Tommy Lasorda seemed more interested in entertaining 19-month-old Kiana Amundson than speaking with autograph hounds and reporters during Monday’s Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament at Rose Creek Golf Course.
The 77-year-old baseball Hall of Famer put on his nicest, grandfather face and appealed for the shy, blonde-haired girl to give him a hug. Kaira’s body language spelled out an obvious “No.”
“How about a high-five?” Lasorda asked. Again the Barnesville, Minn., toddler refused.
Eventually Kiana smiled, but not without more playful urging from a man considered one of the most engaging personalities in baseball.
Lasorda, who won three World Series titles in 22 years managing the Los Angeles Dodgers, said he attends many events such as the Maris golf tourney, which raises money for various charities.
“To do something to help like this, it’s good for myself,” Lasorda said.
Even though he doesn’t golf, Lasorda said he has been trying to come to the tournament for five years after meeting Roger’s widow Pat Maris. Yet, things never fell into place at the right time.
“When I saw Pat, I promised her I’d come,” Lasorda said. “I’m fulfilling a promise.”
Lasorda, one of baseball’s biggest names opposing the use of steroids, also spoke out against illegal drugs in sports.
“I think it’s a disgrace,” Lasorda said. “If I’m pitching against a guy taking steroids, that’s not an even playing field.”
Blake, Sinner team up
What do you get when you put a professional hockey player and the former governor of North Dakota together?
One of the craziest teams in the tournament.
New York Islanders right wing Jason Blake hit the links with former North Dakota governor George A. Sinner early Monday morning.
“He hits it the furthest and I hit it the least,” Sinner said. “We’ve got some good golfers and then they’ve got me.”
Blake, a Moorhead High School graduate, said he was thrilled to be paired up with Sinner, who wasn’t listed as a celebrity.
The six-year National Hockey League veteran said he’s been playing a lot of golf and spending more time with his two children since the NHL lockout began.
However, he believes the league and the players’ association will come to an agreement within weeks.
“I think we’re close to a getting a deal done,” Blake said. “I’m thankful I signed my deal last year.”
Brown finally makes it
Dale Brown said he loves coming back to North Dakota, especially when the weather is nice and he gets to be outdoors.
“North Dakota and the people in this area are unique,” Brown said. “Being in North Dakota, you may not see all the positive things.”
The retired Louisiana State University men’s basketball coach and native of Minot, N.D., was in Fargo as one of the tournament’s celebrity guests.
Brown had been invited to the tournament nearly every year since its inception. But there was always something that got in his way.
“I felt almost guilty,” Brown said.
Brown made the decision to attend the tournament after receiving a call from Vic Gelking, an old high school friend.
“I rearranged my whole schedule to come and I’m glad I did,” Brown said.
Brown is well-known as the coach who inadvertently discovered a 13-year-old Shaquille O’Neal. He met O’Neal while speaking to United States military forces in Germany during the Cold War.
When the 6-foot-8 man-child asked Brown for tips on his game, Olson asked O’Neal for his military rank.
“He said ‘I’m only 13,’ ” Brown said.
Brown eventually recruited O’Neal to LSU, where he was an All-American.
Brown, a 1953 graduate of Minot St. Leo’s High School, now Minot Ryan, said he remembers playing high school athletics the same time as Maris and longtime Arizona men’s basketball coach Lute Olsen, who grew up in Mayville, N.D., and attended high school in Grand Forks, N.D.
“Football was by far Roger’s best sport,” Brown said.
• Former Minnesota Vikings defensive back Joey Browner and teammates won the team title, finishing with a score of 43.25. Other team members were Dan Skinner, Kevin Bucholz, Nick Gludt, Hugh Veit and Kent Ritterman.
• It was the first year the tournament was held at Rose Creek since 1997. Flooding at Edgewood Golf Course, the usual tournament site prompted the move. “It’s been a great honor to host something like this,” Rose Creek golf professional Matt Cook said.
• Two maintenance men from Newman Outdoor Field brought a door from one of the stadium’s suites for celebrities to sign.
• The PA & Dubay show on KFAN sports radio in Minneapolis broadcasted live outside of the clubhouse.