Mondays With Murray: No One Can Say the Guy Chose the Wrong Field

Lasorda

The world lost one of the most recognizable names in the game of baseball, Tommy Lasorda, on Jan. 7. Lasorda lived, breathed and bled Dodgers blue until til the end.

Arash Markazi, a JMMF board member and sports writer/radio host, remembers Lasorda:

Tommy Lasorda’s office at Dodger Stadium was like a museum. It included a tombstone he loved showing off to visitors. “I want to see the Dodgers win before they put that tombstone to use,” he once told me.

Tommy kept a letter he wrote to God that gave thanks for his wife, Jo, in his desk drawer. He loved her. He once told me, “I want my wife to put the Dodgers’ schedule on my tombstone. When people are in the cemetery visiting their loved ones, they’ll say, ‘Let’s go to Lasorda’s grave and see if the Dodgers are playing today.'”

He loved Frank Sinatra and next to his desk hung a painting of Sinatra kissing Lasorda’s mother, Carmella, on the cheek after visiting her at her home in Norristown, Pennsylvania, for a home-cooked meal.

He took care of my mom. He brought her to his show, he dedicated it to her, he gave her flowers, and that’s the kind of man he was,” he told me. “He was a generous man, but if he didn’t like you, look out.”

The last time I talked to Tommy was last year at a New Year’s Eve party. It was one of the few highlights of 2020. He said the Dodgers were finally going to win the World Series in October. He was right and he was there to see it.

RIP in Blue Heaven, Tommy.”

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TUESDAY, JULY 12, 1988, SPORTS

Copyright 1988/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

No One Can Say the Guy Chose the Wrong Field

  If you had a licence from God to construct yourself a baseball manager, you would probably begin with one with a big belly and short legs that were slightly mondaysmurray2bowed or pebbled with lumps so that they looked like sacks of walnuts. You would want one who had his own syntax, a voice that sounded like an oncoming train in a tunnel. It’d have to be a nice part for Vincent Gardenia.

  He wouldn’t have been a big star in his youth. A .500 pitcher, perhaps. A .260 hitter who made a lot of noise. He’d have to know how tough this game is. He’d never have a self-doubt or a moment’s anxiety. He’d come into a room as if he were leading a parade. Everybody would be his best friend. He’d talk to shoeshine boys, parking lot attendants. He’d sell baseball. He’d be sure God was a baseball fan. He’d know that America was the greatest country in the world, otherwise how could a poor boy like him grow up to be part of the greatest organization in the world?

  He’d never be at a loss for words, he’d like to eat, he’d cry at sad movies, but he’d have a temper like a top sergeant whose shoes were too tight. He’d be sentimental, cantankerous, on speaking terms with the president of the United States but, if you asked him what his foreign policy was, he’d say, “Beat Montreal!”

  He’d be part press agent, part father figure, all man. He’d have an anecdote for every occasion, always with a moral attached. He’d tell at the drop of a hat of the time when he knocked the big league batter down the first time he faced him because that batter had refused him an autograph as a knothole kid years before. His stories would be more entertaining than true, but no reporter ever would leave his office with an empty notebook or stomach.

  He wouldn’t be one of those tense, secretive guys like the manager in the World Series last year who looked as if he was guarding a gang hideout and you were the Feds. He’d be selling baseball. It would be his job, and come from a long line of people who did their jobs.

  He’d have a lot of con in him. He’d never forget he was dealing with kids, and that he would make them pick the shell without the pea under it if he had to.

  When he’d have a player who didn’t want to transfer from the outfield to catcher, he’d say, “Didn’t you know the great Gabby Hartnett, the greatest catcher of all time, started out in the outfield?” Gabby Hartnett started out in a catcher’s mask, but a good manager is resourceful.

  When a team was floundering in a 10-game losing streak, this manager would reassure them that “the 1927 Yankees, the greatest team of all time, lost 11 games in a row that year!” The 1927 Yankees didn’t have 11 losing innings in a row, but that would be irrelevant.

  He’d know baseball wasn’t nuclear physics. It was show business. It was “Entertainment Tonight.” The pictures on his wall would not be Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Stuffy McInnis, Connie Mack, John McGraw, guys sliding into second. They’d be the heavy hitters of show business, Sinatra, Rickles, Berle, Kaye.

  He’d be a star in his own right. People would have his picture on their office walls.

  He’d be Tommy Lasorda. He’d be Mr. Baseball, a guy with his own show. He’d get the best tables in restaurants, he’d be part of the fabric of the glitter and glitz of a town that prides itself in it. He’d never be out of character when the spotlight was on. He’d be on the dais of every black-tie dinner there was, he’d make a speech at the tap of a glass.

  Some managers are worth five games a year to their franchises. Sagacious moves can account for that much success. Tommy Lasorda is worth something more — a few hundred thousand in attendance.

  His predecessor, Walter Alston, was a great manager. He had to be. But he was as quiet as snowfall. He dressed with his coaches. He led by example. His office had a picture of his wife and grandchildren in it. He never made a headline in his life. He was patient, kindly, courtly, a gentleman of the old school. A guy you would most want to be in a foxhole — or a lifeboat — with. Dependable, matter-of-fact, as untemperamental as a butler, he knew more about the balk rule than any man who ever lived.

  It’s not what baseball is about. It’s no secret the late owner Walter O’Malley chafed under Alston’s monkish managerial policy. He was stuck with him because Alston was so good. It was hard to fire an annual pennant. So he did the next best thing: he gave him an annual one-year contract.

  It was all well and good to be low-key in the corner of the dugout when the Dodgers were new to the town and every night was New Year’s Eve and they had Koufax and Drysdale and Maury Wills and The Duke and the Davis boys and you didn’t have another major league baseball team, football teams (two) and pro basketball teams (two) and a hockey team and a lot of other promotions to vie for your space in the sports sheets.

  You think the Dodgers are going to hire Tom Kelly, or the manager of Seattle (if it has one) or some minor leaguer who understands the infield fly rule backward and forward (which reads the same, anyway)?

  Tommy Lasorda is as perfect for the Dodgers as peanut butter for white bread. Or Laurel for Hardy. A lot of people were surprised when the Dodgers broke precedent and signed him to an early extension on his contract. Why? Peter O’Malley is Walter’s son, isn’t he? The only way Tommy Lasorda could be let go is if Casey Stengel suddenly became available. God is not going to let that happen. Or the real Angels are going to have a drop in attendance.

  Neither is Peter O’Malley going to let his manager become available. There are, conservatively, 14 big league teams who would sign Lasorda tomorrow for more money than the Dodgers pay him. But Lasordas do not change their religions, either. “Who gave me a chance to manage?” he yells. “The Yankees? The Phillies? No, it was the Dodgers.” Lasordas dance with the one what brung them. “Lack of loyalty,” Lasorda shouts, “is rooning this country!”

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Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation P.O. Box 661532, Arcadia, CA 91066

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info@jimmurrayfoundation.org|

www.jimmurrayfoundation.org

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering if the Canucks can find that much game . . .

Scattershooting


On the evening of Aug. 10, I ordered two Pik Pockets — they are for a WaterPik — from walmart.ca. No, I wasn’t shopping local, but we hadn’t been able to find any . . . until we checked walmart.ca.

Early on the morning of Aug. 13, I got an email informing me that “items in your order are on the move.” The first hint that this was going to be a difficult delivery came when I noticed that the carrier was shown as “USPS.” Yes, that USPS; you know, the one with which Trump and Co. are tinkering.

No matter. The package was on the move. Right?

There is one of those Track Your Shipment buttons in that same email. So . . .

On Aug. 13, at 3:53 p.m., the package arrived in a “shipping partner facility” in Hauppauge, N.Y.

On Aug. 14, at 10 a.m., “shipping label created, usps awaiting item.”

On Aug. 18, at 3:34 p.m., the item “departed shipping partner facility, usps awaiting item.”

On Aug. 18, at 7:19 p.m., “Item arrived at regional facility.” Uhh, it seems that “regional facility” is in Jamaica, N.Y. Apparently, it is an international distribution center.

As of early Monday ET, the item still was in Jamaica. I’m thinking it might turn into a Christmas gift. If the USPS survives Trumpism, that is.



In her latest musings, this one on the CFL’s inability to get a 2020 season off the ground, Patti Dawn Swansson points out that “Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez just forked out $40 million for new digs. Maybe Commish Randy (Ambrosie) should have hit up JLo and ARod instead of Trudeau the Younger for the $30 million.”

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One more note from Swansson, who blogs right here as The River City Renegade: “Interesting how sports sheets across the land played the big CFL story. It was front page news in every rag on the Prairies. It was inside filler in the Toronto Sun (pages 8-9), the Montreal Gazette (page 2) and the Vancouver Sun (pages 6-7). The National Post, meanwhile, ran Scott Stinson’s column on a news page, beside a piece on Peter Nygard and rape. Little wonder that those are Rouge Football’s three worst markets.”


Burger


Headline at TheOnion.com: Manchester United calls up top-rated hooligan from development league.


Headline at fark.com: After sweeping the Marlins and Cardinals, COVID moves on to face the Reds.


Barry Beck, one of the greatest players in WHL history, never will be able to come to grips with the murder of his son Brock, 20, who died on July 26 in Binbrook, Ont., near Hamilton. . . . The Beck family now has started a GoFundMe in the hopes of raising $100,000 as reward money as the search for a killer or killers continues. . . . Postmedia’s Brad Hunter has more right here.


Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with a Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “I’m not really a movie star. I’m still married to the same woman for 28 years.”


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

The football team at Vanderbilt U has had to dial it down after the school announced an unknown number of positive tests. The announcement was made Friday, after SEC teams began practising on Monday. The school revealed what it said were a “small number” of positives within the football program. . . . The Commodores had at least five players opt out of the season.  . . .

Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “Twenty big-league teams — two-thirds of them, that is — have amassed more strikeouts than hits at the plate this season. Belated 2020 MLB motto: ‘Get a whiff of this!’ ” . . .

Perry, again: “Taking no chances with flying or bussing after the pandemic sidelined them for 17 days, the St. Louis Cardinals took 41 rental cars to get to a doubleheader in Chicago. In baseball parlance, that’s what you call a long line drive.” . . .

Bob Molinaro, in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, on the folly of trying to play college sports amid a pandemic: “Schools that initially invited students back to campus are quickly discovering what they should have known. When dealing with easily transmissible viruses, dorms are cruise ships without the water.” . . .

Mark Divver later added that “the Alaska teams — Fairbanks and Kenai River — are likely to play in Minnesota until at least Jan. 1. . . . The NAHL plans on opening its regular season on Oct. 9.


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Or, for more information, visit right here.


Forget about WHL players skating for junior A teams prior to the WHL’s regular season starting. The WHL is aiming for a Dec. 4 start, with the MJHL hoping to get going on Oct. 9. . . . Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press reports right here that according to sources, “the WHL has decided it will not be releasing roster players to play in the MJHL, Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, Alberta Junior Hockey League or B.C. Hockey League to start 2020-21.”


Steve Simmons, in the Toronto Sun: “The NBA informed teams this week they are no longer allowed to report injuries in any kind of general terms. They must use specific reasons and body parts. In other words, none of that ‘unfit to play’ NHL nonsense for the NBA, which has at least one gambling website as an advertiser on its playoff broadcasts.”

That, of course, won’t ever fly with the NHL or a lot of other hockey leagues, what with transparency being Public Enemy No. 1 with shinny people. Watching the Covid Cup playoffs unfold on TV, I wonder if the independent media and the fans are starting to realize just how unimportant, perhaps even meaningless, they are in the NHL’s scheme of things? Does ticket revenue mean much so long as the fans watch on TV and dig deep for the merch?


JUST NOTES: I’m dying here. I stumbled on a Facebook group — Shit Parkers of Kamloops!!! — that would have made me spit out my coffee had I been having breakfast. A quick scan of the pics showed that I’m in the clear, at least for now. . . . Kelly Olynyk, who is from Kamloops, and the Miami Heat get their first chance to eliminate the Indiana Pacers from the NBA playoffs today, 3:30 p.m. PT (TSN), in the NBA bubble in Orlando. On Saturday, Olynyk had nine rebounds, all at the defensive end, in a 124-115 victory that gave the Heat a 3-0 edge in the best-of-seven series. Whenever I watch Olynyk, I have to remind myself that, yes, he’s from Kamloops. . . . Obviously, the Vancouver Canucks are going to have to raise their game if they are to compete with the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL bubble in Edmonton. But can the Canucks get to a level that high? . . . After Sunday night’s 5-0 Vegas victory, the only question left to be answered might be this: Will we ever see G Marc-Andre Fleury get another start for the Golden Knights?


Glitter