Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Baseball: Lasorda bids a tearful farewell at Dodger Stadium, and the Russell era officially begins with a 5-4, 10-inning victory.

July 31, 1996|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bill Russell won't have an office at Dodger Stadium for another two weeks.

He will be answering questions about Tom Lasorda for the rest of the season.

He might be living in his shadow for the rest of his career.

Yet, for the first time Tuesday, Russell felt like the honest-to-goodness manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, inaugurating a new era with a 5-4, 10-inning victory over the Florida Marlins at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers (56-51) played with the trademark that has characterized Russell's style--sheer aggressiveness. They scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning when third base Coach Joe Amalfitano gambled and waved Chad Fonville home on a sacrifice fly to shortstop. They blew a save in the ninth when Todd Worrell balked home the tying run--the Dodgers' third balk of the game, and major league-leading 18th of the season. And they won it on outfielder Rick Parker's two-out, single in the 10th, scoring Mike Busch.

Russell, showing the emotion that made Lasorda famous, rushed out of the dugout, threw his arms around Parker, spun him in the air, and the paid crowd of 34,973 relished in the moment.

"I've still got young legs," Russell said, "I can get out there pretty good.

"I hope they're not all like that. It was a lot different because it was my first official game as manager and to start like that, I won't forget it."

Technically, this was Russell's 31st game since replacing Lasorda June 25, but the first since he lost the "interim" tag, making him only the third Dodger manager since 1954.

Russell realized right away that his life will forever be different when he walked onto the field Tuesday afternoon and was swarmed by photographers and reporters, chronicling his historic place in Dodger history.

"I don't know if it's sunk in yet," Russell said, "but it will. Usually, I make out the lineup card and sign Tommy's name. I started to write his name again, but then I stopped, and signed my own.

"That brought me back to reality and let me know that I'm in charge now."

Still, it won't be until the next home stand that he inherits Lasorda's memorabilia-filled office. It's going to take Lasorda days to clean out the office.

"It's also going to take a U-haul," he said.

It may have been the most memorable day in Russell's baseball career, but Lasorda once again stole the spotlight.

Lasorda met with his team for the first time since announcing his retirement, and after speaking for several minutes, walked out of the clubhouse before he started weeping. Slowly, the players walked into the hallway, hugged Lasorda, kissed him, and told him how much he will be missed.

"It was very emotional, very hard for me," Lasorda said. "I told them how much I loved them. How much I appreciate what they have done for me. But I had to walk out before I started to cry."

Lasorda stayed in the hallway until game time, and then walked onto the field, greeted by a thunderous standing ovation. He stepped in front of the microphones, waved to the crowd, and became overwhelmed with emotion. He stepped back, rubbed his face, and began sobbing. The cheers continued for three minutes with chants of "Tommy . . . Tommy . . . Tommy."

He stepped back to the microphone, and began to talk, addressing the crowd for the first time since he was hospitalized June 24 with a mild heart attack.

"Twenty years ago, I stood here and took over for a great manager, Walter Alston," Lasorda said. "Today, for just for a few moments, I want to thank you so very much for the wonderful reception. That's the greatest medicine any doctor can bestow upon me. You have supported me for 20 years.

"A new era will begin for the Dodgers tonight. I have become a vice president. . . . You have a new leader here tonight. A man that came through the ranks. He played for 17 seasons. He played in World Series, playoffs and All-Star Games.

"He's a great leader. He will lead this team to victory. I want you to support him. I want you to stand behind him."

Russell hugged Lasorda in the dugout, and moments later, exchanged the lineup card at home plate. Russell walked back to the dugout, and got a small, but polite applause. He waved his hand, ducked into the dugout, and sat on the bench.

The Bill Russell era officially had begun.

* BUTLER PAYS A VISIT

Brett Butler says he will return to the Dodgers, but he's not sure when. C4

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|