July 27, 2017

Rambling on About My Glory Days – Leave It to Lasorda on A Night to Remember

January 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Of course, we all know of great rivalries in sports. Yankees vs. Red Sox, Michigan vs. Ohio State, and Celtics vs. Lakers all come to mind when I think about great rivalries.  I had the opportunity to be part of one of those in my playing days and it all came to a violent, crazy head one night.

After signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, I learned very early on that our intense rival was the San Francisco Giants. Immediately upon being sent to class A baseball in Lodi, California, I learned that we could lose all our games but we should not lose to the Fresno Giants. Before every series against the Giants in my days as a Dodger, we were led to believe that they did not like us. We found out that was because “they did not like us.” Like all great rivalries, there is a long tradition of dislike built up over the years and I imagine it all started back in the days when both teams played in New York. With both teams moving to California in the late 50’s and remaining in the same baseball division, the intense rivalry endured. As young Dodgers, we also believed they did not like us because the Dodgers were considered the “classiest” organization, extending all the way into the minor league system. They considered us “arrogant,” where we just felt pride in being a part of Dodger Blue .

The “cool” thing about rivalries is that no matter how mismatched one team may be that particular season, it is very easy to get “psyched” up for those games. Even if the opposing players do not display any extra venom, the fans and media remind you of the apparent hatred. Rivalries have an innate intensity of their own, year in and year out. This being one of my first experiences of such a rivalry at the big league level, I had no idea what to expect when we went up to San Francisco to play the Giants. I guess you could say, it lived up to its billing.

My first indication of its intensity came when rookie Dodger players like me were told to inform our families, who might be attending games in San Francisco, not to wear Dodger gear or cheer for us during games. This of course was necessary so the Giant faithful would not be able to identify them. Once identified, the opposition fans would be unmerciful in their abuse towards Dodger fans and especially Dodger family members. To make a long story short, the intensity level remained high the whole game and peaked when Dodger players ended up in the Giants’ stands, throwing fists and “dodging” thrown objects. We lived up to our “Dodgers” name to say the least and this intensified the already angry atmosphere.

I have no idea who won the game. My most vivid memories began after the fighting ended. First, Giants’ security lined the field. Then, in between the game’s later innings, security guards began escorting some of our star players who would not play, out of the dugout to our locker room. For those unfamiliar with Candlestick Park, the visitor’s dressing room was located down the right field line. The visiting team had to walk across the diamond from the third base dugout to get to the locker room. This was dangerous on this night because of the fever pitch among the fans after the melee. Security told us to wear helmets after the game when we crossed the field and to stay away from the bleachers on our way to the locker room. That is what we did as we jogged to the locker room out around second base. We kept our eyes on the stands as we approached the clubhouse door to watch for any thrown objects. Overall, we were not that worried and were light-hearted – until?

Manager Tommy Lasorda, also running and behind us, begins to yell “He’s got a gun, he’s got a gun. You talk about putting it into gear. Players like me, ahead of Lasorda, broke out into an all out sprint and were literally diving into the clubhouse doorway. In comes Lasorda laughing away, obviously not having seen a gun but getting a kick out of seeing us sprinting ahead with fear on our faces. It definitely put a comical side to a very unfortunate night. I’m sure that night’s fight created numerous more Dodger haters among the people of San Francisco and made sure the rivalry would last forever.

Former major leaguer Jack Perconte is the author of
The Making of a Hitter (http://jackperconte.com) and has a baseball instruction blog that can be found at www.baseballcoachingtips.net. He has recently published his second book Raising an Athlete: How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport

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