LOS ANGELES -- Former Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said he's watching the World Series wearing a sweatshirt comprised of half Dodger blue, and the other half with Red Sox colors. Tracy isn't cheering for either team, but he is rooting for both managers.
"I'm a neutral observer," Tracy said, "but I'm the proudest guy on the planet."
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When Tracy managed the Dodgers, Dave Roberts ("He always called me David," said Roberts) was Tracy's center fielder, and Alex Cora was his second baseman. After Tracy is done raking leaves at his Ohio home today, he will watch his former players square off in Game 3 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium.
Tracy, 62, managed 11 seasons in the Major Leagues between stints with the Dodgers, Pirates and Rockies. His Dodgers won the National League West in 2004 with Cora in the infield. Roberts was in the outfield until new general manager Paul DePodesta dealt him to Boston, where he stole a famous base and became a legend.
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Tracy's Dodgers club starred Adrian Beltre, Shawn Green and an airtight defense with Cora and Roberts as key contributors.
"Both manage the way they play," said Tracy, who gave underdog players like Roberts, Cora and Paul Lo Duca their long-awaited opportunities.
"No-name guys. Intelligent. When I saw Alex come over to me, I knew I was going to get a pop quiz about something I did strategically, something that would leave some scratching their heads, and Alex would come over and ask, 'What were you thinking about when you did that?'
"And David, I remember when our scouts, Don Welke, who just passed, and Carl Loewenstine recommended him. We had no center fielder and we had no leadoff hitter, and we got him and he came to our January workouts and was willing to do whatever it took to make our club. We told him to bunt, he bunted. I told him I didn't care if he hit .000 in Spring Training, just figure out how to get to first base, and he became a nightmare for opposing pitchers.
"These two guys, they reek of character. Unselfish, character off the charts, and you see it with the way they manage and the way their teams play. It's safe to say we had special players, over the top with grit and determination."
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Tracy, the 2009 NL Manager of the Year Award winner in his first season with Colorado, recalled Cora's immortal 18-pitch at-bat that ended with a home run off Matt Clement. He also remembers that Cora faced Carlos Zambrano the next night and, after fouling off a handful of pitches, was drilled for it.
"I thought there was going to be a riot," Tracy said.
He recalled Roberts following Maury Wills like a puppy, soaking up the knowledge of the greatest leadoff hitter in franchise history.
"I remember them having a skull session and Wills telling David that anybody can steal a base, but you've got to be able to steal a base when everybody in the stadium knows you're going to steal a base," Tracy said. "And then he does exactly that for the Red Sox, and when he did it, I could hear Maury's voice, and it gives me chills just saying it."