Don’t Argue With Tommy Lasorda

It’s amazing how you can get into a YouTube wormhole so quickly. You go from looking up Tweets from other baseball writers, especially those chiming in on Hall of Fame ballots and your mind starts thinking about guys who got cut from the ballot.

In this case I went from thinking about players who might miss the 5% mark to stay on the ballot or guys who will run out of eligibility. This led to looking up Steve Garvey stats. Steve Garvey stats turn into rewatching (or in some cases re-re-re-re-rewatching) Steve Garvey highlights on YouTube. That leads to Orel Hershiser videos and then you find videos on deep YouTube. This post is about one of those videos.

What I’m about to post is a great, hard to find moment in baseball history. It’s the perfect storm of TV’s undying need to get inside the game when a game takes a wrong turn.

It’s Game 4 of the 1977 World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers are home, trailing two games to one to the New York Yankees. Southpaw Doug Rau is starting for LA. While Rau goes unscathed in the first inning (despite a Mickey Rivers single), he runs into problems in the second.

Reggie Jackson led off the inning and the powerful lefty, lashes a double down the left field line. Lou Piniella then follows with an opposite field single to right, which scores Jackson. It is 1-0 Yankees. Keeping the theme alive, Chris Chambliss puts a double into left, advancing Piniella to third. So early in the ballgame, two runners in scoring position, Dodgers trail 1-0 with no outs. What’s Dodger skipper Tommy Lasorda going to do?

Lasorda was smart. He had Rick Rhoden warming up in the bullpen, as a safety precaution. More importantly, seeing three straight hitters go the opposite field in a critical ballgame, Lasorda went to the mound. Davey Lopes started a delay by going to the mound, giving Lasorda an extra moment. Lasorda was milking his walk to the mound as much as he could, giving Rhoden more time to loosen up. When he got to Rau, the most amusing mound conference took place.

Lasorda had a microphone on, as part of an agreement to get some added sound from the Dodger manager. Unfortunately the network got a little more than they would have bargained for. Please note that the following audio clip started just as Chambliss hit his double with Lasorda talking with one of his coaches.

The following audio is filled with a lot of profanity (NSFW language).

For those who want a written transcript of what transpired, you can read it here.

As Lasorda and Rau argue over whether Rau can pitch to lefties, Lopes (who was captain) had the worst job in this conversation. Lasorda is cursing. Rau does not want to leave the game in the second as Lopes is trying to keep everything civil and prevent having the situation look any worse.

Lasorda was right in make an aggressive move. He even mentioned that if it was yesterday (when the series was 1-1), he’d give Rau more slack. In a fourth game, down in the series, a manager needs his starter to put in a quality start.

Rau is upset and wanted to argue his case for staying in. Just watching that inning and seeing the heart of a deep Yankees lineup just pounce on his stuff, he had little chance of continuing. If you actually watch that inning develop and the visit to the mound, the part where Lopes is getting yelled at by Rau is cut off by the commercial break. In fact the arguing between Rau and Lasorda continued just as the broadcast came back with Rau reluctantly heading into the dugout.

Davey Lopes was the only one to intervene. If you look at Steve Yeager the whole time, he never says a word. He spent the entire visit looking down the first base line (or at Steve Garvey), wanting no part in it. I cannot say I blame him. Poor Lopes had the duty of getting Rau off the mound and keeping Lasorda’s blood pressure down.

Give Rick Rhoden a lot of credit, he may have allowed two more runs to score that inning, but he kept the Dodgers alive. He helped his cause in the third by hitting a double then scoring on Lopes home run. Even though the Yankees won the game and the series, that has to be quite a memorable moment in Dodger lore.

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