WHILE ONE MARK McGWIRE swing dramatically changed things Tuesday night, a couple of old Ogden Dodgers still figure their manager can deliver a World Series victory.
After all, Tommy Lasorda was winning a third straight Pioneer League championship just 20 years ago."He made the kids believe in themselves," says Dutch Belnap, the Ogden general manager who later coached basketball at Utah State and is back in Ogden as a banker. "He worked a lot harder than any of the other managers."
Of course, Lasorda had great players, even in those days. Steve Garvey was the third baseman, Bill Buckner the first baseman, No. 1 draft choice Bobby Valentine a shortstop-outfielder and hustling Gary Pullins was a reserve second baseman. "He was very fun to play for," says Pullins, BYU's baseball coach. "He was always looking to liven things up."
Stories? Oh, yeah. They have plenty of them . . .
"You mean, like, printable?" asks Belnap.
Well, there was the time that Lasorda, a 15-year minor leaguer, pitched six scoreless innings against his team in an intra-squad game. Afterward, predictably, he was chirping in the clubhouse about schooling the kids. Later, he took Belnap aside in his office and confessed, "My arm is killing me."
And how about Lasorda establishing a $25 fine for the last player out of the dugout during a brawl? While acting like he was trying to keep his players off the field, he would actually yell at them ot get out there.
Working with Lasorda made Belnap a Dodger fan for life; Pullins already was one, even before Glen Tuckett arranged a personal tryout, where Lasorda scouted and signed him. As a boy in the Phoenix area, Pullins impressed his parents by taking on an early-morning paper route.
"My parents thought I was a motivated kid," he recalled. "But I was just getting up early to get to the newsstand to find out how the Brooklyn Dodgers had done the night before."
- - - SOBERING NEWS: How bad was Utah State's 51-10 loss to Fresno State Saturday? So bad that radio commentator Phil Olsen was actually heard asking questions of Coach Chuck Shelton after the game, instead of delivering his weekly Aggie/Shelton testimonial to conclude the broadcast.
Olsen was cured of saying "we" about the Aggies after his first month of the job; maybe now he'll do some analyzing. Expecting Olsen to be as good as his brother, Merlin, on the air is an unfair association; then again, the USU network is not exactly downplaying the connection. Guess who Phil interviewed by telephone at halftime Saturday?