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Legendary USC baseball coach dies at 91

1/7/2006

LOS ANGELES -- Rod Dedeaux was a colorful character and a
remarkable baseball coach.

Dedeaux, who guided Southern California to a record 11 NCAA
baseball championships and helped mold such major league greats as
Mark McGwire, Randy Johnson and Tom Seaver, died Thursday. He was
91.

Dedeaux headed a thriving trucking business and he once said of
his reported $1 annual salary at USC: "I always say everyone gets
paid what they're worth. I could cash my check on the bus."

A twinkle in his eye, Dedeaux was quick with a quip.

• On friend Casey Stengel's often indecipherable speech:
"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 longtime pal Tommy 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 his two-game major league career: "I had a cup of coffee
with no sugar in it."

Dedeaux, who coached the Trojans for 45 years before retiring in
1986, died in suburban Glendale of complications from a Dec. 2
stroke, the school said.

Nearly 60 USC players under Dedeaux went on to big league
careers, including Dave Kingman, Fred Lynn and Roy Smalley.

"Rod Dedeaux was one of a kind. I consider myself fortunate
enough to have been his friend," Seaver said through New York Mets
spokesman Jay Horwitz. "He never forgot you. Even though I was
only there for one year, it seemed like I played for him for 10 or
20 years. There's no one who has ever been like him."

Dedeaux had a record of 1,332-571-11, the most wins in Division
I history until Cliff Gustafson of Texas surpassed him in 1994.
Dedeaux's record currently ranks seventh among Division I coaches.

He had winning seasons in 41 of his 45 years with the Trojans,
and during one stretch, USC went 37 years without a losing season.

"A giant has passed away," said USC athletic director Mike
Garrett, an outfielder for Dedeaux in 1965. "It leaves a huge void
in all of baseball."

The Trojans' national championships included five in a row from
1970-74 -- no other school has won more than two straight -- and they
won 28 conference titles under him. A number of baseball
publications named Dedeaux "Coach of the Century."

"Rod not only was college baseball's greatest coach, he was the
sport's and USC's greatest ambassador," said current USC baseball
coach Mike Gillespie, an outfielder on Dedeaux's 1961 national
championship team.

Hall of Fame manager Lasorda said he and Dedeaux were "real
good buddies" for 43 years.

"I'll cherish the days that I spent with him and traveled with
him," he told The AP Thursday night. "He was my mentor, he was my
idol, and he was my friend."

Lasorda said Dedeaux's family put a television in his room
Wednesday night showing the national championship football game
between USC and Texas. The Trojans lost 41-38.

"He loved USC very, very much," Lasorda said.

Dedeaux played three seasons for Southern California, and
appeared in two games at shortstop for the 1935 Brooklyn Dodgers,
going 1-for-4 with an RBI. A back injury ended his career several
years later.

In recent years, Dedeaux walked with the aid of a cane shaped
like a baseball bat that had the signatures of several Hall of
Famers.

He was a frequent visitor to Trojans' games at the field named
in his honor in recent years, attended every College World Series
since retiring, and was a regular at Dodger Stadium. With a
mischievous grin, he called almost everyone "Tiger."

Dedeaux helped in the development of amateur baseball in the
United States and overseas. In 1964, he coached the U.S. Olympic
team when baseball was a demonstration sport, and guided the
American team, which included McGwire, to a silver medal in Los
Angeles 20 years later when the sport achieved medal status.

"Rod was a very meaningful person in my life, instrumental in
my becoming the player that I was and the person that I am. I loved
him a lot," McGwire said through his spokesman, Marc Altieri.

Dedeaux lent his expertise to Hollywood, serving as technical
director and consultant for the baseball movies "Field of Dreams"
and "A League of Their Own."

He founded Dart Transportation Inc. in the 1930s and it grew
into a million-dollar trucking business. He continued to show up
for work daily until recently.

He is survived by his wife, Helen; sons Justin and Terry;
daughters Michele and Denise; and nine grandchildren, including
current USC baseball player Adam Dedeaux.

Funeral services will be held Jan. 16 in Los Angeles. A memorial service will be held
next spring at Dedeaux Field.