The Los Angeles Dodgers today announced that throughout 2008 Spring Training, the team will honor its fans, legendary players, coaches, managers, executives, and local officials as part of month-long opportunity to say “Thank You,” for six decades at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL.
“As is the case whenever a family contemplates moving out of the neighborhood, the idea is met with mixed emotions, bittersweet feelings, parties, and promises to keep in touch,” said Dodger Owner Frank McCourt. “When the family is as large as the Dodgers and their tenure in this town is as long as six decades, these sentiments are magnified. But regardless of where we practice in the future, our 60th anniversary affords us an opportunity to come together to reminisce, exchange warm greetings, and make sure we keep our relationships intact.”
The celebration began when the team reported for Spring Training in mid-February and will culminate with the final eight games of Grapefruit League action from March 11-18 in which Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda will pilot the Dodgers while current Dodger skipper Joe Torre manages a split squad for two historic games in Beijing, China.
The Dodgers will provide touches of nostalgia and gratitude at each home game at Dodgertown in 2008. Each is intended to help the team say “thank you” to the fans and friends and neighbors and partners with whom the club has shared the experience since first training in Vero Beach in 1948.
During the seventh-inning stretch of each home game, the organization will honor the longtime employees of Dodgertown, including five who have worked in Vero Beach for more than a quarter century. Additionally, each game will see a different Dodger legend honored during pregame ceremonies for his or her contributions to the organization and the city of Vero Beach over the past 60 years.
Leading off among the Dodger legends is Maury Wills, the 1962 National League MVP, who will be honored prior to the first home game of the season on Feb. 28 vs. Atlanta. Wills was a seven-time All-Star and a member of three World Championship teams (1959, 1963, and 1965). He first reported to Vero Beach as a minor leaguer in 1951 and in 2003, and the bunting area at Dodgertown was named “Maury’s Pit.”
During the second home game on March 2, the Dodgers will honor Steve Garvey, whose father often drove the Brooklyn Dodgers around Florida during Spring Training. Garvey would go on to set the National League record with 1,207 consecutive games played and be named the National League MVP in 1974. His memories from his early days in Vero Beach are detailed in his upcoming book, “My Bat Boy Days: Lessons I Learned From the Boys of Summer” and he will host a book signing at Holman Stadium after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
March 2 will also be highlighted by the annual “Meet the Dodgers Day” presented by Comcast, when fans can get autographs and take pictures with their favorite Dodger players from 12:00-12:30 p.m.
When the Dodgers host the Baltimore Orioles on March 3, the club will honor John “T-Bone” Shelby, the center fielder on the 1988 World Championship team. He was on the Orioles' World Championship club in 1983 as well. Shelby hit a career-high 22 homers in 1987 and his clutch defense in the National League Championship Series in 1988 helped lead Los Angeles to the Fall Classic. He went on to coach for the Dodgers from 1998-2005.
On March 4, longtime Dodger player and coach Manny Mota will be honored prior to the night game against the Washington Nationals. Mota, the all-time leader in pinch-hits when he retired, is the longest-tenured coach in Los Angeles Dodger history, as he enters his 39th season in the organization. Fans will enjoy a fireworks spectacular at Holman Stadium following the game.
Vero Beach resident and former Dodger outfielder Rick Monday will be honored prior to the game on March 7 vs. St. Louis, as he raises the American Flag in center field before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Monday, who is entering his 15th season as a broadcaster for the Dodgers, is remembered for saving the flag from two would-be flag burners while playing outfield for the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium in 1976.
A pair of Dodger Hall of Famers will share the stage – and the broadcast booth – on March 9, as the team pays tribute to legendary broadcasters Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrin. Prior to the game against the Boston Red Sox, the team will honor Scully, who enters his 59th season as the “Voice of the Dodgers” and Jarrin, who begins his 50th season behind the mic for Los Angeles. The game will be televised in Los Angeles on KCAL 9 at 10:05 a.m. PT/1:05 p.m. ET.
Dick Crago, who enters his 40th season as the Public Address Announcer at Dodgertown, will be honored prior to the game on March 11 against the Florida Marlins. Crago will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before returning to his duties behind the microphone at Holman Stadium.
On March 12, several key people in Vero Beach history will be honored during pregame ceremonies. Among them is Bump Holman, the son of Bud Holman, the local businessman who convinced the Dodgers to train in Vero Beach and for whom Holman Stadium was named. Joining Holman will be Chickie Anderson and Steven Mulvey, the daughter and nephew of Jim and Dearie Mulvey, who were part-owners of the Dodgers from 1938-75. Each year since 1969, the Dodgers have given out the Jim and Dearie Mulvey Award to the top rookie in camp, with past winners including current Dodgers Tony Abreu, Hong-Chih Kuo, Jason Repko, and James Loney.
Dr. Frank Jobe, who was recently promoted to Special Advisor to the Chairman, will be honored prior to the game on March 14 vs. Washington. Jobe’s groundbreaking “Tommy John” surgery changed the course of baseball history and his reconstruction of the right shoulder of Orel Hershiser left an indelible mark on Dodger history. The medical room in the Dodger clubhouse in Vero Beach is named after Dr. Jobe.
Prior to the game on March 16, the Dodgers will honor longtime team executive Billy DeLury, who has spent more than 50 years with the organization. Joining him will be Dodger Vice President for Spring Training and Minor League Facilities Craig Callan, who is entering his 30th season working for the Dodgers and oversees the entire Dodgertown complex. He is managing the construction of the team’s new facility in Glendale, Arizona.
The final home game of the 2008 schedule will pay tribute to Lasorda, who managed the Dodgers for 20 seasons and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame while he was at Dodgertown in 1997. The Dodgers will continue the long-standing tradition of wearing green hats on St. Patrick’s Day. Also being honored on March 17 will be a number of dedicated local officials from the City of Vero Beach and Indian River County.
The Dodgers will pay tribute to the fans of Vero Beach during three different games, Feb. 28, March 9 and March 17.
In addition to the numerous on-field tributes to their fans and legends during Spring Training, the Dodgers will make a visit into the community to spend time at Dodgertown Elementary School.
The Dodgers are celebrating their 60th anniversary in Dodgertown and 50th anniversary in Los Angeles in 2008. The team is currently building a state-of-the-art Spring Training facility in Glendale, Arizona.