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A statue of limitations on Lima's inspiration?

T.J. SIMERS

August 28, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

CAMDEN, N.J. -- They have these marble statues of saints in the Vatican, and the folks who visit like to kiss their feet.

Over the years most of the saints have had their feet kissed away -- no telling how many prayers having been answered.

I mention this, because after spending some time with these poor blue souls, it's time the Dodgers and their fans think about kissing the feet of Jose Lima.

No one has done more for the Dodgers the past 20 years, lucky as anyone can be in recording the team's only playoff win since Oct. 20, 1988, shutting out the Cardinals in 2004 and bringing 55,000 thrilled fans to their feet chanting "Lima, Lima, Lima."

That's why I'd like to see a Lima statue at Dodger Stadium, Lima pumping his fist in bronze, a reminder to everyone "it's Lima time," and just how much fun baseball can be.

A statue of Lima would also be a reminder that no matter how bad you are, you can still be good, which ought to be the Dodgers' rallying cry after losing nine of their last 11.

I've already talked to sculptor Erik Blome, the same artist who did the bronze statue of Gretzky outside Staples Center and the one of De La Hoya that will soon be unveiled.

He refused initially to do it for free, but I explained to him that we're dealing with the Parking Lot Attendant, and he understood.

If Frank McCourt is going to accept only players paid by somebody else, no way he's going to take on a statue, as inspirational as it might be to Dodgers fans, unless it doesn't cost him anything.

"Bronze is very expensive, but I could do a cold cast, and mix some plastic and bronze dust in it," said Blome in exchange for donations to his "When I Grow Up I Want To Be..." foundation, which assists Ethiopian orphans.

It was either that, or season tickets. "To the Cubs' games," Blome said.

I CALLED the Dodgers, asked them where I might put the Lima statue, and there's no telling what they were thinking, because they didn't say.

"What about statues for Vin Scully, Tommy Lasorda, Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe?" countered the Dentist, who also works as Dodgers PR guy.

You want to kiss Lasorda's feet?

The Dodgers seem intent on ignoring Lima. A night doesn't seem to go by without them showing Gibson's home run, and when asked who has done more since then, the Dentist said, "there's Finley's grand slam."

Steve Finley's homer in 2004, which has made the video board, put the Dodgers in the playoffs, but they have made the playoffs several times. Only Lima took them a step further.

Yet you never see him on the stadium video board pumping his fist. Is there something racial at work here?

"I've got to go find the video," the Dentist said, and that was the last I heard from him.

I MADE the drive to Camden where the Riversharks play, Lima earning around $2,000 a month for one of those last-chance independent baseball teams.

"I'm there," he said when I mentioned the unveiling of the Lima statue in L.A. Didn't have the heart to tell him he'll have to pay for his own airline ticket, knowing McCourt.

He's still a flake, of course. He didn't tell his team he was skipping Tuesday's game to be with his family in New York, so here I was in Camden interviewing him by phone.

"I still run into Dodger fans who thank me for that great moment in their life," he said, "which was also the best game I ever pitched. I'd like the chance to pitch again for the Dodgers."

I told him the Dodgers just needed a mold of his head with his mouth wide open for the cold cast. He said it'd be an honor.

By the way, former Dodger Joe Ferguson manages the Riversharks. Across the field former Dodger Tommy John was managing the Bridgeport Bluefish.

Mention the greatest moment in Dodgers baseball the past 20 years, and without hesitation, Tommy John said, "Nancy Bea playing her rendition of 'Les Miserables.' "

OK, so not exactly the answer I was looking for, but almost as telling.

TAKE A walk through the morgue, otherwise known as the Dodgers clubhouse these days, and while Jeff Kent feels right at home, these guys are too uptight.

"I wish we were a little looser," Manager Joe Torre said.

Spent $20 to help the best I could, buying a genuine Camden Riversharks "It's Lima Time" T-shirt, and wearing it to the Dodgers clubhouse.

Thought it might be a good reminder to some -- how much Lima overcame while almost willing himself to victory, and a good warning to others if they keep playing like they are where they might be playing next.

--

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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