Tommy Lasorda, the Hall of Fame Dodger manager, was once taped when being interviewed after a Dodger loss in which opposing slugger Dave Kingman hit three home runs to beat the Dodgers. During this interview Lasorda launched into a profanity-laden tirade when asked, “What did you think of Kingman’s performance?” The redacted version of the tape (with the frequent profanity being replaced by bleeps) has become well-known, with a version of it appearing on the CD compilation, Baseball’s Greatest Hits. It has made the rounds on the Internet as well.
The date given for the tirade (on the Greatest Hits CD and elsewhere) is June 4, 1976. If you look at the box score for that date, the Dodgers lost a game to the New York Mets, 11-0, in which Kingman did indeed hit three home runs, the last of which was a three run blast in the top of the seventh giving the Mets a 10-0 lead. In 2006, there was wide reporting on the 30th anniversary of this event, featuring Lasorda’s famous outburst. See, for example this CBS News site and this Sports Illustrated story. All reported the date of the taping as June 4, 1976.
The only problem is that this was almost certainly NOT the date the incident occurred. For one thing, Lasorda wasn’t the Dodgers’ manager at that time; he was the third base coach. I suppose it is possible that the reporter might have interviewed the third base coach about the loss, but more likely he would have wanted to speak to then-manager Walter Alston. More significantly, the Dodgers lost that game by 11 runs and while Kingman’s three home runs contributed mightily to the one-sided game, the Dodgers didn’t score any runs and would have lost the game even without Kingman’s feat. It seems highly unlikely that the team’s third base coach would get so worked up by the home runs in such a circumstance, and at any rate the reporting on the 30th anniversary invariable mention that the Dodgers lost the game in extra innings, not in a one-sided blowout. So the June 4, 1976 game at Dodger Stadium is extremely unlikely to have been the game that caused Tommy to launch into his famous bleeping monologue.
There was another game in which Kingman hit three home runs against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, and it more closely matches the game described in the “30th anniversary” coverage in June of 2006. This second three-homer game was played on Sunday, May 14, 1978. Kingman was then playing for the Cubs, and he hit a homer in the sixth inning with one on to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 3-2, another in the top of the ninth with one on and two out to tie the game 7-7, and a third in the top of the 15th with two on and two out to give the Cubs a 10-7 lead that would prove to be the game-winning blow. Kingman single-handedly drove in eight of the Cubs 10 runs, striking a blow to tie the game when the Dodgers were one out away from victory in the ninth and capping it with yet another to win the game in the 15th inning. Now that is a performance that can drive an opposing manager to profanity! And it is almost certainly the game that triggered Lasorda’s famous outburst. The 30th anniversary was marked, with big media hoopla, two years too early.
How did this error happen? Sloppy research. At some point someone had a copy of the tape and wanted to associate a date with it. They did some kind of perfunctory research and found the June 4, 1976 game and, without looking further or deeper into the matter, assumed that this was the date for the famous interview. Once that date got associated with the recording, everyone else (including a lot of people who should have known better) just accepted it without question and without looking into it on their own, even though it would have been very easy to find the discrepancies with a little bit of research. Both Lasorda and the reporter (Paul Olden) were interviewed in the media coverage of the anniversary and neither of them questioned the date either. But anybody who reads Lasorda’s comments could easily see that the game he was remembering couldn’t possibly have been the 1976 game that was being marked:
“I mean, we lose the game in 15 innings, I had to go into my starting pitchers, and it knocked the daylights out of me. Then this guy comes in at the very moment I sat down and asked me `What is your opinion?’ So I proceeded to tell him what my opinion was.” (The pitcher Kingman homered off of in the 15th inning of the 1978 game was Rick Rhoden, normally a Dodger starter.)
There are places that have the correct date. The Wikipedia entry for Dave Kingman gets it right, and an ESPN piece from 2003 correctly notes the date as Mother’s Day 1978. Yet most references to it that you will find refer to the date as June 4, 1976. The lesson to be learned is: do your research well. Because once you’ve introduced an error into the collective consciousness it can be hard to stamp it out.
Sphere: Related Content