Valentine – a colorful figure himself – agreed with this idea but emphasized Lasorda’s role as a visionary who saw far beyond the hills above Dodger Stadium. He has held internships around the world, learned Spanish, and championed players like Fernando Valenzuela, one of Mexico’s first baseball stars, and Hideo Nomo, Japan’s first MLB star.
For Valentine, Lasorda followed the lineage of Branch Rickey, the Hall of Fame leader of the Dodgers and other teams who brought Jackie Robinson to the majors and created a blueprint for the modern farming system.
“Tommy wore the baton to do things differently,” Valentine said. “He was an old Italian who had old Italian ways, but somehow, with a high school education, he knew the world was changing and baseball had to change with him.
Perhaps Lasorda’s deepest legacy is how he changed the role of manager. While Alston could be distant and taciturn, Lasorda was a flawless cheerleader to his players, creating an environment where young players thrive and motivating players as little as possible.
The 1988 World Series, against the massive Oakland Athletics, was Lasorda’s masterpiece. The Dodgers stole the opener on Kirk Gibson’s spellbinding hometown, and pitcher Orel Hershiser topped the A’s twice. But their other win, in Game 4, was all of Lasorda, whose patchwork lineup had fewer home runs than Jose Canseco of Oakland had on his own.
On NBC’s pre-game show, Bob Costas praised the Dodgers’ throws, but called their roster “one of the weakest ever to take the field for a World Series game” . Lasorda, who was watching in the clubhouse, shook the walls with a gunfire of grievances.