USC unveiled a new statue honoring legendary baseball coach Rod Dedeaux on Sunday, a day before the 11-time national champion would have turned 100 years old.
Dedeaux, a USC alumnus, collected 1,342 victories in over four decades at the helm of the program, turning it into arguably the most successful in collegiate baseball history. The former Major League baseball player and successful trucking magnate retired from coaching in 1986 and passed away at the age of 91 in 2006.
A diverse set of speakers that included former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, USC great and five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson, USC president C.L. Max Nikias, current USC baseball coach Dan Hubbs and athletic director Pat Haden shared their thoughts about Dedeaux’s legacy.
Hubbs began the ceremony by explaining the impact Dedeaux still has on the USC baseball program.
“I am so proud and humbled to be the head coach here because of the great men who’ve been associated with this program before me,” Hubbs said. “[This includes] the greatest Trojan of all time, Rod Dedeaux.”
The second-year coach then directed his comments to Dedeaux’s children: Justin, Terry, Denise and Michele.
“I can’t imagine what this place would be, or what college baseball would be, without your father,” Hubbs said. “I think it’s only fitting that from now on the first thing the fans will see when they walk through those gates is Coach Dedeaux welcoming them to Dedeaux Field.”
Nikias was appreciative of Dedeaux’s impact on not just the USC baseball program, but also the university as a whole.
“In the 134-year history of our university, very few people have had such a long and lasting impact on the University of Southern California community,” Nikias said. “Rod Dedeaux inspired our baseball players and enriched our campus spirit for more than half of the university’s history.”
Johnson, who played for Dedeaux between 1983 and 1985 before embarking on a 22-year Major League career, reflected on the coach’s relationship with his players and other USC students.
“Rod meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” Johnson said. “Not even just baseball players … the lives he touched [included] the student-athletes who went on to become successful businesspeople, successful baseball players.”
Johnson was adamant in his belief that Dedeaux touched lives outside of the USC baseball program.
“I truly believe this day should’ve happened a long time ago, but I’m very thankful it’s happening now,” Johnson said. “Without honoring someone who had such [an] impact on so many people, you don’t want those types of people to be forgotten. For that I’m very proud to be a Trojan.”
Lasorda, who managed the Los Angeles Dodgers to World Series titles in 1981 and 1988, was a close personal friend of Dedeaux’s. Lasorda recalled touching personal anecdotes about the former coach.
“It’s tough for me to come up here and talk about a man that I loved very dearly,” Lasorda said. “I held his hand the day before he passed on. For 40-some years I walked through the doors of the [Los Angeles Memorial] Coliseum with him, and I haven’t been back since. I said I’ll never go in there again without him.”
Though the two were only separated in age by 13 years, Lasorda spoke of Dedeaux as a father figure.
“I cannot talk about what he’s meant to me, what he’s meant to baseball, what he’s meant to the University of Southern California,” Lasorda said. “He will always be the greatest in my mind. I’ll never meet another like him, and I know God will never create another like him.”
Even after all of these speeches, perhaps it was Haden who was the most succinct in his praise of Dedeaux.
“The very first name, the unanimous pick, the greatest coach in USC history was Rod Dedeaux,” Haden said.
Alexa Girkout contributed to this report.