Q: You ever go out to see a Little League game lately? You see the coaches who maybe saw how you did things … they yell and rant at the kids, the umpires …some of the parents doing the same thing in the stands …
A: They’re wrong.
Q: What happens when you address Little Leagues parents about how to behave around their kids?
A: I put it to them this way — Mind your business, watch how they play, don’t holler at the umpire, and if your son or daughter strikes out, encourage him to keep playing, tell him how much you love him and tell him you’ll get ‘em next game.
There are parents out there screaming as if their kid is going to be in the big leagues someday. C’mon. I chew them out if I see that. Maybe they’ve got their own idea how to do things, but it’s wrong.
Just be with the kids. Let ‘em make errors. Give them all a chance. It’s not about winning. It’s spirit, togetherness. They’ll form their personality and livelihood right then and there in Little League. I’ll tell you why. In Little League, you have to listen to the manager. Right? When you’re in the big world, you’ve always got to listen to someone else. Second, in Little League, you follow orders. That’s how the world works. Third, get along with teammates. When you get in our world, you’re going to have to get along with all kinds of people. This is what you are forming when you’re playing Little League on his mind and body. See? That’s important. Don’t scream and get on them after an error. Tell ‘em how many times Babe Ruth struck out, or a pitcher got knocked out of the box.
One time I was doing a speech to a group of kids and just before I get there, I see thiss little kid crying. I found out they just lost a game and he was the losing pitcher. I went over there, put my arm around him, and said, “What are you crying for? When Major League players lose, they don’t cry.” I’m a builder, a builder of moral, self confidence, spirit, togetherness. That’s what I do.
Q: Where did that come from? Did you inherit that?
A: My father (Sabatino), may he rest in peace, used to tell us stories and he’d use our names in those stories. One time he told a story about a family with five sons – that’s what he had – and they were very strong, powerful. The church had a big rock in front of the church and the priest wanted to move it out of there. So someone said, “Get those Lasorda boys over here for dinner, then get them to move the rock.” The priest said that’s a good idea. And he fed those five brothers like you’ve never seen before. So then as my father is telling us this story and he says, “Wait a minute, you’re the guys who gotta move that rock.” He was getting that message across to us.
Another time, he had this piece of ground that he farmed. There’s an empty milk bottle and he tells me to get the bottle, go to a spring a quarter of a mile away straight from here, walk straight there. Fill it up with water and don’t break the bottle. Then – boom — he whacks me in the back of the head. I said, “What did you hit me for, pop?” “Because if you break that bottle, then it’s too late to hit you.” I carried that bottle and I know one thing, no one was going to get that away from me. And I wasn’t going to drop it
I took that story to use. You can’t do anything about an error a guy made, but you can do something about him not making an error in the future. That’s what he did with me. He had the story about having five guys pulling on the same end of the rope. I used a lot of his philosophy in managing. I don’t know how much education he had, but he had it down psychologically. He taught us a lot about life.
He was all about commitment and responsibility. He told us about loving each other and doing all we can for each other. In the end, when he had cancer, we were there in the hospital for him 24 hours a day. The nuns couldn’t believe it. I wish he was alive to see me become the manager of the Dodgers. God works in strange ways.