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Lasorda Is Still Crazy ... Like a Fox

Times Staff Writer

Tom Lasorda was honored last week by the Long Beach Armada, an independent minor league baseball team, before a home game at Blair Field against a Japanese team, the Samurai Bears.

Before the game, Lasorda was in the Armada locker room when he spotted Brad “the Animal” Lesley, who had pitched for the Cincinnati Reds in the early 1980s before going on to play in Japan, where he also became a well-known actor.

“This guy was a wild man when he pitched for the Reds,” Lasorda told the people he was with. “He was a crazy man.”

Lasorda was unaware that Lesley’s 8-year-old son, Luke, was nearby.

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“My dad’s crazy?” Luke asked.

Lasorda recovered quickly.

“No, no, your dad is a great, great man, and you should be very, very proud of him,” he said.

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Trivia time: How many games did Lasorda appear in as a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954 and ’55?

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The name fit: Lesley, the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Assn., has his nickname on his business card. The nickname, Lesley said, came from Johnny Bench.

“Late in his career, when Bench was playing first base, I was on the mound,” Lesley said. “He had to come off the bag to field a ground ball, and as I ran past him to cover first, I yelled, ‘Give me the ... ball.’ That caused him to boot it, giving him an error.

“Explaining to writers after the game what happened on the play, Bench said, ‘The kid was coming at me like a crazed animal.’ And the name stuck.”

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Forever linked: Legendary USC baseball coach Rod Dedeaux was also on hand for Lasorda’s night at the Armada game.

“I don’t want to stand too close to Tommy,” said Dedeaux, 91. “Some people say we’re look-alikes, which is something neither one of us want to hear.”

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Pep talk works: Lasorda, in front of the crowd at Blair Field, told the Armada players: “I speak to a million people a year, so if you don’t win tonight, I’m going to tell a million people you played lousy.”

It was a cleaner version of the same pep talk he delivered a little earlier in the locker room.

Fortunately, the Armada won, 10-0.

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Looking back: On this day in 1950, Gil Hodges became the sixth major leaguer to hit four home runs in a game. He also had a single as Brooklyn routed the Boston Braves, 19-3.

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Trivia answer: Lasorda appeared in four games with Brooklyn in ’54 and four again in ’55 but never got a decision. He appeared in 18 with the Kansas City Athletics in 1956 and had a record of 0-4.

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And finally: Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle recalled once when Gene Mauch, who died Aug. 8, was going jaw to jaw with an umpire.

“When several of his players ran to join the heated discussion,” Ostler wrote, “Mauch stopped them, saying, ‘The first guy who lays a hand on this blind old man is fined $50.’ ”

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Larry Stewart can be reached at larry.stewart@latimes.com.


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