When Jay Johnstone joined the club as a free agent in December 1979, he heard about Brett and me dragging the infield. During the 1980 season, he pulled me aside one day and said eagerly, “I want to drag the infield. Let’s do it, OK?” I answered matter-of-factly, “Been there, done that. But, we’ll see.” I was never one to dismiss an opportunity. So, we kept it on the back burner.
Then on September 2nd, 1981, we moved the idea to the front burner. Being a veteran of antics like this, the planning was smoother than the first time. I told the grounds crew before the game about our plans, and they said, “No problem. We’ll have your clothes ready.” How I love working with professionals!
When I told Monday and Yeager who had, by now, found their own devious groove, Mo called a friend who worked on the Diamond Vision production to alert them of the “event.”
Still, we had to elude Lasorda. By the time Jay and I were dressed and making our way down the runway, we were quickly ushered into the storage room. It seemed that Tom was taking a leak in the bathroom just across from us. We had to lay low and hope he made his way back to his spot at the other end of the dugout in time for us to make our entrance.
The final out was made and then it was “show time.” Screened by Mo and Boomer, we made our way to the spot in front of the 3rd base scoreboard where the “drags” were housed. As we made our way to our mark along the foul line, I heard Lasorda yelling at us. In one breath, he managed to use the “f-word” as a noun, verb, adverb, and adjective hyphenating them in one breath.
Diamond Vision followed us from third to first, as we picked up the drags and put them away by the scoreboard just past first base. We made our way through the stands, high fiving some of the 32,000 fans that cheered our tour with a standing ovation. Any time I got a standing ovation, I always acknowledged the crowd. So, there I was, waving my hat to the fans and cameras as we made our way back to the locker room.
Knowing there would be hell to pay, we hustled back to the grounds crew locker room, changed into our uniforms and headed for the bench. The game was in the bottom of the sixth when Lasorda stopped us near the storage room and said, “I don’t want to hear a word. That’s a $250 fine for each of you. Jay, grab a bat. You’re hitting for the pitcher.” Even the coaches were trying to hold back their laughter as Jay stepped to the plate.
As fate would have it, Jay hit a pinch-hit home run becoming the first player in baseball history to drag the infield in the fifth and hit a homer in the sixth. That’s one for Cooperstown!
As Jay made his way around the bases, we could see a huge smile on his face. Lasorda stood there, his eyes looking to the “big Dodger in the sky” saying, “Why me? Why me?” When Jay got back to the dugout, he got the customary hug from Lasorda who told him, “Your fine’s cut in half.” Then he looked at me and said, “Yours is still $250. Sit your ass down where I can see you and shut up!”
Jerry Reuss pitched in the Major Leagues for 22 years (1969-1990), and played for eight teams, best known for his years with the Dodgers. He has worked on radio and television as an analysts and a pitching coach for several teams. In addition he is an avid photographer and a published an autobiography called "Bring In The Right-Hander!" For more about Jerry Reuss visit his website www.jerryreuss.com