March 3 is special to me. On this day in 1997 I was having breakfast at Dodgertown inVero Beach. I had just retired from managing the year before and was getting used to life outside of the dugout.
As I was going about the normal spring training day, talking to players, signing autographs for fans and looking forward to Opening Day, the PR director, Derrick Hall, told me that I have an important phone call.
He took me to the press box at Hollman Stadium and gave me the phone. It was Ted Williams.
“Tommy,” he said in his blustery voice. “I thought I was the only guy inCooperstownwho loved you, but it turns out that everybody loves you.”
“Congratulations, Tommy. You are being inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
When he said that to me I started to cry. I never thought I would be in the Hall of Fame, even though I gave everything I had to the Dodgers and baseball. And to get the call from Ted, a man who I idolized and respected so much, made it one of the most important and memorable days in my life.
Thank you Ted for making that call to me.
What a true joy it was this morning when I pulled into Camelback Ranch and was greeted by the great Joe Amalfitano. Joe was my third base coach from 1983 until I retired from managing in 1996. However, he was, and still is, one of my best friend and closest confidants.
Joe embodies the Dodger way. He is class on and off the field. He loves the game of baseball, and has been involved in all aspects of the game. He was a player for the New York Giants and the Chicago Cubs. He was Leo Durocher’s bench coach, also coaching for the Padres and Cubs. He became Manager of the Cubs for a few years before joining my staff on the Dodgers.
If you are ever inSan Pedro,Californiayou better not say anything bad about Joe. He is the pride of San Pedro and has never forgotten his roots. Every time we get together we laugh about old times, and all the great stories that came out of the 1988 championship season, of which he played a crucial role.
I love Joe and wish he and his family nothing but the best. He can go around this country and stand on any street corner with his head held high and yell at the top of his lungs that Tommy Lasorda loves him, and he would be telling the truth.
Dave Hansen was one of my favorite players. I felt that way because he prepared to succeed and win whether he was in the lineup or not. Most of the time he wasn’t, but he was always prepared to pinch hit, which is one of the reasons he was so successful.
In 1993 he was chasing the Dodger single-season pinch hit record. The date was September 20, and we were in Cincinnati. I wanted him to break that record really bad, so I penciled Pedro Martinez into the lineup hitting third to start the game. Jose Rijo was pitching for the Reds and Brett Butler led off the game with a single, and Jose Offerman bunted Butler over to second. When Pedro was supposed to hit I put Hansen in to pinch hit and he hit a line drive to center field, scoring Butler, and breaking the record.
Hansen still holds that record to this day with 18 pinch hits. He is the Dodger’s hitting coach, and I am confident that he will do an outstanding job with our players.
I would like to congratulate team Lasorda University. They are a 14 and under team that plays club ball in USSSA. They play the game the way it is supposed to be played. They play with all the drive and desire they have within themselves. I am so proud of them because they play to win, but the important thing is that they have fun.
I love seeing youth baseball, but I want all the youngsters playing across the country, and their coaches, to realize that baseball is supposed to be fun. I hate seeing young players quitting because they aren’t having fun.
In the Major Leagues, it is inevitable that every team will lose 1/3 of its games, which is 54. It is also inevitable that each team will win 1/3 of its games. It is the middle third that will determine where you finish.
So remember this kids: when you are playing baseball have fun. If you are down on yourself because you struck out or made an error, just look in the paper and see how many big leaguers struck out or made errors. Win with pride, but if you lose, lose with dignity because your favorite team in the big leagues will lose a few games too.
I would like to salute the greatest clubhouse staff in all of baseball. Jerry, Peps, Alex and Mitch do the job that usually takes eight or nine guys to do. If you want to talk about unsung heroes of baseball you have to talk about the clubhouse guys. They are the backbone of any professional team because they take care of everything you could possibly need or want, and they do it witout reservation or complaint. They deserve all the respect in the world.
I love our clubhouse staff and appreciate eveytihng they do for me, the Dodger coaches and players.
Thank you guys.
Thank you to Junior Sanchez for drawing this wonderful picture of me. I really appreciate it and hope your art career takes off.
Junior, you and the Dodgers are both great!
When I managed I worked my payers hard. We didn’t work by the clock, we worked by the sun. In fact, we would turn on the lights at Hollman Stadium in Vero Beach so many times just to keep taking extra BP.
One year during spring training in Vero Beach, Florida, Pedro Guerrero came to me and was a bit upset. He told me that he rented a house on the beach for a lot of money, but he hadn’t seen the water yet because the sun had already set by the time he got home.
Yes I worked them hard, but as I told my players many times, you may hate me now but you’ll love my in October!
If you want to win the pennant, you win it in spring training. You have to ask yourself what price are you willing to pay to reach your gaols, and go after them with all the drive and desire you have within yourself. You have to outwork your opponents, and it starts right now.
I would tell my players that if you want to be a number one team you have to think you are a number one team. If you think that then you’ll practice like a number one team. If you practice like a number one team, you’ll play like a number one team. And that’s exactly where you’ll finish.
Every spring I would enroll my players in Lasorda University. There is no cost to enroll. the tuition though is persperation, determination, desire and hard work. I would tell my players that if they graduated from Lasorda University that they would make more than any professor at Harvard or Yale.
This is my 63rd spring training with the Dodgers. I love being out on the field all day long teaching the game and motivating the players to believe that they are the best, and that they can beat anybody.
I’ll be here at Camelback Ranch all spring, so come by and say hello.