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Archive for Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Do as I say, not as I drop

July 7, 2010

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Nothing makes eyes roll faster than a chronic name-dropper blabbing away. Really, is there any more annoying personality-type? Do they think anybody cares that they met this star or that? It’s not as if the experience counted as a thrill for the celebrity.

Sorry, that rant has been building for decades, and I just needed to unburden my soul of it. Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll share how my wife, Angie, and I spent my Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

We ate our pregame meal in the Dugout Club. Rob Reiner, aka Meathead, was at the table next to ours. We were too busy chatting with Larry King and his wife, Shawn, to get a chance to say hello to Meathead.

After the game and before the fireworks show, we again chatted with King, who shared that he was in the crowd at Ebbets Field when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. The last “Larry King Live” show airs in November. Suggestion for the MLB Network: Hire King and put him on the air as much as possible. His knowledge of baseball history and handle on today’s game is astounding.

Why, I wondered, didn’t the Brooklyn Dodgers draw better?

“No parking,” King said. “I mean, NO parking. Maybe 80 cars, tops.”

For the game, we sat in the front row, right behind home plate, on a pluperfect evening for baseball. For some reason, from the second inning on, I couldn’t stop thinking of the movie “Wedding Crashers.”

We got out of our seats in the third inning to say hello to and sit with for two innings an old friend who also happens to be the greatest baseball manager in history. Tommy Lasorda remains a great ambassador for the game, a role that tends to overshadow just how skilled he was as a manager.

Baseball, more than most games, is played between the ears as much as between the lines. Lasorda’s ability to make a player believe in himself separated him from the pack. Instilling confidence in a young player in the ultimate game of failure presents a particularly stiff challenge. Nobody did that as well as Lasorda, who managed nine Dodgers to National League Rookie of the Year honors. Amazing.

It’s been said of Lasorda that if he had as flawless a delivery on the mound as when telling a joke, he would have made the Hall of Fame as a pitcher. He snapped off a few fresh jokes and predicted Jeff Weaver would pitch well in relief, which he did. Lasorda then talked about how he always wanted to be considered a ballplayer who led with toughness and how in that regard it was Ralph Houk he modeled.

“He was promoted all the way from private to major on the battlefield,” Lasorda said. “That’s a great American hero right there.”

Lasorda added: “Say hello to No. 2,” meaning Kansas baseball coach Ritch Price. “I should come to Kansas and do a fundraiser for his program.” Sounds like a plan.

Back to the seats. Dennis Gilbert, former minor-league player and baseball agent who used to gouge owners for outrageous contracts for the likes of Bobby Bonilla, Danny Tartabull, Rickey Henderson and Barry Bonds, sat to my right. (Now an insurance man for all the Hollywood stars, Gilbert has been part of an ownership group that bid for the Texas Rangers. I attempted to eavesdrop on the e-mail updates on the situation he received on his iPad throughout the night, but the print was too small.) Gilbert showed an uncanny knack for knowing how to pitch hitters in both lineups: “Whatever you do, don’t throw this guy an inside fastball.” Inside fastball. Crack. Double to the corner. So it went all night long. I’d enjoy watching baseball even more through a pair of eyes that see so much.

Gilbert and his glamorous fashion plate of a wife, Cindi, arranged for us to pose for a picture with one of their friends seated just to our left, multi-talented, even-more-stunning-in-person Jane Seymour, one of the great beauties of our time. An inning or two later, when I got my breath back, I went to the general manager’s suite to visit Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, next to whom I sat for every Chicago Cubs road game during the 1990 season when he was the Cub’s PR man.

Once a sportswriter, Colletti was out of work after losing his job as assistant general manager with the Cubs. I gave him a broken-down Radio Shack TRS-80 word processor that had a few screws loose and introduced him to the editor of the paper where I worked at the time. He hasn’t stopped saying thanks since. Colletti wrote columns on a freelance basis until landing a job with the San Francisco Giants as assistant GM. He used that as a springboard to the Dodgers’ job and is in his fifth year. Nice to see one of the game’s true good guys enjoy so much success.

While I was in the GM’s box, Angie crossed paths with Alyssa Milano. They didn’t exchange so much as a nod, which is no surprise. They’re not on speaking terms. You know how that goes.

Did I happen to mention that I met Jane Seymour? Did Jane happen to mention she met me? Anybody?

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