There's a story that so brilliantly captures the doctrine of the Big Dodger in the Sky that you almost can't believe it. The Votive Candle Incident is too perfect. Too pat.Tommy has always been a good time, but nothing sums him up like these videos:
"Four or five of us are in Cincinnati," says Johnstone. "It's Sunday morning. We can walk over to the Catholic church, which is a short walk over to the stadium. Steve Garvey is there. Bill Russell. Burt Hooton I think was there. And myself. We're in the Catholic church. We walk in and sit in the back."
"One of the guys notices that John McNamara, the Reds manager, was sitting in the front pew up there on the right-hand side. We're sitting back on the left. Before the Mass is over, Lasorda is watching him and says, 'Russell, go see what he's doing.'
"Russell says, 'He was down there lighting a candle, skip.'
"Lasorda says, 'Show me. Which one did he light?'
"Russell says, 'The top spot, upper right.'" He pointed at McNamara's chosen votive.
"Lasorda says, 'You sure?'
"Lasorda walks up and he blows it out."
Johnstone continues, "Now, we go to the ballpark. The dugouts are pretty close in Cincinnati. You could hear each other. And by the second inning, Lasorda's yelling at McNamara, 'It isn't going to work, John! It isn't going to work!'"
When we evaluate the veracity of the Votive Candle Incident, we have to note some inconsistencies. When Lasorda tells the story, he and McNamara are alone in the church. Johnstone's version has half the Dodgers starting lineup there, in the same way fans retroactively claimed to be at Dodger Stadium when Gibson hit the home run.
Hooton insists he was not in the church, and he doesn't think it even happened. "I wouldn't put it past him," Hooton says, "but I don't think he's that irreverent."
In fact, the only trustworthy source on the Votive Candle Incident is McNamara, Lasorda's alleged victim, who now lives outside Nashville. When I remind him of the story, McNamara sighs. "Oh my god. Every time I'm with him he tells that story."
McNamara doesn't know if Lasorda blew out the candle. But his complaint goes deeper than that. "If I went and lit a candle, it wasn't for a win on the baseball field. It was for something else." Which goes to show we don't all pray to the same Big Dodger.
"Fucking Bevacqua..." I love it.