09/29/08 12:21 AM ET
Festive fans cheer on Dodgers at rally
Lasorda's fiery speech highlights free event at stadium
By Michael Schwartz / MLB.com
"I'll tell you what, never in my career have I ever seen anything like this," Garciaparra told the crowd.The main theme among all the speakers was to tell the fans just how close the Dodgers are to winning the franchise's seventh World Series title. "We've got 11 more games to win now, fans," said Dodgers legend Don Newcombe, who helped the Dodgers win their first championship in 1955. "You talk about partying, wait until we win those 11 games." Former players Maury Wills, Kenny Landreaux, Bobby Castillo, Derrel Thomas, Lee Lacy, Rick Monday and Rudy Law all showed up to the event to support the Dodgers, just as many former players have throughout this 50th anniversary season of the franchise's move to Los Angeles. "It's pretty exciting knowing that all the old guys are supporting all the new guys," Dodgers fan Mario Baez said. It would not have been a Dodgers pep rally without a fiery speech from former manager Tommy Lasorda. So the two-time World Series champion manager inspired the fans with words that have gotten the best out of many a Dodgers player. He told the fans the game of baseball belongs to them, proclaimed that the Dodgers will knock out the Cubs in the National League Division Series, which starts Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. PT on TBS, and asked the fans to say a prayer "for Tommy and the Dodgers" when they go to bed Sunday night. "This has been a long time coming, what is happening right now," Lasorda said of the Dodgers, who have won one playoff game in the past 20 years. "You fans have supported the Dodgers year after year after year. The one thing I know you want is a world championship. We're going to give you one this year." The rally featured free parking, free admission and a special pricing of $2 for Dodger Dogs, soft drinks, peanuts, and nachos. That meant for long lines at the concession stands but happy customers like Baez. Along with live music, the rally included the crowning of the "Fan of the Rally" by an applause vote, with the winner receiving four tickets to one game of the NL Division Series, courtesy of Bank of America. The Dodgers also flashed "National League West champions" around the stadium throughout the event and showed highlights of the team's Thursday night champagne celebration, as well as season highlights and clips from prior playoff runs. Raymond Bustillos soaked in the atmosphere in the attire he typically wears to Dodger Stadium, complete with Dodger Blue battle paint covering his face mixed with streaks of white paint. Bustillos, who said he has not missed an Opening Day since 1970, paints up in memory of his deceased father, who had been a fan of the franchise years before him. The painted-up fan has a good feeling about Los Angeles' chances this postseason. "They're going all the way," Bustillos said. "It's just their year. I thought that the whole season. They went through a losing streak, [but still] I just knew it." The event ended with fans excited about the Dodgers, and not just because Manny Ramirez hinted he may want to stick around next year in his brief address to the crowd. For the Dodgers, it's now off to Chicago on Monday, where they will meet up with another blue-clad rabid fan base, albeit one a bit more hostile. After a season that's taken a winding road to get to the Windy City, Torre is excited for postseason play to finally commence. "It's going to take 11 more games to win," Torre said. "We're about as ready as we can be to start that journey on Wednesday."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.