In 1965, he was just a rookie enjoying his first months in
the Major Leagues. He had already checked off a few Major League firsts with
one swing of the bat, knocking a pinch-hit home run off the White Sox’s
Gary Peters for his first Major League hit a few weeks earlier. But now, he had a big first in front of
him, his first time facing the team he idolized as a child, the New York
I was 19 years old, catching
against him. He came up and I saw his shoes said ‘Mantle’ on them.
I got chills up and down my spine. ‘What am I doing here,’ I
thought. But it’s a part of living the dream.”
Lachemann’s dream started to shape at an early age, shadowing his big
brother Billy’s every move. His yearning to be near one of his closest
friends on the planet was the source for some of the best memories of his
childhood. It was also the foundation for his love of baseball.
When Billy and his friends would
flock to the local field to play pick-up baseball games on hot sunny afternoons,
it wasn’t rare to see Rene ride up on his bike or hop out of a stranger’s
car just to serve as a bat-boy for the game.
“I used to hitchhike to the
park,” Lachemann said. “It was a lot safer back then.”
It was during those days following
around Billy that Rene found the thing that most excited him on this planet.
It didn’t matter that his
Swiss-born parents still had no idea what baseball was, or that it would still
be a few years before professional baseball would make its way to the West
coast. Rene was enchanted by the game. And whether it meant watching the
Yankees on television at his Los
Angeles home while growing up, or hitchhiking just to
watch Billy play the game, wherever baseball was being played was where Rene
Lachemann wanted to be.
It is that same longing to be
around the game that brings Lachemann to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox as the
new hitting coach more than 40 years after signing his first big-league
“The Oakland A’s let me go. And it’s
something I didn’t feel the need to give up,” he said. “I
still feel like I can contribute something to this game.”
His contributions, though, are long
with his life-story reading like a script best told by an anchor on ESPN
Classic. In his time in baseball he has coached in four World Series. He
witnessed Bill Buckner’s infamous error in the 1986 World Series as a
coach of the Red Sox. He saw Kirk Gibson’s dramatic 9th inning
home run in the 1988 World Series and the earthquake during the 1989 World
Series both as a coach for the Oakland Athletics. He was the first manager of
the Florida Marlins. He was even able to see firsthand the historic home run
chase of 1998 as a coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I’m living a dream.
I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing. I’ve seen a great
amount of history. I’ve seen
Nolan Ryan’s 3,000th strikeout. I saw Sandy Koufax pitch.
I’ve seen a lot of great moments in this game,” he said.
Lachemann got his first taste of
professional baseball at the tender age of 15 when long-time Dodgers’
manager Walt Alston brought him aboard as a Dodgers’ bat-boy during the
1960 season. At the time, there was no player draft in professional baseball
and teams would woo high school players by giving them bat-boy status. He
stayed with the team in that capacity for three seasons before ultimately
signing a contract with the Kansas City Athletics in 1964.
“The money was there,”
he said of his decision to sign with the A’s over the Dodgers. “My
brothers had turned down money and gotten hurt. I didn’t want that to
happen to me.”
Signing with the A’s would
prove to be one of the best decisions of his life, as he’d meet life-time
friends Tony LaRusa and Dave Duncan while there.
“Me and Tony used to roam
together,” he joked. “But Dave and I were in competition as
catchers. We went back and forth battling. At one time I was ahead of him, and
then he’d be ahead of me. I’d move ahead of him and so on. Then I
hurt my arm, and it didn’t work out too good for me.”
his playing career proved to be short-lived, his baseball career was still in
its infancy. He noted some of the great managers who influenced him during his
playing career when describing his decision to give coaching a try.
try to pick people’s brains,” he said. “I watched Walt Alston
coach with the Dodgers. John McNamara managed me. You just keep
kept learning, and after a brief stint coaching in the Oakland A’s and
Seattle Mariners’ farm systems, he was given his first opportunity to
manage at the big-league level when the Seattle Mariners hired him on May 6,
1981.He immediately turned to his past when assembling his coaching staff,
hiring Duncan as his pitching coach.
two enjoyed modest success during the next two seasons before Duncan left to become the pitching coach for
the White Sox in 1983.
hated to let him go, but Tony was in Chicago
and offered him more money,” Lachemann said.
time in Seattle
wouldn’t last much longer as he was let go midway through the 1983 season
after compiling a 140-180 record in parts of three seasons.
He didn’t remain unemployed
long, though, catching on as the manager for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1984. But
a 67-94 campaign cost him his job after just one season.
With two failed managerial stints
behind him, Lachemann was brought on to be the Boston Red Sox third-base coach
in 1985 by McNamara. Thus beginning the most wildly successful, and often times
disappointing, period of his entire career.
Beginning with the Red Sox in 1986,
Lachemann coached in the World Series four times in five seasons. Each of the
four World Series provided classic moments which are still talked about to this
“You learn to respect (going
to the World Series). You start to think it’s easy, and then you never go
back again,” he said.
What didn’t prove easy for
Lachemann was winning the World Series. Ahead four games to two against the New
York Mets, his Boston Red Sox team was one out away from ending what at the
time was a 68-year World Series drought when disaster struck in the form of
Bill Buckner misplaying a routine groundball. The play ended up costing the Red
Sox the game, and the team lost the Series in seven.
“The Buckner thing was a
shame,” Lachemann said. “He played great throughout the year. For
them to put a burden on Buckner is a total disgrace to a guy who had nearly
3,000 hits and played terrific defense.”
moved on from Boston after that game, reuniting
with LaRusa and Duncan in Oakland
to coach one of the greatest hitting teams in baseball history. The team’s
mini-dynasty, featuring the “Bash Brothers,” managed to win three
consecutive American League Championships starting in 1988.
World Series title would elude Lachemann for a second time as his
squad would fall to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a World Series best remembered
for the game-one heroics of Kirk Gibson.
“It was still the first game
of the WS, and those guys kept getting hurt. So when you sit back and look at
it, we still had chances to win,” Lachemann said.
Athletics squad would return to the World Series for a second straight season
in 1989, and would take a two-games-to-none lead over the San Francisco Giants.
However, Lachemann would have to wait nearly two weeks to see his team finish
off the series as an earthquake during game three caused the series to be
delayed for ten days.
Athletics picked up right where they left off when play resumed on October 27
and capped off a series sweep with a 9-6 victory the next night. It was the
first and only World Series ring Lachemann has earned in his career, and he
still considers it to be his greatest moment in baseball.
you’re in this game, you’re in it to win the World Series.
I’ve been in four and won one. You work hard to win, and to be able to do
that in the earthquake year was incredible. That was a great team,” he
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.