Photo: The Canadian Press
FILE – Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, left, argues with home plate umpire Fred Brocklander in the second inning of a National League baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Philadelphia, this Saturday September 6, 1986, archive photo. (AP Photo / Charles Krupa, file)
Tommy Lasorda watched from a sequel at Globe Life Field in Texas, watching the Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Surrounded by family and friends, Lasorda celebrated the team’s first championship in 32 years this October evening amid the coronavirus pandemic. While his mobility was slowed, his mind was still sharp.
Rightly so, it was the last game he had ever attended.
“He always said he wanted two things, live to be 100 and see another championship brought to the city of LA,” tweeted Justin Turner, Dodgers third baseman. prouder knowing he got to see the Dodgers at the top, where he knew we belong.
The Hall of Fame manager, loyal to the Dodgers for more than seven decades, died Thursday night after suffering a heart attack at his home in Fullerton, Calif., The team announced on Friday. Lasorda was 93 years old. He had just returned home on Tuesday after being hospitalized since November 8 for heart problems.
Lasorda was Baseball’s longest-running Hall of Fame alive – that honor now belongs to Willie Mays, who turns 90 in March.
Lasorda had a history of heart problems, including a heart attack in 1996 which precipitated the end of his managerial career and another in 2012 which required him to have a pacemaker.
“It seems fitting that in his final months he has seen his beloved Dodgers win the World Series for the first time since his team in 1988,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Lasorda spent 71 years in the Dodgers organization, starting as a player when the team was still based in Brooklyn. He then coached and became his best-known manager for 21 years in Los Angeles, leading the franchise to two World Series championships. After resigning in 1996, he became an ambassador for the sport he loved.
Alternately fiery, heartwarming, profane, and full of flair, Lasorda used to say, “I’m bleeding Dodger Blue.”
He was a motivating master among his players, always knowing the right amount of confidence or openness needed to induce stellar performances.
“In a franchise that has celebrated such great legends in the game, no one who wore the uniform embodied the Dodger spirit as much as Tommy Lasorda,” said Stan Kasten, team president and CEO.
Lasorda has served as a special advisor to team owner and chairman Mark Walter for the past 14 years, and has maintained a frequent presence at Walter’s seated box games.
Lasorda compiled a record from 1599 to 1439 as a manager from 1977 to 1996. He won World Series titles in 1981 and 1988, four National League pennants and eight division titles as a skipper.
Lasorda kept a bronze plaque on his desk saying, “Dodger Stadium was his address, but each stadium was his home.
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997 as a manager. He guided the United States to a baseball gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Lasorda was the franchise’s longest-serving active employee since Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully retired in 2016 after 67 years.
“There are two things about Tommy that I will always remember,” Scully said. “The first is his boundless enthusiasm. Tommy would wake up in the morning full of beans and keep him going as long as he was with someone else. The other was his determination. He was a guy with limited abilities and he pushed himself to be a really good Triple-A pitcher. He’s never really had that extra something that makes a major leaguer, but it’s not because he hasn’t tried.
As a pitcher, Lasorda had a limited career at the major league level, going 0-4 with a 6.48 ERA and 13 strikeouts from 1954-56.
He only made one start for the Dodgers – in 1955, the only year they won the crown in Brooklyn, he threw three wild shots against the Cardinals and was retired after the first inning.
Overall, he pitched eight games for the Dodgers and compiled a 7.62 GPA.
Who would have ever guessed then that he would end up meaning so much to the franchise?
Born Thomas Charles Lasorda on September 22, 1927, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, his professional career began when he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an undrafted free agent in 1945. He missed the 1946 and 47 seasons as a ‘he was serving in the army.
Lasorda returned in 1948 and once struck out 25 in a 15 innings game. In his next two starts, he struck out 15 and 13, catching the attention of the Dodgers, who drafted him from the Phillies. He played in Panama and Cuba before making his major league debut on August 5, 1954 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Although he did not play in the 1955 World Series, he won a ring as a member of the team.
Lasorda pitched for the Dodgers for two seasons but lost his spot on the roster when Brooklyn had to make room for another southpaw – youngster Sandy Koufax.
Kansas City Athletics bought Lasorda’s contract and was traded to the Yankees during the 1956 season. Sent to Triple-A Denver Bears, he was sold to the Dodgers in 1957.
Lasorda remained with the Dodgers as a scout after their release in 1960. It was the start of a steady rise through the Dodgers system which culminated in his promotion in 1973 to the Big League staff under the directed by Walter Alston, longtime Hall of Fame director.
Lasorda spent four seasons as a third base coach as he was seen as the apparent heir to Alston, who retired in September 1976. Lasorda’s 21 years as manager were second to Alston .
Lasorda’s gregarious personality was in stark contrast to his retained predecessor. He was known for his enthusiasm and candid opinions about the players. He would jump and pump his arms in the air after the Dodgers wins and kiss the players in the shelter after circuits or other good games.
In Los Angeles, Lasorda found many players he had coached in underage, including Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Bobby Valentine and Bill Buckner.
As publicly beloved as Lasorda is, he was known behind the scenes for glancing at reporters, rendering many of his quotes unusable.
Some of his most memorable rants live on the Internet, most notably the July 1982 one involving Kurt Bevacqua of the San Diego Padres, who called Lasorda “that fat little Italian?” after Dodgers pitcher Tom Niedenfuer was fined $ 500 for hating Joe Lefebvre, Bevacqua’s teammate.
Lasorda denied ordering Niedenfuer to hit Lefebvre while dropping a series of F bombs.
“If I ever did?” Lasorda said, his voice rising, “I certainly wouldn’t throw it at a hitter (expletive) .130 like Lefebvre or (expletive) Bevacqua who couldn’t hit the water if he fell from a boat ( oath).?
In 1978, Dave Kingman of the Chicago Cubs hit three home runs and led by eight points in an additional 10-7 victory over the Dodgers and a reporter asked Lasorda what he thought of Kingman’s performance.
“I think it was (expletive) (expletive). Put that in,? Said Lasorda. “He beat us with three (expletive) circuits. How can you ask me a question like that?
Lasorda was known for his friendship with Frank Sinatra and other Hollywood stars. Sinatra sang the national anthem on the opening day of the 1977 season to mark Lasorda’s debut as manager. The faux-wood paneled walls of Lasorda’s office were filled with autographed black-and-white photos of her famous friends, the framed glass stained with the red sauce of pasta served in large aluminum trays after games.
Lasorda’s appetite for winning and eating was equally voracious. His weight increased throughout his years as a manager, and he explained, “When we won games, I ate to celebrate. And when we lost parts, I ate to forget.?
Lasorda has managed nine National League Rookie of the Year winners, including Fernando Valenzuela, Steve Sax, Steve Howe, Mike Piazza, Eric Karros and Hideo Nomo.
“You have to know who to pat on the back, when to pat him on the back, when to kick him in the butt and when to pat him a little,” said Mike Scioscia, former Dodgers wide receiver and major. . league director. “And Tommy had that gift, knowing what the players needed.”
Lasorda has managed four All-Star games. He was serving as a third base coach in the 2001 game when he fell back while trying to dodge Vladimir Guerrero’s shattered bat barrel in a comedic scene.
In 1998 Lasorda became interim general manager after Fred Claire was fired in the middle of the season. He stepped down from that post after the season and was appointed Senior Vice President. Following the sale of the team in 2004 to Frank McCourt, Lasorda became the President’s Special Advisor.
He is survived by Jo, his wife for 70 years. The couple lived in the same modest house in Fullerton for 68 years. They have a daughter Laura and a granddaughter Emily. The couple’s son, Tom Jr., died in 1991 of complications from AIDS.