When someone dies, the living honor that person by recalling shared moments. Celebrities and other well-known folks have a broader influence, so their deaths are noticed by many.
I’m settled on my couch to watch Alex Trebek’s final show of Jeopardy. I cannot tell you how many episodes of Jeopardy I have watched in my life, but there have been thousands. I know his face and his voice, and if I had ever had the opportunity to meet him, I would have spoken to him like a friend. He had never laid eyes on me, but I feel like I’ve known him most of my life. Would want something from him? Of course, not… I would just say hello and thank him for so many years of entertainment.
In the 1990s my husband Tom was working for Prudential. One of the things expected of you when working for a large company, at least then, was to attend annual conferences. This particular Prudential conference was held at the Nashville Opryland Hotel. If you ever plan to spend some time there, please do yourself a favor and keep your map with you… not the Nashville map, the map of the hotel! Our children were very small, so Tom and I went on our own while the kids stayed with my parents. Ahhhh!! A little vacation on our own!
The Prudential conferences we attended were in great places with activities for the spouses and families while the Prudential agents and managers were in meetings. Occasionally I would attend a keynote address or two if the chosen speaker intrigued me. At this conference the motivational keynote address was given by the well-known manager of the LA Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda. Being a life-long baseball fan, I knew exactly who Tommy Lasorda was, so I chose to attend. Yes, that was a big deal because the keynote was first thing in the morning, and I decided to get up rather than sleep in and enjoy some time to myself.
Mr. Lasorda was interesting and motivational. He told typical yet entertaining baseball stories with encouragement to the Prudential leaders to be better leaders and to the agents to be better salespeople. “There there are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen; those who watch it happen; and those who wonder what happened.” Tommy could apply baseballisms to any other walk of life, and he did his best to apply them to selling financial services products: “No matter how good you are, you will lose one third of your games. No matter how bad you are, you’re going to win one third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference” and to leading a staff or an agency: “Managing is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze it too hard, and you’ll kill it, not hard enough and it flies away.” He had a saying for every situation and usually a story to go along with it. The address was interesting, and I was glad to have the opportunity to hear him speak.
That afternoon I was enjoying strolling through the nearby shopping center. Tom was in afternoon breakout sessions, so I got to wander, by myself, no kids. I walked into a very empty ladies’ clothing store. There were no other shoppers and no employees to be seen. I was casually looking at the merchandise when in walks Tommy Lasorda, by himself. He stood at the entrance to the store looking around. I stood there for a moment waiting for a sales person to greet him… I mean.. it was TOMMY LASORDA… in their store!
Since it was just the two of us, I thought I should at least introduce myself and see if I could help him at all. So I did. He was heading back home and wanted to bring something back for his granddaughter who, if I remember correctly, at that time was around 7. He obviously had no idea where to shop or what to buy. I explained that he would not find anything for her in that particular store, but since I had already been to many of the shops, I could give him some suggestions. We walked out of the store together to where his driver was parked and waiting for him. I pointed out some shops that had some fun Nashville-type items including cowboy hats, boots, and the like. We finished our conversation. He thanked me for my help and advice, got in the car, and headed toward the other side of the shopping center. I waved as he drove away.
No, I didn’t as for an autograph. No, I didn’t gush about what a huge baseball fan I was… especially since the Dodgers were not my team. I was kind; he was kind. We had a nice interchange.
Then I turned to walk down the sidewalk. Behind me were two men sitting on a bench probably waiting for their wives to move from one store to another. They looked at me… eyes wide open… jaws dropped… I said, “Yes, that was Tommy Lasorda.” They were speechless. I walked away enjoying the moment. I could hear them behind me expressing their disbelief that they just saw the great Dodgers’ manager.
So that’s it. My Tommy Lasorda story. Maybe this week as the courses I teach start up again, I should share my story and a Tommy Lasorda quote with them: “The difference between the possible and the impossible lies in a man’s determination.”