Last year when I heard that Tommy had fallen sick and had been hospitalized, I immediately set out to do a piece on his life as a professional baseball player. I did all the research and was ready to go but thought twice about it because I thought it would not be okay to take that opportunity to write about a man in his greatest hour of need and instead decided to scratch that piece of paper and just thought it could wait for a better day to write the piece. Problem is he got out of the hospital, and I got to doing other stuff and I never got around to it. Perhaps that is precisely what I needed to do as a writer and bring his story to life in an article but that will require some time to do this man’s career justice since he had such a lengthy baseball career, both as a professional baseball player, as a coach and as a baseball ambassador for Major League baseball. Up until his final days, he could still be seen sitting behind the 3rd the base batters box in Tommy’s usual seat watching the games and showing his support for the newer generation of Dodgers. The man was as charismatic as they came. He had stories to tell for days. I never got a chance to know him in person other than the one time I got to shake his hand while I was returning some prepaid Dodger World Series tickets in 2004 or 2005 for a refund. Normally they sell you a package for the playoffs and I had bought a whole package for 2 seats to go to the whole playoff series but the Dodgers ended up getting bumped out of the playoffs and those tickets went unused. I made the investment because I was sure the Dodgers had the team to make it to the World Series but I was wrong. Since I had put the tickets on one of my credit cards I was eager to get the refund. Anyhow, as I went to the ticket office to return the tickets, which now that I think about, I am not sure why I had to return them. I should have just gotten the refund automatically since they knew the Dodgers were not going any further. Anyhow, while I was there along comes Tommy, walking in my direction in great health and great spirit. It was really awkward for me, surely not for Tommy. But there I was walking up with my tickets and I immediately recognized the Dodger legend. I thought shit, I wonder if he will find out that it was me who made the “Welcome 2 Dodger Heaven on Earth” t-shirt with the 2 being A picture of the back of Tommy Lasorda. (For those that don’t know, Tommy wore #2) So it was the perfect play of words with the “Welcome 2 Dodger Heaven On Earth”. It was awesome. “Yes that was me” is what I thought as we approached each other in opposite directions, him leaving the stadium and me arriving to the stadium. There I was, star struck with Tommy and I couldn’t believe it was actually him. I didn’t know what to do. I once met Kobe at UCLA and I had a full on Phil Jackson moment where I was telling him how he as a rookie needed to bring titles back to Los Angeles etc… and I didn’t feel a bit of nerves slow me down with Kobe. No joke, I hugged Kobe and I said, “the Raza loves the Lakers” and I had all the confidence in the world. Kobe was just a kid, and I am guessing I didn’t feel any pressure with Kobe since Kobe was just a prospect. I mean I don’t think he had even won the slam dunk contest yet. But with Tommy it was different. There I was, looking at this man who I had watched as a kid, as far back as I could remember even before Valenzuela arrived and there he was walking towards me. I think he knew what was happening because he said, “How are you doing big fella?” and I said, “Tommyyyyy!” with excitement added to the “OMMMYYYY” as if he didn’t know his name. I reached to shake his hand and he shook my hand and all I could do was tell him how it felt. I said, “Tommy, it is an honor to meet you. I have been a Dodger fan all my life and I must say that I learned a lot of baseball watching you do manage the Dodgers.” And he smiled and said, “nice to meet you. What are you doing here anyway, the season is over.” I explained that I had just gone to return my playoff ticket package since we would not be going further and he said, “We will get ‘em next year.” He turned, said goodbye, and that was it. I thought to myself, ‘Wait until I tell everybody.’ Of course I told anybody that would listen and learning today about his passing hit me a bit hard. Because of his age, and his recent hospitalization, it was not the same ton of bricks that hit me last year with the sudden death of Kobe and his daughter, but it still hit home. Tommy was a special baseball mind that will be hard to duplicate. When I coach little league I imagine myself being an uplifting motivator like Tommy was with that 1988 team. I remember the 1988 World Series more clearly because I was already 12 and in 1981 I don’t recall much other than seeing Garvey hit home runs and Fernando Valenzuela fill us Mexicans with pride throwing scroogies. I even played like I was being coached by Tommy. I was a pitcher and my mentality was like the 88 Dodgers. I didn’t care which team I was playing for, if you gave me the best team, or the worst team, as long as you gave me 8 bodies out there, with me on the mound, I was going to give us a chance to compete. That is something I learned from watching the 1988 Dodgers led by Orel Hershiser and listening to Tommy. Now I can visualize Tommy saying goodbye to me as we said our goodbyes at the Dodger Stadium ticket office and his speech to the 88 Dodgers after they won the World Series is what I will remember the most. As we say our goodbyes to this legend, I will leave you with that speech in 1988 down below:

“Nobody thought we could win the division. Nobody thought we could beat the mighty Mets. Nobody thought we could beat the team that won 104 games. But we believed it,”

Link to video here:

Published by Pete Reyes

Dodger Fan since Fernandomania. I am a baseball aficionado and a former baseball coach. I am father of 3 and I am very proud that our Dodgers finally won the World Series. Follow me for some fun Dodger News and Updates.

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