And, other than Harry Rabenhorst, who coached LSU for over half a century, it is doubtful one could recall the name of even one former LSU coach – that is, right off the top of one's head.
Prior to Bertman's arrival, the Tigers had won only three SEC titles in the 90-year history of the program – 1945, 1961 and 1975. Then Skip arrived and the rest is, as they say, history.
Now, history recalls Bertman
A former Major League hurler and
later assistant coach, Lamabe took the job as the head coach of
Lamabe's star catcher and top
hitter on that team? Raymond "Smoke"
"He was a gamer," said Lamabe, 69,
from his living room recliner of his
In 1979, Carl Maddox came calling
on Lamabe bringing the ex Major Leaguer to
Ironically, years later,
Lamabe recalls SEC Baseball back then and how much things have changed over the years.
"Back then, there wasn't as much parity as there is now," he said. "There is more parity now, especially in the SEC with Mike Bianco, Jimmy Wells, all these connections that are coaching in the league."
While the facilities were meager and the budgets were small, Lamabe enjoyed his days in the dugout at Alex Box Stadium. However, he only wishes he could have stayed longer.
"It was good here," Lamabe said.
"The only thing is that I went through four different athletic directors. Carl
Maddox hired me. Then coach (Paul) Dietzel came in. Then the (former
great Ted Williams visited Lamabe when he
Red Sox great Ted Williams visited Lamabe when he
Jacksonville University in the mid 1970s.
coached at Jacksonville University in the mid 1970s.
"They said I resigned, but I didn't resign," Lamabe said. "You can look all day, but you'll never find a letter up there in that office that said I resigned."
Resigned or terminated, it didn't really matter. Brodhead didn't bother informing Lamabe about his decision.
"He (Brodhead) called me in and said he wanted to make a change," Lamabe said. "He (Brodhead) said he was looking for Skip Bertman, but if that didn't work out he would keep me. But, I already knew my decision when I walked out of there."
A few days after the meeting, Lamabe was a bit surprised as he read the morning Advocate. There, in the classifieds, was an advertisement stating an opening for the head baseball coaching position at LSU.
"I didn't know it," Lamabe laughed. "I read it in the paper. It was okay though. I don't criticize people. Hell, I have to be judged too. That was sort of burning though. My wife got more upset than I did though."
After five seasons and a 134-115 record (46-55 SEC), Lamabe was removed. Losing the LSU job didn't matter though. With Lamabe's connections to Major League Baseball, he had plenty of options.
"The day after they fired me, Jack McKeon called me and said ‘what do you want to do? You want to manage? You can manage our Double-A club,'" Lamabe said. "I said, ‘heck just let me coach. I have had my experience here trying to handle my bosses, recruiting and all of that.' I told him, ‘just give me my 10 pitchers and let me go.' From that point on, I coached in pro ball for the next 20 years. And coached with them (Padres) in the (1984) World Series."
Pro ball was something Lamabe was quite familiar with.
Born in 1936 at Farmingdale, Long
Island, Lamabe grew up and attended the
While he had his only winning
season as a professional in 1963 (7-4) with the Red Sox and recorded the most
victories (9) in a single season of his career with
Jack Lamabe's baseball card.
But he was later acquired by
Lamabe came on in middle relief and
took the loss in game six of the ‘67 Series. A loss is a loss, but it would go
down as a rather memorable defeat. Having already claimed victories in games one
and four against
"(On the bus) after the game, Gibby (Gibson) yelled from the back ‘Hey Lamabe!'" Lamabe said. ‘"Oh hell,' I thought to myself. He was our team captain and everyone looked up to him, so I was a little worried. But he said, ‘thanks for losing that game. (Lou) Brock would have won MVP if we'd have won. Now if I can win tomorrow, I can get it. That'll be good because my old lady was wanting a new car.' And that's the honest truth."
During the course of his
professional career, Lamabe went back and forth to
These days, Lamabe, who suffers
from severe arthritis, struggles to get around. However, he still follows
baseball and is a big LSU fan. The old coach follows his former team and protégé
"Halfway through this year I said to myself, ‘he's in trouble because of his pitching. That pitching is horrible,'" Lamabe said. "I don't know who you blame for that, I guess the people that recruited them. But eventually, the guy who is responsible is the boss, no matter how you look at it."
With an impatient fan base and
dwindling attendance figures, Lamabe said he wasn't shocked when the verdict was
handed down on
"No, not really, knowing LSU and
all," he said. "I figured it would come. I feel like Skip didn't want to do it.
Friendships aside though. (
Lamabe, today, still lives in Baton Rouge.
Lamabe said it was a tall task for
"It is like the same following the
It has been 23 years since "Tomatoes" Lamabe read about his own firing in the morning newspaper. But that hasn't stopped the old coach and his wife, Janet, from remaining LSU fans.
"My wife and I root like crazy for LSU," he said. "You should have seen us that national championship year (2003 in football)," Lamabe said. "I was jumping all over the place. I fell on my butt. We root like heck for all of the sports. Gymnastics, basketball, softball, all of them."
Even while traveling all over the
country coaching professional baseball, Lamabe has remained a resident of
"I said you would have to get a
bomb to get me out of
It makes you wonder if
Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.