Blue-Carpet Treatment by Lasorda
The pride of Abruzzi, Italy, Norristown, Pa., raconteur, published author and all-around good fellow stood with bandy legs, arms akimbo and spoke in his normal tone of voice--somewhere between a guy shouting “Fire!” in a crowded building and a man seeing an iceberg from the bridge of the Titanic--"WELL, IF IT ISN’T THE GREAT JIM MURRAY!” as he spotted a newcomer around the batting cage.
The decibels lingered embarrassingingly around the soft summer air as Tommy Lasorda launched into a eulogy of the life and times of this new arrival in inspired words normally reserved for the funeral of Abraham Lincoln or the verse on a Hallmark card to your boss. Shakespeare never got a better introduction.
The man in question is not to be confused with the other literary greats who have passed through Dodgertown in recent years, the great Mel Durslag, for example, or the great Gordon Edes, the great Dick Young, Red Smith or the great correspondent for the Hackensack Daily Blade whose name escapes Tommy for the moment but not his accomplishments. To be great in Tommy’s eyes you merely have to have a nodding acquaintance with the infield fly rule, verbs in all the sentences--and be assigned to the Dodgers.
It is unthinkable that anyone sub-Hemingway or sub-Pulitzer would be assigned to covering a subject as cosmic and apocalyptic as the Dodgers. It is a subject matter which, like the Fall of Troy, would endow its chronicler with divine inspiration like Homer or Aeneas, would call forth the rolling strophes of poetry worthy of Lord Byron or Dante, to say nothing of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. How could even a hack not exceed himself when confronted with the superlative doings of the demigods in Dodger Blue? A journeyman might be sufficient for comparative trivialities of the San Diego Padres, for example, but not something as close to sublime as the Lasorda Dodgers.
Could journeyman prose do justice to a Steve Sax? Pedro Guerrero? No, Tommy Lasorda will remind you, only literary lights of the dimension of Renaissance poets could be expected to rise to the subject matter.
God is a Dodger, Lasorda would remind you. All America hangs on the fate of the Dodgers. The stock market, the weather, interest rates, all may fail if the Dodgers do.
It is an awesome responsibility, one that Lasorda does not take lightly.
Fortunately, the fate of the Republic is in good hands. The Dodgers of 1985, take it from Manager Lasorda, are a cross between the ’27 Yankees and the Twelve Apostles. Paradise assured.
A visit with Lasorda is like a trip to Lourdes. Nothing is impossible, nothing is incurable, miracles are commonplace. You just got to believe. Faith can move pennants.
For instance, it may look to you as if the Dodgers have some very serious handicaps. At third base and center field, to zero in on a couple.
Lasorda is outraged. These are not problems, they are opportunities. The Dodgers have a third baseman, Lasorda points out. One of the best.
He is not at his best at certain fine points of the play at third base. At picking up or stopping ground balls for example.
A minor detail, shrugs Lasorda. Even Caruso had to learn to sing.
A more major detail was that this particular third baseman did not really want to be one. He preferred some place where the action was more sporadic, the existence more monastic, where he had somewhat more than a blink of an eye to react to a batted ball approaching at something only slightly less than the speed of sound.
Tommy called Guerrero in. “Pete,” he asked him in the fatherly tones Moses might have used carrying the tablets down from the mount or guaranteeing the Red Sea would part, “when you walk down the street and the team is trying to get in the Fall Classic, do you want kids to read where Pete Guerrero said that ‘since the Dodgers made it possible for me to be secure for life, I want to repay them in any way I can, including playing third base,’ or do you want them to read, ‘Pete Guerrero says he won’t play third, too bad about the team?’ ”
History doesn’t record Guerrero’s exact answer, but he was next seen on third base, whereupon Lasorda next introduced him to Brooks Robinson, a passing broadcaster who only happens to be the greatest third baseman of his day, and a man who practically invented the position as it is practiced today.
Now, introducing Pedro Guerrero to Brooks Robinson is tantamount to introducing Ma Kettle to Miss America and urging her to find out how to be more like her, but history records Pedro Guerrero went out that afternoon and turned in two sparkling, vacuum-cleaner plays at the third sack that afternoon. After the game, Lasorda was ecstatic. “From now on your name is ‘Brooks!”’ he screamed at his third baseman. “The new human vacuum cleaner! Who do you think was standing up in the press box cheering his head off!? Brooks Robinson! He said those were two of the greatest plays he ever seen in his life!”
Lasorda’s stock-in-trade is unbridled optimism. “I learned it from my father,” he boasts. “Every day of his life he drove this truck down in this quarry. He’d come home at night, and we’d have to rub his feet--they were frostbitten--and he’d say ‘I’m the luckiest man in the world. I’m living in the greatest country in the world and I have this family and a job.’ And I’d say, ‘How can you say you’re the luckiest man in the world--your feet are frozen!?’ And he’d say, ‘What’s a little frozen feet compared to all the other happiness I got?!’ So, I say, what’s wrong with playing a little third base? I mean, do your feet get frozen?”