Tommy Lasorda holds on, with hope for the Dodgers
He brought Los Angeles a World Series championship in 1988, later stepping down as manager, and yet no one has worked harder for the Dodgers to hang another championship banner.
Just ask him, and Tommy Lasorda will tell you.
“I believe,” he’s yelling at me like he would an umpire, and it’s three hours before Monday night’s game with the Giants and he’s turning colors while screaming, “I believe, I believe.”
I’m worried he might keel over and I’m going to have to ask our beat reporter Dylan Hernandez to give him mouth to mouth.
As it is, Lasorda is suffering from a severe case of vertigo, the travel and the heat making him the first bobble-body in baseball.
He’s taking pills and is being treated by a doctor, who has told him to rest. Obviously the doctor does not understand who he’s advising.
“It’s like being drunk, your balance gone and you’re going to fall; I’ve got to hold on to everything,” Lasorda says.
And so, on yet another steamy night, why is Lasorda here?
“I came here to pull for my team,” he says, “And to let them know I’m here for them.”
Not everyone is so committed, Dodger Stadium sparsely filled as it might be for a team like the Astros rather than the Giants. Another fine example of how few have hung in there as Lasorda has over the many years.
For all the bluster and blarney, and take any potshot you like at the guy, Lasorda has spent a lifetime being a Dodgers’ cheerleader.
“Maybe it doesn’t always sound sincere to some but I want to see another championship banner flying in center field,” he says. “And even though I’ll still be cheering for them in heaven, they better do it before the big Dodger in the sky calls me. I don’t want to go without knowing we have another world championship.
“I’ve already told my wife that when I do go I want our home schedule attached to my tombstone. I want people who are in the cemetery visiting their loved ones to say, ‘Let’s go to Lasorda’s grave and see if the Dodgers are playing home or away.’
“Hey, I love this organization so much I want to be working for it even after I’m dead.”
You have permission to roll your eyes or laugh. I did both, and he’s used to it and not for a second apologetic.
“I feel like I’m helping people,” he says, his enthusiasm and optimism maybe something for frustrated Dodgers fans to hold onto. “Do you know how many millions of Dodgers fans have bought tickets to watch us play over the years? They deserve another champion, and I know we’re going to give it to them.”
He’s 84, still living in Orange County and making the trek to be here when not traveling to sweatboxes such as Wichita, Chattanooga and Albuquerque to talk to the organization’s minor league players.
Tonight he’s here sitting in the third row, “Psy” on the dance cam on the Dodger Stadium scoreboard, and wouldn’t you like to ask him his opinion of Psy?
“My goal is to live to be 100,” Lasorda says before the game, and of course it is I’m telling him because it might be that long before the Dodgers win another World Series.
And he’s yelling again, “I believe, I believe,” and several Dodgers employees emerge to see whether he’s all right.
Told to stay home while recovering, he was in Rancho Cucamonga a few days ago to give a pep talk in Spanish to the Cuban player signed recently by the Dodgers.
“Nobody is ever going to accuse him of not getting the most out of life,” says Manager Don Mattingly. “But I worry about him.” But no one dares tell Lasorda to slow down.
“You can put anybody 85 years old up against me and I’ll whoop them in a fight,” Lasorda says and he’s serious, which makes it so funny.
“The only thing tough about being 84 is getting dressed,” he concedes. “Putting on socks really kills me. I never wanted my players to go without socks, and look at me now, no socks.”
“I think we’re going to win it this year,” he says, and if the Dodgers were wiped out by a plague, he would say the same thing.
The fans apparently aren’t so sure. It’s probably going to take magic, and I’m not talking the basketball player, to bring them back and believe like Lasorda.
The Dodgers, down, 2-0, are a miracle rally away from energizing their faithful and maybe making them believers.
Mark Ellis takes a called third strike. And Matt Kemp is now 0-for-19 with a groundout.
Hanley Ramirez hits a home run, and I remember another Ramirez electrifying this place. But Andre Ethier taps out to first. And Lasorda will be back again Tuesday to hug and hope.
HE WAS special, one of those people that you meet every day and take for granted. A great smile, always a kind word and the bright light in the room, and maybe that’s the only experience you have with such a person. But they stick with you because they are so genuine, so consistent in demeanor and interested in making everyone else feel better.
That was Artie Williams III. I knew him as a Channel 7 cameraman, running into that happy-go-lucky face at almost every sports venue in town, the final time for the Dwight Howard news conference. We just never know.
Artie died Saturday while diving near Catalina, a day before his 60th birthday, so many people poorer now because he left too soon.
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