that I want, but it’s hers that I need.
I love her with all my heart, and I will be forever grateful for the precious gift you gave to me. These 60 years with Jo have been breathtaking, and I ask you for another 60 years together.
Today I was inducted into the Ciuban Sports Hall of Fame. This enshrinement marked my 16th Hall. I played in Cuba in the 1950′s for Almendares and Marianao. I loved it then, and I love the Cuban people.
Here is the news release the Dodgers put out:
LASORDA TO BE INDUCTED INTO
CUBAN SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Induction tomorrow marks Lasorda’s 16th Hall of Fame
LOS ANGELES – Hall of Fame Manager and Special Advisor to the Chairman Tommy Lasorda will be inducted into the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame tomorrow. The induction ceremony will take place in Miami, Florida during a special ceremony. The ceremony begins at 12:00 p.m. and will be held at the Big Five Club at 600 SW 92nd Avenue, Miami, FL.
“I am very proud to be inducted into the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame,” said Lasorda. “I loved my time in Cuba and am very fond of the Cuban people. They are very passionate about their baseball and I was so proud to be a part of it.”
Lasorda played in Cuba as a left-handed pitcher during the 1950s during Winter Ball. He played for Almendares and Marianao and saw the Cuban government change hands twice. In 1952 he saw Fulgencio Batista overthrow Carlos Prio Socarrás and in 1959 he saw Fidel Castro overthrow Batista.
This enshrinement marks Lasorda’s 16th Hall of Fame. Most recently, he was inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame on November 12. Last summer he was inducted into the Brooklyn Baseball Hall of Fame, the Inland Empire 66ers Hall of Fame and the Ogden Professional Baseball Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on August 3, 1997 after managing the Dodgers for 20 years winning eight division titles, four National League pennants and two World Series championships (1981, 88).
Lasorda has also been inducted into the Pacific Coast League HOF (2006), Canadian Baseball HOF (2006), Italian American Sports HOF (1989), California Sports HOF (2006), Montgomery County Coaches HOF (2002), South Atlantic League HOF (2001), Albuquerque Baseball HOF (2007), Louisiana Italian American HOF (1985), Cleveland Italian American HOF, Rhode Island Italian American HOF and the Philadelphia Sports HOF (2009).
The Cuban Sports Hall of Fame houses athletes and executives from many sports. Also enshrined in the Cuban Sports HOF are Special Advisor to the General Manager, Latin American Operations Ralph Avila (1996) and Dodger scout Mike Brito (2005).
The two-time defending National League West Division Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, pioneers in sport and world culture, have won more games, more pennants, and more World Series than any other club in the National League since moving to Los Angeles. Since the start of the modern era in baseball, the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles, combined, have a cumulative attendance of more than 184 million, the highest total in the history of baseball or any other sport.
Visit the Dodgers on the Internet at www.dodgers.com.
I love the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. It is an outstanding foundation that does a lot of good for a lot of people, as well as preserving the heritage of the Italian American culture, a culture that was built on love of God, love of country and love of family.
It honors excellence and perseverence, and I am proud ot be here in Chicago this weekend to support it.
Here is some history about the IASHOF:
In 1977, George Randazzo founded the Italian American Boxing Hall of Fame as a way to raise money for a struggling local Catholic youth program. Randazzo collected boxing photos and memorabilia, a hobby that inspired him to organize a fundraising dinner that brought together a list of boxing greats and celebrities. The dinner honored twenty-three former Italian American boxing world champions, including Rocky Graziano, Jake LaMotta, Sammy Angott, Willie Pep, and posthumously Rocky Marciano, Primo Carnera and Tony Canzoneri.
The results were so overwhelming that a friend and local businessman, Don Ponte, encouraged Randazzo to start a Hall of Fame to honor all Italian American athletes. One year later, the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame was founded as a non-profit, educational institution. The first induction ceremony and banquet was a star-studded event, as the Hall of Fame honored Lou Ambers, Eddie Arcaro, Charlie Trippi, Gino Marchetti, Dom DiMaggio and “The Yankee Clipper,” Joe DiMaggio. Mrs. Vince Lombardi also accepted the posthumous induction of her late husband, Coach Vince Lombardi.
In the years that followed, celebrities from all walks of life have come to the annual induction ceremonies to pay tribute to outstanding Italian American sports champions and heroes. A special and uninvited guest took part in the 1980 induction ceremony, as Prisident Jimmy Carter offered his congratulations and addressed the crowd. In 1988 the Hall of Fame moved from its original headquarters in Elmwood Park to Arlington Heights.
The NIASHF enjoyed a new beginning in 1998 with the help of Phoenix Suns Chairman/CEO Jerry Colangelo. A 1994 Inductee and Chicago Heights native, Colangelo was asked by Randazzo to serve as Chairman of an ambitious new Hall of Fame building project in the heart of Chicago’s Little Italy. Colangelo accepted, and has succeeded in bringing together civic-minded men and women from across the country in support of the project. In 2000 the new facility was dedicated as “The Jerry Colangelo Center,” a tribute to his efforts and leadership.
There are now over 200 inductees enshrined in the Hall of Fame. To date, the organization has raised over 6 million for scholarships and charitable causes. In 27 years, the collection of sports memorabilia the Hall has amassed is second to none. The priceless artifacts include Mario Andretti’s Indy 500 racecar, Rocky Marciano’s first heavyweight championship belt, Vince Lombardi’s last coat worn as coach of the Green Bay Packers, and swimmer Matt Biondi’s Olympic Gold Medals.