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Jerry Reuss talks about Jay Johnstone’s best prank on Tom Lasorda

Jay Johnstone, left, laughs with teammates Don Stanhouse and Dave Goltz along with manager Tommy Lasorda in 1980.
Jay Johnstone, left, laughs with teammates Don Stanhouse and Dave Goltz along with manager Tommy Lasorda at spring training in 1980.
(Joe Kennedy / Los Angeles Times)

Jerry Reuss, who was a teammate of Jay Johnstone’s from 1980-82 and again in 1985 and who famously dressed up as a groundskeeper along with Johnstone to drag the infield during a game, shared the following memory via email with The Times of Johnstone, who died on Monday.

“The memories I shared with Jay passed through my mind like the spinning of a Rolodex. There were so many good times that it’s hard to stop the spin and pinpoint just one. But I’ll do it anyway.

“In spring training of 1981, Jay, who had just seen the movie ‘Private Benjamin,’ wanted to play a prank on Tom Lasorda. Jay, who stayed on base at Dodgertown, managed to secure a key to the manager’s room on campus that was shared by Tom and his wife, Jo. One morning, Jay approached me with a story that stopped me in my tracks.

Jay Johnstone, the fun-loving outfielder who was best known for his clubhouse pranks and a dramatic pinch-hit home run that helped the Dodgers win the 1981 World Series, died Saturday. He was 74.

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“ ‘You’re not going to believe what I just did to our manager’s room. I put dye in the shower head (inspired, no doubt, by the movie), removed the carbon mouthpiece of the phone so he can’t call out, put a nail in his window so that it only open a few inches and tonight, I plan to tie a rope from his door knob to the palm tree in the front of his room so he can’t open it,’ he gleefully chuckled. Surprised, all I could do was laugh. But, a thought occurred to me.

“ ‘Jay, I’m impressed with the plan. One thing, though,’ I mentioned. ‘What’s that?’ he replied. ‘Tom takes his after-workout showers in the bathroom of his office. His wife, Jo, I assume she showers in the room. Now, that might be a problem.’ Jay paused. ‘I didn’t think of that,’ he said as he ran from the field. Jay somehow managed to reenter the room and remove the dye from the shower head, undetected for the second time.

“His plan worked to perfection. Around 7 a.m., maintenance workers heard Lasorda’s screams and were able to liberate him from his makeshift prison. To this day, I’m not aware if Tom Lasorda knows the identity of the perpetrator.

“There was also another side to Jay. The side he chose to keep private. He spoke at Little League banquets, gave impromptu batting tips to kids, made other appearances when no one else was available and was there when a friend needed a helping hand. That’s also Jay Johnstone.”

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