If you wanted to be known and seen in the 1960s, the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles was for you.
Every US president from Herbert Hoover to Richard Nixon stayed there. The Rolling Stones were hanging by the pool.
The hotel was best known for its nightclub, Cocoanut Grove, which featured the biggest names of the year including Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Marilyn Monroe and The Supremes.
Tom Lasorda, then a young and aspiring baseball manager, loved going to the Grove. He became the best friend of the hotel’s catering manager, Eddie Minasian.
Minasian was working for the Ambassador on June 5, 1968, the night US Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Minasian and Karl Uecker, a maitre d ‘, were responsible for accompanying Kennedy through the hotel kitchen immediately after winning the Californian elementary school. There, near the pantry, Sirhan Sirhan took out a .22 caliber and began firing.
Minasian and Uecker flew towards Sirhan and slammed him against a table, but the shots continued.
Kennedy was pronounced dead 26 hours later.
Zack Minasian remembers waking up to the news on TV, seeing reports that five more were shot, and not knowing if his father was one of them. His father called the police station at 4 a.m. and said he needed to make a statement and assure his son that he was okay.
“That experience changed his life forever,” said Minasian. “He was never the same. He never talked about it. Not a single word for me. Not a single word.
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“There have been many conspiracy theories that there was more than one shooter. Tommy (Lasorda) suggested he maybe leave the state. He started in 1970, moved to St. Louis and never said why. Maybe he knew something, I don’t know. It didn’t make sense.
“But something certain made my father leave quickly.”
Eddie Minasian moved to Chicago in 1972, running the Continental Plaza, which is located in the Westin Hotel on Michigan Ave. transformed, and befriended the boy scouts and baseball teams who often stayed at the popular hotel. He also opened Ditka’s restaurant. He died in 1990 at the age of 59.
Now, more than half a century later, responsible is a relationship that began with Lasorda and Eddie Minasian and extended to Minasian’s teenage son Zack and young Dodgers outfield prospect Bobby Valentine in the summer of 1968 Production of one of the first baseball families of this generation.
Zack and Barbara, his wife of 47, have three sons in baseball. Perry is the new general manager of the Los Angeles Angels. Zack is the Pro-Scouting Director of the San Francisco Giants. Calvin is the clubhouse and equipment manager for the Atlanta Braves. And the eldest son, Rudy, is a Chicago lawyer helping former gamblers with estate planning.
“Without Tommy and Bobby, the 69-year-old Minasian said,” I’m not sure if either of us is ever in baseball. You opened the door for me and that gave my sons the opportunity to do so. We owe them everything. ”
The Minasian baseball pedigree began in 1966 when the Los Angeles Dodgers hired Lasorda to manager their summer rookie league team in Ogden, Utah. Lasorda needed someone to help run his clubhouse. He picked Eddie Minasian’s 13-year-old son Zack, who had his summer off.
They spent the next three summers together, staying at the Ben Lomond Hotel in Ogden for $ 1 a night. In the summer of 1968 came Valentine, a hot outfield prospect from Southern California. Valentine and Lasorda forged a father-son relationship, while Valentine and Minasian became best friends.
When Valentine was recruited to Southern California, he met Eddie Minasian a few years earlier at Cocoanut Grove. On his recruiting trip, Southern gave Cal Valentine a date and directed her to go to the back door of the Cocoanut, where Minasian led him to a front row table to see The Supremes.
“Everyone knew Eddie,” said Valentine. “He ran the place. And it was the right place. Everyone connected with the Dodgers went there. Tommy tried to be someone. It really all started here. ”
It was the summer of ’68 that Lasorda led an Ogden team that included Steve Garvey, Bill Buckner, Tom Paciorek, and Valentine that became legendary in Dodger folklore.
“We had these terrible bus rides of 10 to 12 hours,” said Minasian. “When we drove to a rest stop, Tommy told me to go to the restaurant and tell them we had 25 people on the bus. I would go in and tell them if you offered me and my manager a free meal we would eat there.
“If they refused me, I would get back on the bus and say, ‘Sorry folks, they are closing’ and go to the nearest truck stop a couple of hours away and do the same. It went on like this all summer. ”
After the 1968 season, they went their separate ways. Valentine went to the big leagues with the Dodgers. Lasorda was promoted to AAA manager of the Dodgers’ Class in Spokane, Washington. And Minasian graduated from high school, worked two years as the Dodger’s bat boy, and planned to become Lasorda’s clubhouse manager in the Dominican Republic in the winter of 1973, then stop in Chicago to see his parents when he met Barbara at a church on social . He never made it to the Dominican. Six months later, he married Barbara, moved to Chicago, and started selling retail packaging products.
It was 1988 when the Texas Rangers traveled to Milwaukee with Valentine as their manager and Minasian met him for lunch. Minasian admitted that at work he was upset and open to change. Valentine told him about a job opportunity. He was able to run his new restaurant in Arlington, Texas for a few minutes, but it was about to open for the visiting clubhouse manager. He would be perfect.
Minasian jumped on it. He flew to Texas and bought a house without his wife even seeing it. Back to Chicago. Load the van with the four children. And wanted to renew his first love in a baseball clubhouse.
“I think back to how it all came together,” he said. “How blessed are we? If Bobby and (former Rangers GM) Tom Grieve hadn’t offered me this job, I don’t know what I would have done. ”
Without Valentine, there might be no Minasian involved in baseball today. He was the one responsible for getting Minasian back into baseball, and when Minasian was working in the clubhouse, the kids were taking full advantage of their surroundings.
“I think these children were born to be successful,” says Valentine. “You were fortunate to be born to a spectacular mother and father. And because of her father’s relationship with Tommy, I met Zack. “