VOLUME 30, NUMBER 30 THURSDAY, April 29, 1999

Baseball belongs to fans, Lasorda says

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New Services Editorial Assistant

Full of jokes, stories and a bit of inspirational advice, former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda delighted the audience in the Center for the Arts April 22-including some die-hard Dodgers fans-as he touched on some of his most memorable moments in 50 years with what he referred to as "the greatest organization in baseball."

Lasorda Referring to God as the "big Dodger in the sky" and Dodgers Stadium as "blue heaven on earth," Lasorda, whose talk closed out the 1998-99 edition of the Distinguished Speakers Series, said his epitaph will read "Dodgers stadium was his address but every ballpark was his home."

Lasorda, now a vice president of the organization, managed the team for 20 seasons and led it to two World Championships, four National League pennants and eight division titles.

"I still want to work for the Dodgers, even when I'm dead and gone," he said. Then he asked: "How many people in this room want to continue working for your organization after you've died?

"I don't care what your job is, you've got to love it," he told the audience. "Anyone who loves their job has never worked a day in their lifeŠSelf-confidence is the first step to success. We must believe we can achieve whatever we want, but we can only achieve our dreams through the avenue of hard work."

An important part of motivating players is "getting them to play for the name on the front of their shirt and not for the name on the back of their shirt," said Lasorda, who also noted that, even though baseball players make million-dollar salaries, they still have to be motivated.

"I don't win championships with 'tryers,' I win with 'doers,'" added Lasorda who, in 1997, was named Manager of the Year and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Now, if God had intended for me to be a high-school or college coach, my objective would be to impress among the youngsters that education is more important than winning. But in the major leagues-forget it-you have to win."

Following his talk, Lasorda answered questions from the audience, including an inquiry about the most dramatic moment in his career, which, he said, was undoubtedly when an injured Kirk Gibson hobbled up to the plate and hit a game-winning, two-run homer to paralyze the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

But when asked about his favorite player or all-time favorite Dodger rotation, Lasorda said: "There have been so many guys that I loved so much, I can't pick one. In more than 100 years of the game of baseball, only 14 managers have been inducted into the Hall of Fame and it was all of my players that put me there."

He also commented that overall, pitching in baseball today is "weak" compared to that of pitchers of the past. "Do you think McGwire and Sosa would've hit all of those homers in 1950?" he asked. "No way."

Later, he noted that the Dodgers' own Sandy Koufax was the greatest pitcher that he had seen in his career. The best hitter? Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox.

When asked to comment on the late baseball icon Joe DiMaggio, Lasorda called him the "greatest baseball player everŠHe made us Italians very proud of him. When we lost him, we lost a tremendous person and a tremendous ball player."

Lasorda stressed that something needs to be done to make the game of baseball better for the fans, noting the increase in prices for game tickets and concessions.

"This game does not belong to the players or the owners, but to the fans," he emphasized. "We need to make the fans know how much we love them.

"Today the players have become mercenaries. Your favorite player may be playing somewhere else next year. The fans always have to pay. Somehow, we need to hold the salaries down so that everyone starts at the same place." Referring to the famous line "show me the money" from the movie "Jerry Maguire," Lasorda said, "that's what it is all about today."

When asked if he was running for the job of baseball commissioner, Lasorda answered, "I'm running away from it.

"Loyalty is an amazing thing," he added. "I love the Dodgers and I want to die a Dodger."

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