Ned Colletti, Emmy Award-winning baseball analyst for the LA Dodgers TV broadcasts, went deep repeatedly during his latest appearance at the South Pasadena Library on September 20. Colletti is also Executive Adviser to Andrew Friedman, the President of the team and the author of the compelling 2017 autobiographical bestseller “The Big Chair: The Smooth Hops and Bad Bounces from the Inside World of the Acclaimed Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager.” Ned was joined on stage by Dodger Historian and South Pasadena resident Mark Langill, an acclaimed author of baseball books in his own right. The exciting event scheduled on a day off for the Dodgers was sponsored by the Library, the Friends of the Library, and Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse with special thanks to 210eastsound and the Lucille and Edward R. Roybal Foundation
The evening began with a screening of Part 1 of the “1988” documentary about the last Dodgers World Series Championship that was recently produced by SportsNetLA. It was followed by an energetic appearance by Roger Owens, the famed Peanut Tosser at Dodgers games for more than 60 years. A video clip of some of Roger’s appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and on ESPN Sports Center was shared with the cheering audience of more than 100, many of whom were clad in bright blue. Then the thumping opening beat of “Born to Be Alive,” the 80s disco hit by Patrick Hernandez reverberated from the speakers, as Roger skipped down the aisles demonstrating his unique talent for tossing fans bags of peanuts behind his back, through his legs, and several at a time to multiple recipients. Roger said he needed to leave before the end of the show to be prepared to sell peanuts at Dodger Stadium the next day.
After taking the stage, Colletti recalled his underprivileged boyhood in Chicago in a house smaller than the Library Community Room. After growing up and falling in love with the game of baseball, mainly because of his uncles, Ned landed a job with the Chicago Cubs. After a very successful tenure, he parlayed it into a position as the General Manager of the San Francisco Giants before being hired by the Dodgers.
Mr. Colletti recalled being hired as the 10th GM of the Dodgers in 2005 and how he quickly traded for future fan favorite Andre Ethier, who was still playing in Triple A . Only a month later, Colletti signed former American League Batting Champion Nomar Garciaparra to a one-year contract and All Star outfielder Kenny Lofton to another agreement the next day. In 2006 Colletti brought former National League MVP Jeff Kemp and multi Cy Young Award-winner and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux aboard. It was an auspicious start to a stellar career as Dodgers GM.
Ned candidly admitted that his deals for pitcher Jason Schmidt and outfielder Andruw Jones didn’t work out so well and stated that when Jones showed up to Spring Training extremely overweight he had cause for worry. On the other hand, Colletti defended his signing of Juan Pierre and Manny Ramirez and traced how much they had done to rebuild the Dodgers brand again at a time it was needed.
Ned Colletti spoke highly of former Managers Joe Torre and Don Mattingly, two of his managerial hires, as well as the importance of obtaining noteworthy Dodgers players like Hiroki Kuroda, Chan Ho Park, Matt Kemp, Rafael Furcal, and Shane Victorino. He also heaped high praise on current Manager Dave Roberts, especially for his ability to handle big egos.
Surprisingly, Ned emphasized his respect and admiration for Frank McCourt, both as a businessman and negotiator, although he still touched upon the messiness of the divorce and the awkwardness of the wresting of the ownership of the team by Major League Baseball. In his descriptions of the negotiations for the contracts, Colletti emphasized the importance of preparation and research.
Colletti revealed insights of his behind-the-scenes dealings with many players including Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke. and Yasiel Puig, while also outlining recent Dodgers highlights under the new ownership of the Guggenheim Baseball Management and Lakers’ legend Magic Johnson who paid $2.1 billion for the team, Ned also recalled many of the major negotiations and player moves that were made in helping to lead the Dodgers to five straight National League West titles. He also correctly predicted that the Dodgers would make the postseason this year, a foretelling that was proven correct in a matter of days.
Poignantly, Ned recalled how some of the Dodgers losses stay with him more than the victories and reflected on times still being up at 3:30 in the morning listening to Frank Sinatra after a heartbreaking loss. Ned felt it was time to retire from the GM’s job when his contemporary counterparts in San Diego and San Francisco knew it was their time to do so.
After a stirring Q & A with the audience, during which he praised the newfound maturity and calmness of Yasiel Puig in the batter’s box, he applauded the acquisition of Manny Machado to fill in at shortstop for the injured Corey Seager and remarked about the continued pitching brilliance of ace Clayton Kershaw. Ned also astutely pointed out that rookie pitcher Walker Buehler is “the one to watch.” Colletti’s advice couldn’t have been more accurate as the young righthander propelled the Dodgers into the National League Division series by stymying the potent Colorado Rockies with a one hitter through 6 innings in a tiebreaker game at Dodger Stadium on October 1.
In closing, Colletti declared that the Dodgers have the most talent in the National League and that he also expects them to reach the World Series again this year. Soon it will be known if Ned is right on the mark again with that prediction. Councilmember Bob Joe thanked Ned and Mark and offered a commemorative South Pasadena coin to Ned. A drawing for doorprizes provided by the Dodgers and Mark Langill was conducted for more than 20 lucky winners, After that, generously and graciously, Colletti and Langill walked to the book sale table and posed for pictures, signed books and conversed with their many fans, both new and old, still in attendance.