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Dodgers Win Torre’s Farewell

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The Dodgers ended a season full of missed potential on a high, celebratory note. This afternoon’s 3-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, while promoted as Fan Appreciation Day, ended up being much much more.

Sure, it was the Dodger season’s final ballgame: Ted Lilly (10-12) dominated Arizona hitters for seven innings (1ER, 9K,) Hong-Chih Kuo saved his twelfth Dodger victory, and Matt Kemp’s two-run home run (his fifth home run in as many days) was the difference on the scoreboard. However, the day was more grand than box score facts.

Joe Torre ended three years managing the Dodgers the same way he started it: with a victory. The Dodgers 80th win of the season was the 2,326th of Torre’s career, good for fifth on the all-time list.

“I really made up my mind that I was going to enjoy everything, and the win made it sweeter,” said Torre on his approach to the day. “I thank Teddy [Lilly] for being the winning pitcher, because I won my first game here -- that’s pretty good bookends.”

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The game was also the last for 41 year-old catcher Brad Ausmus, who ended an 18 season career in which he caught 1,938 games. On the day he hit a double and single. After reaching base in the eighth, the retiring catcher was pulled for a pinch runner, exiting the game to a greater ovation than he would’ve expected.

“The fans were especially nice to me today, for a guy who’s only been here two years, and in very limited duty,” said Ausmus.

Torre, a former catcher himself, had much praise for Ausmus. “He’s been a special guy to get to know. The fact that someone who was going to retire before this year had the motivation to get back into playing shape after the back surgery, that tells you a lot about his character.”

In addition to exits with fanfare, one of the Dodgers seemingly-firm records was broken by a pitcher who hopes to be around next year. All-Star Hong-Chih Kuo’s scoreless ninth inning dropped his ERA to 1.20, a single-season franchise low for a minimum 50 innings pitched, unseating Eric Gagne.

“It feels good,” said Kuo. “I’m just happy to have the opportunity to pitch regularly.”

The day’s celebration took odd shape in the middle of the seventh inning, and again an inning later. Actor David Hasselhoff treated the crowd to a version of “God Bless America” that would’ve even played well in Frankfurt. Then, while Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” echoed over the PA in the eighth, The Hoff could be seen dancing and singing atop the Diamondbacks dugout alongside with the air-guitaring 20something man most refer to as The Don't Stop Believing Guy. This earned the super-duo a standing ovation.

Ultimately, the day was Torre’s, and it was a wonderfully positive celebration for a guy who considers himself an an optimist.

“That’s my nature,” he said. “I usually figure out that the opposition tells me what I can’t do, I just want to try to tell people what we can do if we work hard enough. That’s the kicker there -- ‘work hard enough.’”

Torre plans to continue to work hard in baseball, but does believe he’ll return to manage another club. “I’m certainly not looking for it, and I don’t anticipate it.” Though weighing broadcast and business-side baseball options, his immediate plans are the only he’s decided: “dinner with the family tonight.”

The hot-hitting Matt Kemp expressed his gratitude for being managed by Torre, especially the successes of the previous two seasons. “It was definitely a great time,” he said. "We made the playoffs, deep into the playoffs, two times in a row.”

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Torre considers his time in Los Angeles a definite success. “It’s been a wonderful experience for me. For only being some place three years, that was quite a reception. It was a very special, satisfying day for me.”

Known for being a success off the field as well, Torre offered up a theory as to how that’s been the case.

“You’d like to think you were fair with everybody. That’s something I hope people feel because I tried to be and I probably wasn’t always successful. You can’t treat everybody the same because they’re all different, but I think fairness is the best you can do.

“I just hope that in going down this road, I touched more people in a positive way than a negative way.”

Follow Caleb Bacon on Twitter @thecalebbacon.

Additional reporting by Jimmy Bramlett.

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