VERO BEACH, Fla. -- In the lone night game on their Grapefruit League slate, the Dodgers took the opportunity to honor a man who, in the twilight of his career in 1982, came out of retirement as a coach and served as a pinch-hitter. In seven pinch-hit at-bats, he had three hits, the last of which was career pinch-hit No. 144, which was a Major League record at the time.
On Tuesday night, Manny Mota became the fourth legend to be honored during Spring Training, joining Maury Wills, Steve Garvey and John Shelby, as the Dodgers continue to say thank you to their fans, legendary players, coaches, managers, executives and local officials for six decades at Dodgertown.
Mota, recognized throughout Vero Beach for the bicycle that he rides around Dodgertown every day, rode into Holman Stadium on a bike before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to the man who surpassed him as the Major League's all-time pinch-hit leader, former Dodger Lenny Harris.
"I have so many great memories of Vero Beach," said Mota. "I've enjoyed every second, every minute and every hour of every day here."
Mota recalled riding around in a golf cart with former owner Walter O'Malley and playing pool with Walter Alston as two of his fondest Dodgertown memories. His now famous bicycle was sent to the Dominican Republic last year to be auctioned off for the Manny Mota International Foundation, but on Tuesday night, he said it would be coming back to the Dodgers, where it could be placed in the team's archives.
The 69-year-old has spent nearly four decades in the Dodgers organization, including 29 years as a coach, the longest such tenure in Los Angeles Dodgers history. He played parts of 13 seasons with the team and had a lifetime batting average of .304 during a 20-year playing career. He was a National League All-Star in 1973 when he led the NL with a .351 first-half batting average.
Mota has taken part in five World Series with the Dodgers, including the championship seasons of 1981 and 1988. He is known throughout his native Dominican Republic for the incredible charitable work that he does through his foundation, helping thousands of youngsters each year. In fact, the main field at the team's academy in the Dominican, Campo Las Palmas, is named after the legendary pinch-hitter.
"On behalf of my family, my foundation and the people of the Dominican Republic, I'd like to thank the Dodger organization for this honor," he said. "It will be a night I will always remember."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.