On one Fan Appreciation Day, Tommy (Lasorda) invited me into his office while the team was on the field during batting practice. It was the last game of the season, and since the Dodgers were out of contention, it didn’t mean anything.
“Don, put on a uniform,” Tommy said.
“Are you kidding?” I asked.
“No, I’m not kidding. You always wanted to be a Dodger. Well, here’s your chance, buddy. We’re about the same size, and I’ve got an extra. Go ahead, put it on and sit next to me.”
In the sixth inning, the Dodger pitcher got shelled. Tommy said, “Go take him out, Don.”
“What?” I said.
“You heard me, go give him the hook. Yank him out and give the bullpen the signal for the southpaw.”
Why the hell not, I thought. It was a fantasy come true. I trotted out to the mound.
“Sorry, fella,” I told the pitcher. “You’re through.”
“You’re not the manager,” he shot back. “You’re not even a coach. You can’t pull me out of the game.”
“Give me the ball,” I demanded.
“You’re crazy,” he said.
Meanwhile, home-plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt, a great veteran, headed out to the mound.
“What’s going on here?” he asked.
When he got in my face, he saw who it was and said, “I’ll be damned. Don Rickles! Don, any chance of getting me two tickets to see Dean Martin in Vegas?”
I have been “True Blue” all my life. I remember watching Hideo Nomo pitch. … I remember after the game waiting for Nomo to come out of the locker (room) and up the stairs to his car. I waited about two hours or so and saw him walk up. I chased him up the stairs and asked him for his autograph, but he was in a hurry to get to his car and he didn’t sign. It killed me, and as I walked down the stairs, I bumped into (outfielder) Brett Butler. I asked him for his autograph and told him Nomo wouldn’t sign my ball. Butler took my ball and said, “He’s got a lot on his mind, kid.” On the ball he wrote, “Hideo Nomo signed Brett Butler” and handed it to me and said, “No one will know the difference.” I still have the ball, and Brett Butler is the greatest man to ever live.
My boyhood idol was Steve Garvey. I worshipped him and, like him, I never missed a Dodger game. I would lie in bed listening to Vin Scully, Ross Porter and Jerry Doggett on a
battery-operated AM radio. On weekends, Channel 5 in Las Vegas televised the games. I watched them alone on a 10-inch black-and-white TV set in our spare bedroom upstairs. I read about them in the black-and-white sports section of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Though I bled Dodger blue, I had only seen the color on baseball cards and promotional trinkets supplied by our local Union 76 (gas station).
My dad took our family on a trip to Los Angeles (in 1978), a trip that would include a visit to Dodger Stadium. We drove through the desert in an enormous Chevy Impala station wagon, listening to the Dodgers all the way. …
We got there hours before game time. I don’t remember who the Dodgers played or even who won the game. What I remember is the color. My black-and-white TV had not prepared me for the greenness of the grass, of the whiteness of the uniforms or the bright, cherry redness of the No. 6 on Garvey’s uniform. Not quite a blind man regaining his sight, but probably as close to it as I’ll ever get.
Lionsgate prexy, theatrical films
Kirk Gibson’s home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. At the time I was new to Los Angeles, and I remember turning down some invitations just so I could be home to watch the game in peace, sitting in my La-Z-Boy in my little one-bedroom apartment in Studio City. … All I could think of was, “Let’s have every year be like this.”
I was at the opening game at the Coliseum, (and) I was there (in March) when they re-created it. That opening game, if I’m not mistaken, had 80,000 people, and the Dodgers have been favorites of this community ever since — the darlings of baseball. I was a guest of (director-producer) Mervyn LeRoy. … He was close to (club owner) Peter O’Malley; they were very special seats.
I can only think of hundreds (of memories). I would think the No. 1 memory would be Sandy Koufax’s perfect game. I remember attending it with Danny Kaye and a European actress who was attending her first baseball game and couldn’t understand all the excitement on every pitch in the last few innings.
Sept. 9, 1965, Dodger Stadium … I went with Bob Speck, a young producer of my dad’s (Tom Harmon) sports radio show. His wife was from Colton, Calif., home of Kenny Hubbs, a former Cub second basemen killed in a plane crash, so they were all friends. Because of that, Bob was also good friends with current Cub third baseman Ron Santo.
Koufax threw a perfect game that night and won, 1-0. Hendley threw a one-hitter and got the loss. It might have been the best combined pitching performance in one-game history.
After the game, Bob picked up Ron Santo and drove him back to the team hotel. I sat silent in the back seat listening to Santo talk, specifically about Koufax:
“Trying to hit his curve ball during the day is like trying to hit a rock dropped off a table. Trying to hit his curveball at night is like trying to hit a ping-pong ball shot out of a cannon.”
Great game to have seen, but even a better memory being in the backseat of that car listening to Santo.
— As told to Jon Weisman