LOS ANGELES — Manny Mota on Saturday was the sixth player to be inducted into the “Legends of Dodger Baseball” at Dodger Stadium. The pregame ceremony was filled with gratitude and mutual appreciation.
“I don’t consider myself a legend,” Mota said Saturday. “I consider myself a player who, with everything that happened on the field, gave 100 percent.”
During the ceremony, a video featured Fernando Valenzuela, Mike Scioscia, Orel Hershiser, Steve Sax, Steve Garvey, Pedro Martínez, Albert Pujols, and Kirk Gibson congratulating Mota. An elongated version also includes a few stories.
Hershiser and Garvey were also present for the ceremony, as was Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrín and former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley. Adrián Beltré was there as well, delivering one of the classic blue tricycles that Mota would ride around the complex during spring training both in Vero Beach and at Camelback Ranch.
Garvey, Don Newcombe, and Valenzuela in 2019 were the first to be inducted into the “Legends of Dodger Baseball,” which includes a plaque on permanent display at Dodger Stadium. Wills and Gibson were inducted last year. Mota was the sixth inductee on Saturday, and Hershiser will be the seventh on July 29.
Mota had the most specialized role of the group as a player, playing only 67 innings in the field in his last five full seasons. But his pinch-hitting prowess was unmatched, setting a record with 150 pinch-hits that stood for 22 years before Lenny Harris surpassed him.
Walt Alston and Tommy Lasorda had vastly different personalities, but both relied on Mota to hit in key situations. Mota appeared in 10 postseason games, all with the Dodgers, and all as a pinch-hitter. He was 3-for-8 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt, and a double off the wall that keyed a ninth-inning comeback in Game 3 of the 1978 NLCS in Philadelphia.
“They gave me lots of confidence,” Mota said of his Dodgers managers. “And I appreciated it because they trusted me.”
That’s not to undersell Mota’s overall abilities as a player. He played 20 seasons in the majors, including for the Giants, Pirates, and Expos before getting traded to Los Angeles during the 1969 season. Dodgers general manager Al Campanis acquired Mota and Wills — the latter back for his second stint in LA — from Montreal for Ron Fairly and infielder Paul Popovich.
“That was the only way Montreal could make the deal is if they threw me in, so Maury brought me here,” Mota said Saturday. “Thank you to Maury, to Mr. Campanis for bringing me to the organization. I’ve enjoyed every minute, every second. LA is my home away from home.”
Mota was a semi-regular outfielder in his first five seasons with the Dodgers, hitting at least .305 every year, and making the All-Star team in 1973. Overall with the Dodgers he hit 315/.374/.391 with a 118 wRC+, his batting average the second-best in Los Angeles Dodgers history for anyone with at least 2,000 plate appearances, behind only Mike Piazza.
After the 1979 season, Mota had a choice entering his age-42 season. He could have continued playing for a few years as a designated hitter in the Dominican Republic. Or he could stay with the Dodgers as a coach. Mota said Saturday that he opted for the latter so he could stay in the organization.
In some ways, Mota got the best of both worlds, because even after retirement the Dodgers activated him twice more. He was 3-for-7 as a pinch-hitter in September 1980, and one last plate appearance on September 1, 1982, grounding out against Jim Kaat.
Mota was a hitting coach and first base coach with the Dodgers in the 1980s, and as noted in the video above was the first to greet Gibson after his home run to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
Mota also broadcasted for the Dodgers and has held many roles in the organization for over five decades. He was asked on Saturday if, all these years later, he was surprised to still be with the Dodgers.
“I’m surprised to be alive,” the 85-year-old Mota quipped.