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Dedeaux Honored by USC

The legendary coach, who died in January, was `the greatest Trojan of them all,' Lasorda says.

April 23, 2006|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Rod Dedeaux's loyalty to USC was so fierce that when Tom Lasorda became manager of the Dodgers and extended an invitation to Dedeaux to join his major league coaching staff, Dedeaux politely declined.

"He said, 'Tommy, I love you but I can't do it. I'm a Trojan, and I'll be a Trojan for the rest of my life,' " Lasorda said Saturday. "He is and was the greatest Trojan of them all."

Lasorda and several dozen of Dedeaux's former players gathered Saturday afternoon before USC's 15-8 victory over Washington at Dedeaux Field to pay tribute to the legendary Trojan coach, who died in January at 91.

Dedeaux guided USC to 11 national titles and 28 conference championships during his 45-year tenure. When he retired in 1986, Dedeaux's 1,332 victories were more than any other coach had amassed (he still ranks seventh among Division I coaches).

"Some of the accomplishments of Rod are beyond comprehension," said USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett, who played right field for Dedeaux in 1965.

Dedeaux coached 59 players who became major leaguers, including Mark McGwire, Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman. Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball named him coach of the century in 1999. His grandson Adam is a freshman first baseman for the Trojans.

"He was the single most prominent person in the history of USC," said Trojan Coach Mike Gillespie, a member of USC's 1961 national championship team.

Stan Charnofsky, a former second baseman who, along with twin brother Hal became a formidable double-play combination for the Trojans in the early 1950s, remembered Dedeaux as "the most masterful psychologist I have ever seen."

"He would say to me, 'You never drop a throw.' He would say to our third baseman, 'You will be the best third baseman in the world,' " Charnofsky said. "We all believed him."

Said Fred Lynn, the former Trojan outfielder who went on to become a nine-time All-Star: "He believed that every guy that put on a Trojan uniform was the best at his position, and he let you know that. In my 17 years in the big leagues, I never played for a better baseball man than Rod Dedeaux. In my three years at USC I learned more about how to play baseball the right way than I did my entire big league career."

A crowd that included several of Dedeaux's family members was treated to an eight-run outburst in the second inning as the Trojans, ranked No. 22 by Baseball America, ended a four-game losing streak to improve to 23-18 overall and 9-5 in the Pacific 10 Conference.

Blake Sharpe had a season-high four hits and Matt Cusick, Cyle Hankerd, Daniel Perales and Lucas Duda drove in two runs apiece for the Trojans.

"It was great to have everyone contribute," Sharpe said. "We had a lot of alumni back here, so it was important to win."

Lasorda, rarely at a loss for words, told the crowd before the game that he found it difficult to speak about the loss of "a tremendous friend, my idol."

"When he went up to the pearly gates and the big Dodger in the sky shook his hand and said, 'We've been waiting a long time for you. We're happy to have you,' " Lasorda said, "Rod looked at him and said, 'Thank you, Tiger.' "

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