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NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES : Tommy Tells Tale of Victory the Way Only Tommy Can

Tommy told the Our Lady of Lourdes story.

Tommy used the capsized-boat allegory.

Tommy pulled out the old pot-of-gold gag.

Tommy brought back the managerial-suicide episode.

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Tommy did the David-Goliath bit.

Tommy managed to work Pat Riley into it.

Tommy ran out to the mound with his jiggly tummy.

Tommy hugged, Tommy squeezed, Tommy kissed, Tommy talked. Tommy thanked everybody except Columbus for discovering America and Louisville for inventing Sluggers.

Then Tommy went out for pasta.

Tommy was, in a word, Tommy.

If somebody asks you to describe Tommy Lasorda in one word, this is all the word you need.

He’s just Tommy, you say.

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That’s the mistake Orel Hershiser made. Somebody asked him after the Dodgers won the National League pennant Wednesday night to describe his manager in one word. Hershiser proceeded to do the one thing that he had not done in the ballgame. He struggled.

“You want my ‘A’ material?” Hershiser asked.

Not necessarily.

OK, Orel nodded. “Offhand, I can think of three words,” he said.

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“The first word is motivator. Tommy’s definitely that. The second word is intensity. Tommy definitely has that.

“And the third word that comes to mind is this: Will to win. That’s what I think of when I think of Tommy. His will to win.”

Hershiser stopped and took a beat, as any good comedian should.

“How do you like that? I sound like a dumb jock,” Hershiser said. “You ask for one word, I tell you I’ll give you three words, and then I give you five.”

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Oh, well, Orel. That’s what comes from hanging around with Tommy. Ask Tommy for one word, he’ll give you five. Five hundred. Tommy goes rat-a-tat-tat. Tommy makes Morton Downey Jr. sound like a mute. If talking ever became an Olympic event, Tommy would need to take steroids--just to slow down. The only time Tommy stops talking, you can bet it has something to do with a fork.

Talking is second nature to Tommy Lasorda. Some toy company ought to manufacture a Talking Tommy doll. Pull the ring and hear how much it loves the Dodgers. Talking is what he is good at--and motivating, and being intense, and willing the Dodgers to win.

Once again, he has done all that. Tommy Lasorda is in the World Series. Again. So stand back. Give him room. Gentlemen, start your tape recorders. Bring extra batteries. Tommy is talking--and this time, he’s really got something to talk about.

Forget the bad jokes and the food stuff and the antacid tablets and everything else for a minute, and consider Lasorda the manager. Discuss what he has done, because this is one subject--possibly the only subject--on which he will remain relatively mum.

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“When I start talking about the things that I do for the club, all it does is sound like you’re trying to impress people. No manager is naive enough to think that he wins the ballgames. Anybody who does is too wrapped up in his own importance.

“This wasn’t the best job that I’ve ever done. This was the best job these players have ever done. All I gotta do is put ‘em out there. Asking me if I think this was my best job of managing is like asking me which plate of linguine I like best. There’s no answer.”

In case you missed it, this was the Tommy Lasorda version of “no comment.”

The man manages. Somehow he manages. Six division titles in 12 years. A total revival after two straight fifth-place finishes. A new contract, signed in midsummer. A World Series to look forward to, an all-California one, against the team that traded to him his shortstop and his ace relief pitcher in exchange for a starting pitcher he cared for so much, Tommy wept when Bob Welch said goodby.

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Lasorda’s season, although he is probably reluctant to admit it, would have deserved honorable mention even if the Mets had been the ones to pin the 6-0 defeat on the Dodgers in Game 7. The Dodgers did better that anyone expected just to get that far. Had they lost, Lasorda might have cried blue tears. But he could have been justifiably proud.

Tommy, of course, is proud of fifth-place teams. Tommy is proud of chewing gum, as long as a Dodger is chewing it.

But this team, this team is extra special.

So, here we go. Tommy, take it away:

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--"We saved a lot of people a lot of money by winning this series! See, a lot of people spend a lot of money every year to go all the way to France to go to Our Lady of Lourdes to see miracles! All they had to do this year to see miracles was watch us!”

--"Before the game, I told the team we’re just like the guy whose boat capsized a mile off shore! He swam to within 1 yard of shore and then drowned! He should have drowned when the boat capsized! It’s worse when you get so close and don’t make it! That’s why I told our guys: ‘We’re only a yard away! We can make it!’ ”

--"I told the guys, ‘Gentlemen, we’re putting the whole pot of gold on the Bulldog!’ That’s Hershiser! The Bulldog! The Bulldog sniffed out the pot of gold!”

--"Good thing the Bulldog was there for us in Game 4, because otherwise, I never would have seen him in Game 7! He and the other guys would have been eulogizing me today instead of playing for me! I’d have killed myself!”

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--"I told the writers when David slew Goliath, everyone was betting all their rocks on Goliath! But many Davids have won since the time of Goliath!”

--"I saw Pat Riley after he coached the Lakers to another championship, and I said, ‘Pat, I hope a little of you rubs off on me!’ I guess it did! Just not his good looks, unfortunately!”

The world according to Tommy.

The biggest, puffiest, filled-with-hot-air thing at Dodger Stadium was a blimp that flew overhead. It was illuminated by neon lights. The lights spelled out a message, and the message was: “Goodyear.”

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Yes, thank you, it sure was.

The second-biggest, puffiest, filled-with-hot-air thing at Dodger Stadium was the manager of the home team. He was feeling as big as the blimp. He was big and proud and loud, and he deserved to be. He was just being Tommy, and nobody can do Tommy like Tommy does Tommy.


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