A misty-eyed Tommy Lasorda talked to reporters during pre-game practice today at Dodger Stadium after the team sent utility player Manny Mota to their Pacific Coast League affiliate in Albuquerque. For Lasorda, it was the first time this season he had to ship a player to the minors, and he took the situation hard.
“I hated to do it, but my coaches and Al (GM Al Campanis) agreed that it was best for the team, especially with the season more than half over, and both the Padres and Giants still on our tail.” He took a moment to compose himself, then added, “We needed someone to spell Garv at first, and unfortunately, we just didn’t have room for a full-time pinch-hitter.”
On the season, Mota was batting .219 over 33 games—all in a pinch-hitting capacity—with a pair of doubles, a walk, and two RBI. In his lone at-bat on Sunday against the Cardinals, he connected for a double in LA’s 7-5 loss, but in the pre-game exhibition contest between the ’62 Giants and ’62 Dodgers, he went hitless in three at-bats, and was the only starting player not to connect for a safety in the game. Whether this statistic influenced management’s decision cannot be determined, but his .111 average for July surely made an impact.
“I think of this as learning experience, and a chance to improve myself,” stated Mota as he said goodbye to teammates before afternoon warm-ups. “I’ve been around long enough to know how the game works, and if I can prove myself with the Dukes, maybe that will convince Tommy that I can help the club win a few games before the season’s out.”
Mota last played in the minor leagues in 1963, when he appeared in 75 games as a second baseman and outfielder for the Columbus Jets of the International League. Since then, Mota has played for four squads—all in the National League—beginning with his rookie season of 1962: the Giants, the Pirates, the Expos, and for the past ten seasons, the Dodgers.
To fill the gap left by Mota’s departure, the Dodgers called up rookie first baseman Pedro Guerrero from the Dukes, a right-handed batter who was hitting over .300 in his second year with Albuquerque. Guerrero will serve as a backup to Steve Garvey—who has started every game at first base this season—and will offer relief in the later innings of games the Dodgers have well in hand.
Added Lasorda, “I wish Manny all the best, and I’m sure we’ll see him back here for the pennant race in September.”