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Tommy Lasorda’s Words of Wisdom

March 22, 2009
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Former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda once again rises to the occasion, this time giving a pep talk to the La Verne Little League and and all its supporters and sponsors.

Former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda once again rises to the occasion, this time giving a pep talk to the La Verne Little League and and all its supporters and sponsors.

There’s probably nobody better Tommy Lasorda  (born September 22, 1927 in Norristown, Pa.) to help usher in spring and another baseball season. This year marks his 60th season with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, the longest tenure of anyone on the team. On Saturday, March 19 at Pelota Park in La Verne, the Hall of Fame manager shared some of his legendary optimism, wit and wisdom to repeated applause from the jam-packed crowd of Little Leaguers, their parents and league officials. Here’s an edited portion of those remarks:

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(To the kids) Who buys your clothes? Who buys your food? Your mom, right? You can can’t say, “Here mom, here’s $100 for taking care of me.” You can’t do that. What you can do is show your parents love and respect, That’s what you owe them. (Applause)

And you never want to do anything ever to embarrass your parents or embarrass yourself. Remember, they’re the ones who really and truly love you unconditionally. I salute all of your parents.

It’s very important that you do also, because there are times when they need you. There are times when they are dejected. There are times when they are depressed. There are times when things aren’t going well for them. That’s the time when they need you to put your arm around them and tell them how much you love them. The more love you give, that’s what you’ll get in return.

I tell the story about this preacher from Pennsylvania. He went all over the coal mine areas, and he would speak and bring the word of the lord with him and the only thing he would get out of it is he would pass the collection plate around and whatever was on the plate was his. So one beautiful Sunday morning he said to his son, “Why don’t you come with me, and he came. Then it was time after speaking beautifully to pass that plate around. He put $5 in it, and then started it around. And when it came back to him there was still $5 in it. He was walking home with his son, and he said, “Son did you enjoy the service.”

“Yeah,” the son said. “Those people were poor. They didn’t have any money. And, that’s what we depend upon?” Then the son looked up at his father and added, “If you had put more money in, you’d have gotten more back.”

That’s the way it is with love. The more love you put in it, the more love you’ll get back. So I’m proud of all mothers and fathers who have come here today to share this opening day with their children. (Applause)

Now I want to say something about the coaches. The parents are sitting here. They will second guess you every day. They will tell you, you are using the wrong people at the right time. So you have to understand that. You’re going to have to put up with that when they start at hollering at you. That’s your job. They screamed at me when I managed. One time I took Bobbie Welch out, 1-0 against the Pirates at Dodger Stadium. He had a two-hit shutout going. Two outs in the ninth, and the hitter was (Willie) Stargell. I went out to the mound and said, “Son I’m going to have to take you out right now, and he said, “You take me out and there are 50,000 people who are going to holler at you.” I said, “That’s the way it has to go.” So I took him out and brought in Steve Howe. I said, “Lord let him get this guy out. If I blow this lead, taking Welch out …” Well, anyway, he got Stargell out. Then after the game, the writer said to me, “Tommy the fans were really upset at you for taking him out.” And I said, “If I have to manage the way the fans want me to, it won’t be long before I’ll be sitting up there with them.” (Applause)

Now to you youngsters, I want to tell you this. This is great for you. Where I came from in Norristown, Pa., we didn’t have this. We didn’t have no Little League, we didn’t have no Pony League, we had absolutely nothing. We had a team, but we had no equipment. So we decided to write a letter to God. Maybe, we thought, he’ll send us some money to buy equipment to play the game. So, many of us sat down and wrote the letter. It said, “Dear God, we have a team in Norristown, Pa., but we haven’t got any bats and balls. If you can send us $100 to buy some bats and balls, that’ll be all we need.” So we mail the letter and it finally reaches the Postmaster General. And he opens the letter up, and he reads it, and he has tears in his eyes. So he feels real bad and he takes a $20 bill out and put it in an envelope and sent it back to us. Then, we sent a second letter to God, and again it reaches the Postmaster General. It said, “Dear God, the next time you want to send $100 to us, don’t send it by way of the post office because he deducted $80 for taxes.”

But the moral of that story is, you youngsters don’t have to send a letter. Look at what you have here. Fields, parents, coaches, sponsors. You have all that. Take advantage of it. Play, play and have fun. (Applause)

And remember this, if you make an error, you feel bad, but pick up the paper and see how many errors are made in the major leagues, and then you won’t feel as bad.

If you strike out ending the game with the winning runs on base, you’ll feel dejected, sure. But pick up the paper and see how many in the big leagues did the same thing. That’s all part of the game. Losing is part of the game. You have to win with pride and you lose with dignity. When you’re through playing the game, you go home and have something to eat, but be proud that you’re able to do it, because there are millions of youngsters in this country who are not able to come out and play the game of baseball, like you have here today. (Applause)

Don’t ever forget your education. You go to school to learn. You don’t go to eat your lunch. You go to school to get an education. Education is something that nobody can ever take away from you. Education will open many doors to success for you. So you start out in the early grades, and keep moving up until you reach the end of your schooling. Be proud because when you get out into our world, the world of your parents, my world … when you get out and you do not have a good education, you’re going to be in trouble, you’re going to fall by the wayside. So when you look in that mirror, say to yourself, “There are two people I can’t fool: Myself and God.” And when you look in that mirror, say, “I’m doing the best I can every day.” And when you, look in that mirror every morning to wash your face, comb your hair and brush your teeth, say “I will do the best I can with the ability that God game me. (Applause)

I’ve been with the Dodgers for 60 years, and I believe that I’m the luckiest man anywhere … the things I’ve done and appreciated so much. But you have to pay the price. Anything you get in life, you’ve got to pay the price. And the price of success can only come through the avenue of hard work. And the eight years I managed in the minors, 72 players left me and went somewhere in the major leagues. You know why. I wasn’t any smarter than anyone else. I just outworked everybody else. And that’s what it’s going to take for you to reach your level.

Whatever you decide you want to be …you might want to be a doctor, you might want to be a dentist, you might want to be a lawyer, you might want to be a policeman or whatever it might be. Remember the only way you can reach it is by believing. When I was 16-years-old, I used to go to bed and actually dream, actually dream, that I was pitching for the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. And then all of a sudden, my mother would wake me up, and say, “Tommy, wake up, it’s time to go to school.” I’d think, “Why didn’t she leave me alone. She took me away from this dream, where I was pitching on this team with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. She took me away from that dream.” And then one day when I really was warming up in Yankee Stadium, Yogi Berra was the hitter. The manager signaled for me to come in the game. And I took that long walk from the bullpen to the pitcher’s mound. And I looked around, like this (looking skyward). I told myself, “I’ve been here many times, but in my dreams.” Dreams become reality. You dream what you want to be, and one day you will become that. (Applause)

So whatever you do in life, don’t’ do anything to hurt your parents. Take care of yourself. May you grow up to be outstanding young men and young women. So when you go to bed tonight and you lay your head on the pillow, thank God for all the good things he’s given you. Sometimes you might feel cheated, denied or deprived. Look over your shoulder and see how many people are worse off than you, and you’ll realize how lucky you are.

 And when you do say your prayers tonight, if you have any compassion in your heart, you’ll say a prayer for Tommy and the Dodgers. (Applause)

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