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Kruk and Kuip fondly recall Lasorda's role in Giants-Dodgers rivalry

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Mike Krukow's first and only All-Star appearance came in 1986 at the Astrodome in Houston. As he stood in the outfield shagging batting-practice fly balls with Fernando Valenzuela, Krukow, the longtime Giants broadcaster, noticed he'd been joined on the turf by a fan who dressed up in uniform and snuck onto the field. 

"Just ignore me," the guy said. 

This was a much different time, and this fan had gained some notoriety by dressing up as professional athletes and sneaking onto fields and courts to take a few pictures. It was easy back then to escape notice, but the prank didn't last long. Krukow looked up and saw Tommy Lasorda quickly walking over from the first base dugout.

"He gets around the shortstop position, and Fernando says, 'Oh this is going to be good.' He walks all the way out and starts dressing this guy down. I never heard cussing like this in my life," Krukow recalled Friday, chuckling. "He wore this guy out. This guy was totally trespassing and now he would spend a night or two in jail, and Tommy's whole thing was, these guys worked hard to get to this (All-Star) platform, how dare you invade their privacy. He wore this guy out. By the end, the guy was almost in tears."

As security guards took the man away, Lasorda looked over at the two pitchers.

"How'd I do?" he said.

That was Lasorda, loud and brash, but also a protector of the game and its players. Few have ever loved baseball more than the longtime Dodgers manager, who died Thursday night at 93.

 

Nobody was more important to the Dodgers-Giants rivalry, either. Lasorda played the part perfectly, soaking in the boos and encouraging them over his 22 years as manager of the Dodgers. Every trip to Candlestick Park became a show.  

"It was unbelievable. It was totally choreographed," Krukow said. "He would wait until the last minute to make his entrance to the field, he'd be walking from the right field door in front of Giants fans and they're booing his ass. He'd stop and he's blowing kisses and waving, and they're booing. He'd go all the way across in front of our dugout, and he'd stop and blow more kisses. It was great theatre.

"He loved it and played it, and he completely enhanced the rivalry. For Giants fans, it elevated their mood, it elevated their response and the whole atmosphere around the game, and Tommy had everything to do with that."

Lasorda managed long enough that he watched Kruk and Kuip go from Giants players to the broadcast booth, but Krukow actually first crossed paths with him as a Cub. He was on the other side of a legendary airing-out session from Lasorda, who walked into a gym with a large group of friends as Krukow and Bill Buckner were working out. Lasorda put on a show, loudly telling Krukow he needed to work harder and that he should be one of the best pitchers in the league. 

"Every time I faced the Dodgers after that, it was him and me," Krukow said. "Even though he wasn't my manager, he had a profound effect on me. He helped me. He gave me an edge."

Krukow recalled Lasorda regularly standing on the top step and yelling at him throughout a game. Duane Kuiper had the same experience after a sequence at the plate. With a runner on third, Lasorda twice pitched out, thinking Kuiper was going to bunt. He didn't, but when he came up in the same situation with an 0-2 count later in the game, Kuiper did get the squeeze sign. 

"(Lasorda) tried to pitch out again, and I reached across and bunted it fair, and it worked," Kuiper said. "I heard him cussing at me as I was running down the first base line, which is hard to do because of where the dugouts were in Candlestick."

After he retired in 1996, Lasorda stayed with the Dodgers organization and was a regular in the press box. He would run into the Giants broadcast team often, and it was like they were all right back on the field. The good-natured jabs immediately started flying. 

"He'll be missed," Kuiper said. "He was really good at what he did, but yet in a lot of ways he was a cartoon."

Lasorda was the kind of baseball man you just don't see anymore. He was larger than life, and it remained that way even after he was done in the dugout. In 1999, Lasorda returned to Candlestick Park for the last series there between the Giants and Dodgers. Before a night game, he went through the whole routine, walking across the field and blowing kisses as fans booed. It's a moment Kruk and Kuip have recalled many times on broadcasts, and it still makes Krukow laugh as he recalls how it all went down. 

 
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"He's walking down the foul line and blowing kisses and taking off his hat, and he turns and he does a 360, and he has his Dodgers jacket on, and in white letters, it had his name -- only they misspelled it," Krukow said. "It said 'Lasodra.' As the whole stadium became aware of this, he was the only guy who didn't know what was going on.

"The elevation of applause and laughter and the response just soared. He walked by us, and he had no idea. I think fate got him that night."

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