Dodgers Go Down Fighting In Finalé

In a day when emotions ran high, the Dodgers battled Houston down to the wire in the final game at Holman Stadium, losing 12-10 as the legendary Tommy Lasorda managed his final game. As the team left the field, the formed an arch of bats for Lasorda to walk through, leaving few dry eyes in the park.

The game signaled the breakup of a marriage that lasted 61 years and turned on the lure of a new, younger stadium and the fact it would be much closer to the Los Angeles fan base.

If the game with Boston some days earlier was a circus, this game was the largest outdoor wake in the history of the franchise as 7,327 fans crowded in to cheer for one more win at the historical Dodgertown facility.

The game drew more fans than did the final game (6,702) the Dodgers played in 1957 at Ebbets Field before leaving for Los Angeles.

The final game in Florida will be Tuesday (today) when they travel to Jupiter to play the Florida Marlins.

But to the Dodger faithful in Vero Beach, which was a sleepy little town of 3,000 people when the Dodgers moved their operations here, this was the game they hoped would never been played.

At the former Navel Air Base that was converted into a baseball factory by Branch Rickey and developed into an efficient and remarkably fan-friendly facility by Walter O'Malley and his son Peter, the final curtain rang down.

The facility will continue to support the Dodgers entry in the Gulf Coast League and the extended camp.

Ironically, the death watch was on St. Patrick's Day, a day that the O'Malley's would entertain the camp personnel with Irish music, a wonderous dinner in the dining room, special door prizes and entertainment that lasted well into the night.

This day, the venerable Holman Stadium was decked out with green bases and the players wore the customary green Dodger caps.

Former Dodger ace Carl Erskine was on hand to play the Star Spangled Banner on his harmonica. Erskine was the starting pitcher in the first game played in Holman Stadium and, like so many others, needed to return for the farewell contest.

He received a long and loud standing ovation upon his completion of the anthem.

Tommy Lasorda, who managed the final split squad games while Joe Torre took the other half of the squad to China, spoke briefly before the game, thanking the loyal fans of Vero Beach for their years of support.

He told them that although the team was leaving, Dodgertown and Vero Beach would never leave the hearts of those who were at the base during all the years.

And, typically, he closed by saying, "And remember, although we will be gone, if you don't root for the Dodgers you may not get to heaven.

He, too, received a standing ovation.

One might think that with all that was going on, the actual game would have been anticlimatic.

Not so.

The two clubs slugged it out on a day that the wind was blowing out from home plate, and although there was no fireworks scheduled in the celebration, eight home runs provided fireworks of their own.

Houston collected five of the long balls, three off starter Chad Billingsley, who knocked in the first Dodger run in the second inning himself.

The Astros tagged him for three in the third but Los Angeles roared back to score four in the bottom of the inning. Rafael Furcal started things with a home run, Andre Ethier added a triple and Gary Bennett squeezed in the lead run with a perfect bunt.
br> Another two-run shot off Billingsley tied the game before Furcal tripled and Ethier knocked him in to give the Dodgers their final lead in the fourth.

Joe Beimel and Eduora Sierra were hammered for five runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach -- almost.

Rookie Preston Mattingly slammed a pinch-homer in the bottom of the eighth, Furcal tripled (his fifth of the spring) and Ethier homered (his fifth) to suddenly make it a 10-9 game.

Scott Proctor and Rudy Seanez had worked a pair of scoreless innings, the seventh and eighth, but the Dodgers hit a drought that stretched to 0-for-12 before Mattingly's shot.

Houston whacked Greg Jones for another two-run homer in the top of the ninth to lead 12-9.

Delwyn Young and Brad DeWitt walked to lead off the bottom of the final inning but pinch-hitter Russell Martin and Anthony Raglani made outs.

Mattingly, up for a second time, scorched a shot off the shortstop's glove for another hit (later changed to an error) to load the bases. Rookie James Tomlin walked for force in one run to make it a 12-10 game.

Then Furcal, who asked to play the entire game, ended the game and the Dodgers stay in Vero Beach with a bouncer to second base.
br> Furcal, Ethier and Jason Repko supplied nine of the Dodgers' dozen hits and knocked in six of the runs.

Beimel took the loss and Greg Jones, who worked the ninth and allowed the two runs that couldn't be overcome, took the game hard.

Well after many of his teammates had showered and left, he was still sitting in front of his locker in uniform.

Lasorda, after the magnificent arch his players supplied for his last walk off the Holman Stadium field, talked to the press briefly after the game.

He said he was the proudest 80-year-old man in the world after the players put so much effort in attempting to win the game.

He mentioned that Russell Martin waited throughout the game to be available to pinch-hit. And Furcal was determined to play the entire game.

"Working with these guys over the last few games is something I will never forget. It was a tremendous exit to Dodgertown and the city and I am very, very proud of them," he said, wiping tears from his eyes.

One writer told him, "Tommy, watching you squeeze in the lead run today was worth any admission price asked." The compliment received a wan smile from the veteran manager.

Before the game, a fan was asked if he would follow the team to Arizona. He replied, "I followed them from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, I guess I can follow them from Vero to Phoenix."

The Dodgers play at Jupiter today (Tuesday), then leave for Arizona where they will play six more games there.

Flying back to Los Angeles, they will play the Anaheim Angels in Angel Stadium and three games with the Boston Red Sox before opening the regular season against the hatedgiants Opening Day in Dodger Stadium.
 Score by innings
Houston	        003 205 002-12
Los Angeles	014 100 031-10

 Los Angeles	ab h  h  bi  ave
Pierre lf	5  0  0  0  .196
 Jones p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Myers p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Tomlin ph	0  0  0  0  .333
Furcal ss	6  3  3  1  .298
Ethier rf	5  2  4  3  .354
Sweeney 1b	1  1  0  0  .263
 Loney 1b	2  0  0  0  .275
Young 2b-lf	3  2  1  1  .167
DeWitt 3b	4  0  0  0  .250
Repko cf	3  1  2  1  .343
 Logan cf	1  0  0  0  .000
 Martin ph	1  0  0  0  .194
Bennett c	3  0  0  1  .250
 Rivera c	0  0  0  0  .200
 Raglani ph	1  0  0  0  .000
Billingsley p	3  0  1  1  .250
 Beimel p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Sierra p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Proctor p 	0  0  0  0  .000
 Seanez p	0  0  0  0  .000	
 Mattingly ph-2b2  1  1  1  .500
  Totals	40 10 12  9
  Houston	38 12 12 11

 3 base hits- Ethier (1), Furcal
2 (5). HR- Furcal (2), Mattingly
(1), Ethier (5). RBI- Billingsley
(1), Furcal (10), Young (5),
Repko (13), Bennett (2), Ethier
(3), Mattingly (1). S- Bennett.
SB- Ethier (2). LOB- Los Angeles
(10), Houston (3). DP- Furcal,
Young and Sweeney.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Billingsley	5.0  6  5-5  1  4  7.42
Beimel (0-2)	0.2  3  3-3  0  0  9.00
Sierra	        0.1  1  2-2  1  0 13.50
Proctor	        1.0  0  0-0  0  2  2.57
Seanez	        1.0  0  0-0  1  2  0.00
Jones	        0.2  2  2-2  1  0  4.50
Myers	        0.1  0  0-0  0  1  8.10
 T- 3:00. Att- 7,327.

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