Monday, April 8, 2013

A Tommy Lasorda opener

I saw this story at Grantland on Sunday, and it struck me as a perfect opener for a derashah [sermon].

In the beginning … Tommy Lasorda was managing Spokane, the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate. This was during the first Nixon administration. Lasorda was in his early 40s and somewhat slimmer, but already beginning to sneak food off his players' plates. Lasorda talked a lot about God. The Big Dodger in the Sky, he called him. The Big Dodger was Lasorda's lodestar, guiding him through a life that would make him the Dodgers' manager and, now, the team's greatest salesman.

Lasorda remembers the first time he invoked God in Spokane.

"I had a little left-hand pitcher named Bobby O'Brien," Lasorda says. "He was on the mound. And we've got the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. I thought, Let me go out and talk to this kid. Let me go out and make him believe he can get this guy out.

"So I ran out to the mound and I said, 'Bobby, if the heavens could come apart right now and you could hear the voice of the Big Dodger in the Sky, and he says to you, 'Bobby, this is the last hitter you're gonna face on earth. You're gonna die and come with me …'

"I said, 'Son, how would you like to go facing the Lord? Giving him a base hit or getting this guy out?'"

O'Brien, the little left-handed pitcher, listened to the Last Pitch on Earth scenario and said, "Skip, I wanna go facing the Lord getting this guy out!"

"So I went back to the bench," Lasorda says. "Before I got in the dugout, he threw the ball and the guy got a base hit and two runs scored."

Lasorda was distraught when he strode back to the mound. "I'm walking and I think, Where the hell did I fail, man? The guy had him right where he wanted him. When I got there, I said, 'What happened, Bobby?'

"He said, 'Skipper, you had me so afraid of dying I couldn't concentrate on that hitter!'"

I could see this as an introduction to a derashah about what we focus on while davening, particularly on the question of whether prayer is about a relationship with Gd or about seeking fulfillment of our requests.

Or perhaps it could be an opener for a derashah on the way we develop tunnel vision as we go through life, and miss what we are really trying to accomplish. [Think Pharaoh, who completely misses what's going on in his country because of his tunnel vision regarding his throne and royal power.]

Or it could be a way to introduce the strategy of thinking about each moment as though it is our last. The strategy itself is too simple and obvious for a derashah - but an exploration of the positives and negatives of the strategy could be interesting.

What would you do with it?

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