Legendary Former USC Baseball Coach Rod Dedeaux Dies
Jan. 5, 2006
LOS ANGELES - Legendary former longtime USC baseball head coach Raoul "Rod" Dedeaux, who led the Trojans to a record 11 national championships, coached nearly 60 future major leaguers and was an ambassador for baseball's international popularity, died Thursday (Jan. 5) in Glendale, Calif., of complications from a stroke that he had suffered on Dec. 2. He was 91.
Information on Dedeaux's funeral service will be announced soon. A memorial service will be held on campus at Dedeaux Field at a to-be-announced date this spring.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Rod Dedeaux Foundation, which promotes amateur athletics, at 1430 So. Eastman Ave., Los Angeles 90023.
Dedeaux is survived by his wife, Helen, sons Justin and Terry and daughters Michele and Denise, and nine grandchildren, including current USC freshman first baseman/outfielder Adam Dedeaux.
"A giant has passed away," said USC athletic director Mike Garrett, who was an outfielder for Dedeaux in 1965. "This is a tremendous loss to USC and the entire baseball community. It leaves a huge void in all of baseball. From Coach Dedeaux, I learned how to win and how important it was to win in any sport. For him, winning was a way of life."
Added current USC baseball head coach Mike Gillespie, who was an outfielder on Dedeaux's 1961 national championship squad: "Rod not only was college baseball's greatest coach, he was the sport'sand USC'sgreatest ambassador. His passing is felt by all Trojans. All of us in the USC baseball program mourn his loss and send our heartfelt feelings and prayers to the Dedeaux family."
USC President Steven B. Sample said, "Rod Dedeaux has been a part of USC for more than 70 years, as an alumnus, as a Trojan parent, and as a legendary baseball coach who mentored and inspired generations of young men, both on and off the field. He was beloved by fans, colleagues and other coaches, and he will be greatly missed."
In his 45-year tenure at USC (1942-86), Dedeaux led the Trojans to 11 College World Series crowns and 28 conference titles. He posted an overall collegiate record of 1,332-571-11 for a .699 winning percentage. He retired with more wins than any other college baseball coach (he currently ranks seventh among Division I coaches). After retiring, he served as USC's director of baseball.
In 1999, he was named "Coach of the Century" by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. As part of the 50th anniversary of the College World Series in 1996, Dedeaux was named the head coach of the All-Time CWS team by a panel of former World Series coaches, media and college baseball officials. In 1999, he was presented with keys to the city of Omaha (home to the College World Series).
Dedeaux was named Coach of the Year six times by the American Baseball Coaches Association and was inducted into the organization's Hall of Fame in 1970. He received the ABCA's Lefty Gomez Award in 1980 as "an individual who has distinguished himself among his peers and has contributed significantly to the game of baseball locally, nationally, and internationally." In 1989, he was awarded the U.S. Baseball Federation's W.P. "Dutch" Fehring Award of Merit for outstanding service.
Dedeaux helped develop more than 200 pro players and 59 major leaguers, including such top stars as Tom Seaver, Mark McGwire, Randy Johnson, Fred Lynn, Dave Kingman, Roy Smalley, Don Buford, Ron Fairly, Rich Dauer, Steve Busby, Jim Barr and Steve Kemp.
Legend has it that the glib, extroverted Dedeaux, who called everyone "Tiger" and wore the now-retired No. 1 jersey, coached at USC for an annual salary of $1. His teams were known not only for their stellar play on the field, including their penchant for late inning rallies, but for the fun they had while playing. His Trojans, who were spirited bench jockeys, sang "McNamara's Band" after every victory. Rookies had to take turns wearing a famous red wig on road trips.
In recent years, Dedeauxwho was a sought-after master of ceremonies and devoted much of his time to charitable, religious and community groupswalked with the aid of a cane shaped like a baseball bat; it was signed by numerous baseball Hall of Famers and even some U.S. Presidents.
Besides making a mark with the collegiate game, Dedeaux also spearheaded the development of amateur baseball nationally and internationally. He was instrumental in bringing baseball to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles as a demonstration sport and coached the silver medal-winning U.S. team. He also coached the U.S. amateur team that played in Tokyo in conjunction with the 1964 Olympics.
Dedeaux founded the USA-Japan Collegiate World Series in 1972. He served as Series Chairman from 1972 to 1984 and then was Chairman Emeritus. Dedeaux also was honored in May of 1996 by the Japanese government with the Fourth Order of Merit Cordon of the Rising Sun award.
Hollywood enlisted Dedeaux's expertise as well, inviting him to serve as a technical director and consultant for two highly successful movies: "Field of Dreams" and "A League of Their Own."
Dedeaux played baseball at USC and was a three-year letterman as the starting shortstop from 1933 to 1935, earning All-Coast honors his last two seasons and serving as team captain as a senior. USC won its first-ever conference title in 1935. He received his bachelor's degree in business in 1935 from USC, where he was president of the Delta Chi fraternity.
He played two games in the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1935 (going 1-for-4 at bat) before a back injury ended his playing career several years later. He was an All-Mid Atlantic League shortstop that season with the Dodgers' Dayton farm club, where he batted .360. He played with Hazelton in the New York/Pennsylvania League in 1936, but could not finish that season and sat out 1937 because of the back injury. He then played in 1938 and 1939 with the Pacific Coast League Hollywood Stars, Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres.
He was a charter member of the 1994 inaugural class of the USC Athletic Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the World Trade Hall of Fame in 1993, the Nicaraguan Sports Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Baseball Reliquary Shrine of the Eternals in 2005.
USC's baseball field was named after himDedeaux Fieldwhen it opened in 1974. Dedeaux was born on Feb. 17, 1914, in New Orleans, then moved to California as a youngster. He earned All-City honors as the starting shortstop for Hollywood (Calif.) High in 1930 and 1931.
ROD DEDEAUX'S COACHING RECORD AT USC
#Includes exhibition games
FUTURE MAJOR LEAGUE PLAYERS (59) COACHED BY ROD DEDEAUX AT USC
QUOTING ROD DEDEAUX
(On his life): "I don't know what the future holds, but I've definitely had a great past."
(On USC): "I've had a lifelong love affair with USC and a passionate one with USC baseball in particular."
(On coaching): "I always thought it was about getting the best players and staying out of the way, so as not to interfere with their development. I have a love of the game and I wanted my players to love it. A coach is like a teacher. There aren't that many hidden mysteries."
(On his formula for success): "First, you have to play smart, in baseball and business. If you learn to do things right all the time, it doesn't matter who you are playing or negotiating with. Secondly, stay loose. When we work, we work hard. But we have fun, too. A little clowning always helps."
(On adopting his style from Casey Stengel, his mentor): "Many years ago, I figured that Casey had the best brain in baseball. That was long before his success with the Yankees. It was always his philosophy that the ability to teach the game of baseball is the ability to sell it. If you believe that what you're doing is worthwhile, you'll succeed...People talked about Stengelese, but I understood every word. Of course, I'd occasionally wonder if there was something wrong with me because I was the only person in our group who did understand."
(On his reported $1 USC annual salary): "I always say everyone gets paid what they're worth. I could cash my check on the bus."
(On his major league career): "I had a cup of coffee with no sugar in it."
(On good friend Tom Lasorda): "I love the guy. But when people say we look alike and think we're brothers, it's really insulting because he's so ugly."
(On fellow Los Angeles coaching icon John Wooden, the legendary former UCLA men's basketball coach): "I think we have a mutual admiration society. He would send me a personal letter every time we won a championship, and I respected the way his teams played as much as he would let me know how much he respected the way we played. I think character, discipline, attention to details were important to us. Play sloppy and you lose. I never believed what Leo Durocher said about good guys finishing last, and I'm sure Coach Wooden didn't as well."
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID ABOUT ROD DEDEAUX
Tom Lasorda, former Los Angeles Dodgers manager: "Rod is amazing, one of a kind. No matter where we go, he never stops. He always maintains that enthusiasm. When the great Dodger in the sky finally summons him, they should send his body to the Smithsonian."
Mike Gillespie, current USC head coach: "Rod was quite a package. He was a great baseball mind. His knowledge of the game, his ability to teach the game, was the stuff of clinics. He was a master technician. And with the mental part of the game, I always felt we had a leg up on the opposition. He's the eternal optimist. That had to rub off on everyone. Everyone had to feel they were the best, because that's the way he felt and he expressed it. He'd say, `Hell, Tigers, if these guys were any good, they'd be Trojans.'...There's no question that Rod is the greatest college baseball coach of all time. As far as I'm concerned, there's God, there's Jesus and there's St. Rod...He's the most dynamic person I've ever known. What stands out in my mind is how much fun I had. He's a guy who's so clever, so witty, so shart that he makes it fun just to be around him. And he's the same guy whether we won or lost. He's the toast of the town in every town he's in."
The late Jim Murray, Los Angeles Times: "The University of Southern California baseball team is to the majors what the Mesabi range is to steel or the forest is to Weyerhausera seemingly limitless supply of basic ore or timber. Rod Dedeaux went to bat only four times in the big leagues. Nevertheless he probably should go to the Hall of Fame as a man who has done as much for the great game in his own way as Babe Ruth."
Tom Seaver, former USC and Hall of Fame major league pitcher: "The things I remember best about playing at USC are that we worked hard, learned a lot and had a really great time doing it. I learned more in one year at USC under Coach Dedeaux than I would have in two or three seasons in the low minors. I learned concentration and to stay in the game mentally."
Ron Fairly, former USC and major league player: "With Rod, you always knew you were going to win and have a good time. If you were to look in Rod's dictionary, I think you'd find several definitions for the word `Tiger.' He could compliment you with the way he said it or he could say it in a way that let you know you'd made a mistake. I also think that a lot of Stengel rubbed off on Rod. He could call a kid into his office for 10 or 15 minutes and the kid would come out feeling pretty good about himself, even if he had no idea what Rod had said."
Fred Lynn, former USC and major league All-Star outfielder: "Rod's a walking classroom in a uniform. He has a real interest in you as a person as well as a ballplayer. And when it comes to knowing baseball, he may be the best fundamentalist in the game."
Daryl Arenstein, former USC player on the 1971-72-73 College World Series championship teams: "I think what means the most to me is that I had an opportunity to play for Rod. I know people know how great a coach he was. He was a genius. But he really had a tremendous influence on my life, not just in those four years but to this day. I feel like he's been with me ever since I left USC."
Justin Dedeaux, Dedeaux's oldest son who played and coached for his father: "There was almost a feeling that it would take a miracle to beat us. We never thought we were out of a game. He was so optimistic that he wouldn't allow his teams to lose...My dad always liked to say, `Hey, my tastes are simple. All I demand is perfection.'"
The late Jim Brock, former Arizona State head coach: "There's no question Rod has done more for college baseball than anyone else in history. There aren't many legitimate legends around, but he is definitely one."
Jerry Kindall, former Arizona head coach: "When you played USC, you'd never get to a point where you really felt comfortable, no matter what the score was. You knew Rod would never let his guys give up. He played close to the vest. He had great athletes and he really motivated them."
Mark Marquess, Stanford head coach: "Everyone thinks that Rod just won because he had more talent. But he's a guy who could really coach. I don't think there's ever been anyone better at knowing when to get a pitcher out of a game. He really knew how to manage the game."