You never turn down a free lunch, and you never ever turn down a free lunch with the Dodgers. I followed that bit of advice today when a spot opened at an event for Dodgers group-ticket buyers. Hud was stuck in Chicago because of all the snow, so I took his spot and got a tour of Dodger Stadium, lunch with Ms. Alethia Calagias (who hooked me up with the gig), and some good jokes from Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda.
I can't decide if visiting the press box, with a fantastic view of the field, or going on the field itself was the coolest part of the tour. OK, who am I kidding? Being in the Dodgers' dugout, and visualizing what the players standing at the railing see during a late-innings rally, was awesome. And putting my hand on the crew-cut-length turf is something I've always wanted to do. (Y'all probably didn't know this about old Gainesy, but after I was accepted to Michigan State I toyed with the idea of being an agronomy major for five minutes before remembering how awful I am at science. MSU turf guru Trey Rogers is one of my heroes.)
But the real highlight of the day, aside from two ketchup-drenched Dodger Dogs, was hearing the old manager tell some stories. The man has given a speech or two in his day, and his anecdotes are as well polished as his shoes, but much funnier. Two of the good ones:
- A seven-game losing streak prompted Tommy to tell his players that even the great 1927 Yankees lost nine in a row. After the team ripped off 10 straight wins, his wife asked him, "How did you know the Yankees lost nine in a row that year?" He said, "How da hell do I know? I was born that year, I just made it up!"
- Before a big road series in Cincinnati, Lasorda went to Mass for some extra help. At the service, he spotted the Reds' manager. As everyone was filing out, the manager (not sure of the time frame, so I don't know if it was Sparky) told him to wait outside so they could chat. Tommy watched as the skipper went to the vestibule and lit a candle. Lasorda then sneaked back into the church and blew out the candle. Result? Dodgers win!
But Tommy was at his best, not surprisingly, when he gave his stump speech for the Dodgers. It was a beaut. I paraphrase: "When you hear 'Dodgers,' you automatically think baseball. Someone tells you he's a Padre, you say, 'Good for you, Father.' Someone tells you he's an Indian, you say, 'What reservation do you live on?' Someone tells you he's a Cardinal, you say, 'Work hard, you might make Pope.' But when someone tells you he's a Dodger, you know it's about baseball!" I got a few chills with a side of goosebumps, no matter how apparent it was he's given this rally cry a million times. Go Dodgers!
(And thanks a million to Alethia for getting me the seat!)