On a summer day in 1951, a young Keith Harmeyer hung over the railing at Municipal Stadium while the Orioles warmed up for their International League game against Montreal. The 7-year old was watching his Northwood neighbor, Howie Moss, toss the ball around, when Moss noticed him and asked the Royal he was playing catch with to toss Harmeyer a ball. That man was Tommy Lasorda, and 49years later Harmeyer has finally gotten his prized catch signed.
Harmeyer was just one of the at least 100 spectators at Oak Crest Village yesterday, listening to the man who bleeds Los Angeles Dodger blue. Lasorda visited the community at the request of Ed Liberatore, a scout for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s.
"It's just an honor to be invited here," said Harmeyer, who told the crowd his story and then posed for pictures with Lasorda while the Hall of Famer signed the ball. "I just recently became a grandfather and was thinking about what I could give my granddaughter. And what's better than a signed Tommy Lasorda baseball?"
"It makes me feel good to know that people value me that much," said Lasorda, who managed the Dodgers for 20seasons and has been with the team for 51years, now serving as senior vice president. "It's just an amazing story that he would still have the ball this many years later."
There was plenty of laughter to go around in the one-hour session.
Lasorda's sun-battered face broke into frequent smiles as he told stories more like he was sitting in the bleachers than standing at a podium in a suit and tie.
"I remember a time we were in Cincinnati for a series against the Reds and I went to church early Sunday morning," he said, a grin already peeking through. "I looked over and saw their manager, Johnny McNamara, sitting there too. After the Mass, Johnny came up to me and said, 'Meet me outside in a few minutes.' And I said I would. But instead, I waited in the doorway and watched as he went over and knelt and lit a candle and said a prayer. Well, I sure knew what he was praying for, so when he got up I went over there and blew that candle out! And then we blew them out that day, 13-2. So I guess that's positive proof I took the game with me wherever I went."