Feb. 7, 2006
Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda had a clear message for Iowa baseball coach Jack Dahm Monday night at the third-annual Lead-Off Dinner: “Don’t go to another school.”
The crowd of nearly 500 at the Iowa City Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center had no problem turning that instruction into an applause line for the coach who delivered winning records at home and in the Big Ten Conference last season.
Lasorda, who gave Dahm the idea for the leadoff event and fundraiser when he was coach at Creighton, joked that his second speech for the coach was enough.
“Jack’s pretty slick,” Lasorda said. “He said, `Tommy, every time I see you on television, you never fail to mention how proud you are to be living in the greatest country in the world.’
“I said, `That’s right, Jack.’
“Then he said, `You undoubtedly believe in the constitution of this country.’
“I said, `I sure do, Jack.’
“He said, `Then you believe in free speech in this country.’
“I said, `I sure do, Jack.’
“He said, `Good, because you’ll have to make one.'”
Lasorda, whose relationship with Dahm links with current Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, gave the speech gratis. But Dahm announce a donation of $2,000 to Lasorda’s charitable foundation.
“This is a great way to lead into the season,” Dahm said. “And I’d like to thank Tommy. He’s a great, great ambassador for the game.”
Lasorda shared several jokes and stories with the group that raised several thousand dollars for the program through silent and live auction items, such as luxury suites at a Cedar Rapids Kernels Game and an Iowa Cubs game, an opportunity to be an Iowa coach for the day during the North Dakota State series, as well as premium tickets to see the Chicago Bears or Cubs with Coach Dahm.
But Lasorda, for a time, spoke directly with the Hawkeye team.
“I want you to realize why you’re here at this great, great institution. You’re here to get a good education,” Lasorda said.
“Take advantage of it now, because when you’re 35 or 40 years old I guarantee you you’re going to get up in the morning, and you’re going to wash your face, comb your hair, brush your teeth. And you’re going to look in that mirror, and there are two people you cannot fool: that’s yourself and God,” he added.
“And you’re going to say to yourself, How far could I have gone in life if I had given it everything I had? If you didn’t, you’ll regret it the rest of your life. But if you can honestly look in that mirror and honestly say I did the best I could everyday, then you’ll be a happy person, and in most cases, you’ll be a successful person.”
The two-time World Champion manager also heaped praise on Dahm.
“He is an outstanding coach,” Lasorda said. “I know this. And I know another thing about him, he’s not just concerned with what those players do on the field, he’s concerned with what they do in the classrooms. If I had a son, and he had the opportunity to play for this guy, that would make me the happiest guy in the world.”
In further instructions to the Iowa team, Lasorda spoke out against seeking individual accolades: “What you must do is play for the name on the front of your shirt and not for the name on the back of your shirt. Because when you play for the name on the back of your jersey, now you become an individual. And individualism will win trophies and plaques. But teamwork will win championships.”
“You’ve got to play with your heart and love the game,” Lasorda said. “You represent a great institution here, and don’t do anything to embarrass it, yourself, or your family. Put that uniform on and wear it with pride, dignity and character. That’s your responsibility. And when you leave this great, great university, you leave a legacy that the ones coming in will have a hard time duplicating it.”
Those same sentiments were echoed by Dahm, when speaking of the class of 2005.
“This group of seniors did an absolutely phenomenal job for us,” the coach said. “They left a legacy for Iowa baseball, and they left a legacy that our current players will have to live up to every day when we go out and work. They taught us how to win. They put us on the map.”
In his remarks, Dahm also paid tribute to junior pitcher Casey O’Rourke, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year.
“This is the first time one of my players has come down with cancer, and it’s been tough,” Dahm said. “We know what type of fight he’s going through, and he’s going to beat it, and I can’t wait until next year when Casey O’Rourke’s out on that field.”
O’Rourke was given a standing ovation following Dahm’s remarks.
Lasorda ended the night: “Laughter is the food for the soul. When you laugh you can forget whatever problems you have in life. Tonight you did something special. You helped this school, you helped this coach, you helped these players. It’s a good thing for you to do that.”
There’s little doubt that Lasorda helped the Hawkeyes, too.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com