Rollie Fingers Showed Up Dressed Like a Literal Fireman
For some fans, he will be forever identified as the manager who allowed Kirk Gibson to pinch hit against future Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersely. That at-bat has become the most vivid scene from the 1988 World Series, as Gibson's blast led the Los Angeles Dodgers over Eckersley and the Bash Brothers of the Oakland Athletics.
Tom Lasorda may also be remembered for taking a tumble during the 1990 All-Star game, where in the third base coaching box he slipped in an attempt to field a foul ball. Still others, especially those who were children in the early half of the eighties, will always recall him as part of a popular television series.
The Baseball Bunch was a show that aired every Saturday from 1980 through 1985, featuring a group of eight kids who were eager to learn about America's pastime. Cincinnati catcher Johnny Bench hosted the show, which also included the San Diego Chicken and the Dugout Wizard.
The latter was portrayed by Tom Lasorda, who passed away last week. As the Wizard he would magically appear, looking resplendent is a wizard hat and costume.
It was in that role that Lasorda discussed a certain aspect of baseball, designed to help the kids to further appreciate and understand the game. Before each appearance, however, a real live All-Star would show the Bunch how to master a certain skill.
Many of those guests went on to become inducted into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, where Lasorda himself would find an eternal home for his managerial accomplishments. Here are fifteen players who appeared on The Baseball Bunch during their careers, afterward to be honored with a plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
1. Joe Morgan
Being a teammate of the host while on the Big Red Machine, Morgan was a natural selection to appear on the series. He showed the kids some handy tips on stealing bases, a talent he successfully employed 689 times.
2. Ted Williams
His appearance obviously came long after his playing days, but he was still able to impart some valuable knowledge about the art of batting.
3. Cal Ripken, Jr.
Rather than a particular skill, the Iron Man stressed the importance of work ethic in order to develop into a good baseball player.
4. Frank Robinson
Baseball's first black, who had completed a Hall of Fame career as a player, manager appeared on the show to share the need to overcome adversities.
5. Ted Simmons
A valuable part of pennant winners in both Milwaukee and St. Louis, Simmons instructed the children on some of the fine points of being a catcher.
6. Ozzie Smith
Lasorda may have been the Wizard of the Dugout, but Oz was the Wizard of the middle infield. The perennial Gold Glove winner, therefore, shared tips to becoming a stellar shortstop.
7. Willie Stargell
Pops, after some bantering with the Chicken, was able to demonstrate the idea of being a team leader.
8. George Brett
Kansas City's most famous player appeared in an episode, where he stressed the goals of playing hard and not giving up. They also discussed the famous pine tar incident involving Brett a few years earlier.
9. Gary Carter
After the Chicken hits an inside the park home run (aided by a few errors), Carter explains how the catcher is the quarterback and the other infielders should always listen to him.
10. Andre Dawson
The Hawk breaks down some steps to stay in top physical condition, for better baseball as well as a healthier life.
11. Don Sutton
Match Game marked Sutton's first appearance on television, but here he helped the Bunch fill in some blanks about successful pitching.
12. Phil Niekro
Of course, Niekro showed the kids how to throw a knuckle ball, while also admitting the problems that come with it, such as finding a catcher who can handle it consistently.
13. Mike Schmidt
Slugger Schmidt, a friendly rival of host Johnny Bench, talks about how intense concentration is a key to becoming a good hitter.
14. Tom Seaver
Wearing a Cincinnati uniform rather than the familiar Mets blue. Tom Terrific demonstrates how throwing a curve ball is similar to throwing a frisbee.
15. Rollie Fingers
To represent the importance of relief pitchers, Fingers appeared on the show dressed in a fireman's uniform.