Tommy Lasorda

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Tommy Lasorda
Tommy Lasorda 1981.jpg
Lasorda at the White House in 1981
Pitcher / Manager
Born: (1927-09-22)September 22, 1927
Norristown, Pennsylvania
Died: January 7, 2021(2021-01-07) (aged 93)
Fullerton, California
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
August 5, 1954, for the Brooklyn Dodgers
Last MLB appearance
July 8, 1956, for the Kansas City Athletics
MLB statistics
Win–loss record0–4
Earned run average6.48
Strikeouts37
Managerial record1,599–1,439
Winning %.526
Teams
As player
As coach
As manager
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction1997
Election MethodVeterans Committee

Thomas Charles Lasorda (September 22, 1927 – January 7, 2021) was an American professional baseball pitcher and manager. He managed the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1976 through 1996. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 1997.

Lasorda played in MLB for the Dodgers in 1954 and 1955 and for the Kansas City Athletics in 1956. He coached for the Dodgers from 1973 through 1976 before taking over as manager. Lasorda won two World Series championships as manager of the Dodgers and was named the Manager of the Year of the National League (NL) twice. His uniform number 2 was retired by the Dodgers.

Playing career[edit]

Lasorda graduated from Norristown High School in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 1944.[1] He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an undrafted free agent in 1945 and began his professional career that season with the Concord Weavers of the Class D North Carolina State League.[2] He missed the 1946 and 1947 seasons because of a stint in the United States Army. He served on active duty from October 1945 until spring 1947.[3] Lasorda returned to baseball in 1948 with the Schenectady Blue Jays of the Canadian–American League. On May 31, 1948, he struck out 25 Amsterdam Rugmakers in a 15-inning game, setting a professional record, and drove in the winning run with a single.[4]

Lasorda with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, at his rookie season

The Brooklyn Dodgers drafted Lasorda from the Phillies organization in 1949.[5] The Dodgers sent him to the Greenville Spinners in 1949, and to the Montreal Royals of the International League in 1950. He pitched for Montreal in 1950 through 1954 and made his major-league debut on August 5, 1954, for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He made his only start for the Dodgers on May 5, 1955, but was removed after the first inning after tying a major-league record with three wild pitches in one inning and being spiked by Wally Moon of the St. Louis Cardinals when Moon scored on the third wild pitch. Lasorda was demoted after the game and never pitched for the Dodgers again.[6][7]

Lasorda with the Kansas City Athletics in 1956

Before the 1956 season, Lasorda was sold to the Kansas City Athletics,[8] Kansas City traded him to the New York Yankees for Wally Burnette in July 1956.[9] He appeared in 22 games for the Yankees' affiliate Triple-A Denver Bears in 1956–1957, and then was sold back to the Dodgers in 1957. During his tenure with the Bears, Lasorda was profoundly influenced by Denver manager Ralph Houk, who became Lasorda's role model for a major league manager.[1]

"Ralph taught me that if you treat players like human beings, they will play like Superman," he told Bill Plaschke in the biography I Live for This: Baseball's Last True Believer. "He taught me how a pat on a shoulder can be just as important as a kick in the butt."[10]

Lasorda returned to Montreal for the 1958 through 1960 seasons, but was released in July 1960.[11] He was the winningest pitcher in the history of the team (107–57). On June 24, 2006, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.[12][13] He ended his major league career with a 0-4 record and a 6.52 ERA in 26 games.[14]

Coaching career[edit]

Minor leagues[edit]

Al Campanis, the Dodgers' scouting director, hired Lasorda as a scout in 1960. In 1966, he became the manager of the Pocatello Chiefs in the rookie leagues, then managed the Ogden Dodgers from 1966 to 1968.[1] He became the Dodgers' AAA Pacific Coast League manager in 1969 with the Spokane Indians.[15] He remained manager of the AAA team when the Dodgers moved the farm club to the Albuquerque Dukes in 1972. His 1972 Dukes team won the PCL Championship.[16] Lasorda was also a manager for the Dominican Winter Baseball League team Tigres del Licey. He led the team to the 1973 Caribbean World Series title in Venezuela.[17]

Dodgers' third-base coach[edit]

In 1973, Lasorda became the third-base coach on the staff of Hall of Fame manager Walter Alston, serving for almost four seasons.[18] He was widely regarded as Alston's heir apparent and turned down several major league managing jobs elsewhere to remain in the Dodger fold. He also later returned to the third-base coach's box on a temporary basis while managing the Dodgers.[19]

Manager of the Dodgers[edit]

1980 Los Angeles Dodgers #2 Tommy Lasorda road jersey

Lasorda became the Los Angeles Dodgers manager September 29, 1976, upon Alston's retirement.[1] He managed the final four games of the 1976 season.[20] Lasorda compiled a 1,599–1,439 record as Dodgers manager, won two World Series championships (1981 and 1988), four National League pennants, and eight division titles in his 20-year career as the Dodgers manager.[21] His 16 wins in 30 NL Championship games managed were the most of any manager at the time of his retirement. His 61 postseason games managed ranks fourth all-time behind Bobby Cox, Casey Stengel (all of whose games took place during the World Series in baseball's pre-divisional play days), and Joe Torre. He also managed in four All-Star games.[22]

Lasorda managed nine players who won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. The winners came in two strings of consecutive players. From 1979 to 1982, he managed Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Howe, Fernando Valenzuela, and Steve Sax. From 1992 to 1995, he managed Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raúl Mondesí, and Hideo Nomo.[14] Before retiring during the 1996 season, he had also managed that year's eventual winner, Todd Hollandsworth.[23]

Lasorda's final game was a 4–3 victory over the Houston Astros, at Dodger Stadium, on June 23, 1996. The following day, he drove himself to the hospital complaining of abdominal pains, and in fact he was having a heart attack. He officially retired on July 29, 1996.[14] His 1,599 career wins ranked 22nd all-time in MLB history at the time of his death.[22]

Managerial record[edit]

Lasorda with President George H. W. Bush in 1991
Team From To Regular season record Post–season record
G W L Win % G W L Win %
Los Angeles Dodgers 1976 1996 3038 1599 1439 .526 61 31 30 .508
Total 3038 1599 1439 .526 61 31 30 .508
Reference:[24]

After managing the Dodgers[edit]

Lasorda was named Vice-President of the Dodgers upon his retirement from managing in 1996. On June 22, 1998, he became the Dodgers interim General Manager upon the mid-season firing of Fred Claire.[25] After the season, he helped the Dodgers find a permanent replacement for Claire and was appointed as Senior Vice-President of the Dodgers.[26]

Tommy Lasorda at White House Tee Ball Initiative in 2007

Lasorda came out of retirement to manage the U.S. national team at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.[27] He led the Americans to the gold medal, beating favored Cuba, which had won the gold medal at the prior two Olympics. In doing so, he became the first manager to win a World Series championship and lead a team to Olympic gold.[28] Lasorda coached the 2001 All-Star Game as third base coach. While at the plate, Vladimir Guerrero lost his bat while swinging and it flew towards Lasorda, causing him to fall backwards. Lasorda was unharmed.[29]

Following the sale of the Dodgers to Frank McCourt in 2004, Lasorda was appointed Special Advisor to the Chairman where his responsibilities include scouting, evaluating, and teaching minor league players, acting as an advisor and ambassador for the Dodgers' international affiliations, and representing the Dodgers in public appearances and speaking engagements.[30]

During spring training in 2008, the Dodgers were invited to play a series of exhibition games in Taiwan. Dodger manager Joe Torre took a group of players with him for that series. The majority of the team remained behind in Florida to finish out the Grapefruit League season. Lasorda briefly came out of retirement to manage the team that remained in Florida while Torre was away.[31]

In 2011 an unnamed Dodger executive came up with the idea of having Dodger manager Don Mattingly ask Lasorda to be an honorary coach on his 84th birthday, against the San Francisco Giants.[32]

Honors and awards[edit]

Lasorda2retired.svg
Tommy Lasorda's number 2 was retired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1997.

Lasorda was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997[33] as a manager in his first year of eligibility. The Dodgers retired his uniform number (2) on August 15, 1997[34] and renamed a street in Dodgertown as "Tommy Lasorda Lane". In 2014, a new restaurant named "Lasorda's Trattoria" opened at Dodger Stadium.[35]

The University of Pennsylvania upgraded baseball field was named after Lasorda in 2020.[44]

Public persona[edit]

Lasorda was famous for his colorful personality and outspoken opinions regarding players and other personnel associated with baseball. He had a number of obscenity-filled tirades, some of which were taped and became underground classics, like his explosion over Kurt Bevacqua in 1982.[45] The most famous of these is his "Dave Kingman tirade" in 1978, in which Lasorda ranted at reporter Paul Olden, who asked him about Kingman hitting three home runs against the Dodgers that day.[46]

Lasorda in 2005

In 1996, Lasorda voiced the role of Lucky Lasorta, a Rough Collie commentating the baseball game in the film Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco. He made a cameo appearance in the movie Ladybugs (1992) alongside comedian Rodney Dangerfield. Lasorda portrayed the Dugout Wizard in the syndicated children's television show The Baseball Bunch.[47] His other television credits playing himself include Silver Spoons, Who's the Boss?, CHiPs, Hart to Hart, Fantasy Island, Hee Haw, Simon & Simon, Everybody Loves Raymond, and American Restoration.[48][49][50]

Lasorda partially owned the food company Lasorda Foods, which was known primarily for pasta sauces that Lasorda stated were based on a family recipe passed down to his wife, Jo.[51] In September 1989, the company became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Denver firm Discovery Capital Corp. Lasorda continued to own 10% of the restructured entity.[52] The parent company through which Lasorda maintained his stake in the Lasorda Foods, Lasorda Foods Holding Corp Inc., was initially based in Fountain Valley, California, before moving to Irvine and then Paramount. A Boca Raton, Florida-based company, Modami Services, acquired Lasorda Foods Holding Corp Inc. in August 1993. Lasorda and Lasorda Foods President Steven Fox, who together owned a majority of Lasorda Foods' stock, were paid in Modami shares.[51]

In June 2005, President George W. Bush asked Lasorda to serve as a delegate to the U.S. National Day at the World Exposition in Aichi, Japan.[53] In 2008, the government of Japan conferred upon Lasorda the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, which represents the fourth-highest of eight classes associated with the award. The decoration was presented in acknowledgment of his contributions to Japanese baseball.[54]

Prior to his death, Lasorda was the oldest living Hall-of-Famer, attaining that distinction after the death of Red Schoendienst on June 6, 2018.[55]

Personal life[edit]

Lasorda was second born of five sons. A practicing Roman Catholic, he and his wife Jo a Baptist were married in 1950. Lasorda would have a priest come to Dodger games on Sundays to offer Mass for Catholic players.[56] The couple met in Jo's hometown of Greenville, South Carolina while Lasorda was playing there for the Greenville Spinners. They resided in Fullerton, California, for more than 50 years and had two children. They named a gymnasium and youth center in memory of their son, Tom Jr., in Yorba Linda, California on September 7, 1997.[57][58] In 1991, Tom Jr. (known as "Spunky") died of complications related to AIDS.[59] Lasorda denied that his son was gay;[60] according to sportswriter Bill Plaschke, he insisted his son died of cancer.[61]

Lasorda was the godfather to Thomas Piazza, the younger brother of Major League Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, both of whom are also from Lasorda's hometown of Norristown, Pennsylvania. Thomas was named after Lasorda and it has been widely misstated by Steve Staats that Lasorda is Mike's godfather.[62] Lasorda was also the godfather to Alex Avila, a catcher with the Minnesota Twins. Alex's grandfather, Ralph Avila, is a former scout with the Dodgers and friend to Lasorda of over 50 years.[63] Alex's middle name of Thomas was given for Lasorda.[64]

On June 3, 2012, at age 84, Lasorda was hospitalized in New York City after suffering a heart attack. The heart attack was not considered to be overly serious.[65] On November 8, 2020, Lasorda was hospitalized for heart problems and was reported to be "in serious condition" in intensive care.[66][67] The Dodgers didn't make the announcement public about his hospitalization until a week later.[67] On December 1, 2020, Lasorda was taken out of the intensive care unit as his condition continued to improve.[68] After being released from the hospital on January 5, 2021, he entered sudden cardiac arrest at his home two days later and was rushed back to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead that night. He was 93.[69][70] Numerous buildings in Los Angeles were illuminated in blue in tribute to Lasorda, including City Hall, Staples Center, and the Banc of California Stadium; at Dodger Stadium, flags were flown at half-staff.[71]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Keith, Larry (March 14, 1977). "Tommy Lasorda: The new boss in L.A. bleeds Dodger blue - Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com". Vault.si.com. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  2. ^ Holaday, Chris (2016). Professional Baseball in North Carolina: An Illustrated City-by-city History, 1901-1996. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. ISBN 978-0786425532.
  3. ^ "MLB's men in uniform". FOX Sports. October 20, 2016. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  4. ^ Hugerich, Frank (May 31, 1948). "LaSorda Singles in 15th to Give Jays Victory Over Amsterdam". Schenectady Gazette. p. 14 – via Google News.
  5. ^ Edes, Gordon (February 29, 1996). "LASORDA: AGELESS DODGER". Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on January 8, 2021. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  6. ^ Mitchell, Houston (May 5, 2015). "Cinco de Mayo was a special day for Tommy Lasorda and Bo Belinsky". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  7. ^ icon, Facebook; icon, Twitter; icon, Email. "Happy 61st birthday to one of the best roster transactions in baseball history". MLB.com.
  8. ^ "28 Feb 1956, 28 - The Evening Sun at". Newspapers.com. February 28, 1956. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  9. ^ "20 Jul 1956, 26 - The Kansas City Star at". Newspapers.com. July 20, 1956. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  10. ^ Plaschke, Bill (2007). I Live for This: Baseball's Last True Believer. New York: Hughton Mifflin Co. p. 85.
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ "Hall of Fame baseball manager, Tommy Lasorda passes away". Latestnewssouthafrica.com. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  13. ^ Burnett, Richard (June 1, 2006). "Walkie-Talkie Lasorda". hour.ca. Archived from the original on August 24, 2006.
  14. ^ a b c Peters, Ken (July 30, 1996). "Lasorda Announces Retirement". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  15. ^ By (October 16, 2013). "Spokane Archives: Lasorda's Hiring | Indians". Milb.com. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  16. ^ "Lasorda is first inductee in Albuquerque baseball hall - MLB". ESPN. July 11, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  17. ^ Cadete, Primitivo (January 19, 2016). "MOTA, LASORDA Y OFFERMAN Mánagers campeones de Los Tigres del Licey | Hoy Digital".
  18. ^ Turnquist, Ryan. "Tommy Lasorda announces retirement". BaseballHall.org. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  19. ^ Robert Pace (October 20, 2016). "The most successful managers in Dodgers history". FOX Sports. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  20. ^ "30 Sep 1976, Page 53 - Albuquerque Journal at Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com.
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  22. ^ a b January 8, 2021 at 1:15 pm ET3 min read. "Tommy Lasorda dies: Hall of Fame manager and Dodgers legend dead at age 93 after suffering a heart attack". CBSSports.com. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  23. ^ "A timeline of the life of Tommy Lasorda, who died Thursday at 93". Los Angeles Times. January 8, 2021.
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  26. ^ "13 Sep 1998, 31 - The Daily Item at". Newspapers.com. September 13, 1998. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  27. ^ "The Olympic Team No Dream". CBSNews.com. Associated Press. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  28. ^ OlympicTalk. "Tommy Lasorda, only manager of World Series, Olympic champions, dies at 93 - OlympicTalk | NBC Sports". Olympics.nbcsports.com. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  29. ^ "He's Head Over Heels in Love With Baseball". Los Angeles Times. July 13, 2001.
  30. ^ Los Angeles Dodgers (August 15, 1997). "Lasorda named special advisor to chairman". Mlb.com. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  31. ^ Jackson, Tom (September 22, 2011). "Tommy Lasorda suits up on birthday". ESPN.com. Archived from the original on January 25, 2015. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  32. ^ "Tommy Lasorda suits as Los Angeles Dodgers coach on 84th birthday". Espn.go.com. September 22, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2013.
  33. ^ "Lasorda, Tommy-Baseball Hall of Fame". BaseballHall.org. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  34. ^ "Los Angeles Dodgers Executives". Losangeles.Dodgers.mlb.com. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  35. ^ Gray, Alysia. "New at Dodger Stadium: Tommy Lasorda's Italian Restaurant – NBC Los Angeles". Nbclosangeles.com. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  36. ^ "26 Nov 1970, 61 - Spokane Chronicle at Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com.
  37. ^ "8 Nov 1977, Page 11 - Redlands Daily Facts at". Newspapers.com. November 8, 1977. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  38. ^ "26 Oct 1977, 17 - Hattiesburg American at". Newspapers.com. October 26, 1977. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  39. ^ "11 Nov 1981, 17 - York Daily Record at". Newspapers.com. November 11, 1981. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  40. ^ "8 Nov 1988, 19 - The Daily Item at". Newspapers.com. November 8, 1988. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  41. ^ "3 Nov 1988, Page 14 - The Salina Journal at". Newspapers.com. November 3, 1988. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  42. ^ Staff (July 17, 2007). "Donovan Presented With United States Sports Academy Coaching Award". GatorZone.com. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
  43. ^ (6128) Lasorda In: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. Springer. 2003. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_5663. ISBN 978-3-540-29925-7.
  44. ^ Belgrad, Nicky (August 23, 2020). "Why was Penn's baseball field renamed for an MLB legend with no ties to Penn?". Daily Pennsylvanian.
  45. ^ "Padres history (June 30): Bevacqua vs. Lasorda begins". San Diego Union-Tribune. June 30, 2020.
  46. ^ "SI.com - Top 10 Most Embarrassing TV/Radio Interview Moments - Friday August 6, 2004". Sportsillustrated.cnn.com. August 6, 2004. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
  47. ^ Mark Bechtel (October 20, 1998). "1998 World Series Diary". Sports Illustrated. CNN. Retrieved January 3, 2013.
  48. ^ J.P. Hoornstra (May 15, 1988). "Tommy Lasorda was baseball's last celebrity manager – Daily News". Dailynews.com. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  49. ^ "Hollywood loved Tommy Lasorda too, letting him ham it up on TV and in movies". Los Angeles Times. January 8, 2021.
  50. ^ Varga, George. "Hot dog! Jason Mraz meet Tommy Lasorda!". mcall.com.
  51. ^ a b Woodyard, Chris (August 24, 1993). "Florida Company Plans to Acquire Lasorda Foods : Transactions: Modami Services, based near Dodgers training camp, did not disclose terms.". Los Angeles Times.
  52. ^ Galante, Mary Ann (September 27, 1989). "Lasorda Foods to Be Acquired by Denver Firm : Irvine Sauce Maker to Expand Product Line". Los Angeles Times.
  53. ^ "Tommy Lasorda: Special Advisor to the Chairman". Los Angeles Dodgers Official Website. MLB.com. Retrieved January 3, 2013.
  54. ^ "Lasorda honored by Japan", MLB.com, December 3, 2008.
  55. ^ "Red Schoendienst, Cardinals Star and Oldest Hall of Famer, Dies at 95 - The New York Times". Nytimes.com. February 2, 1923. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  56. ^ "Q&A: Baseball legend Tommy Lasorda is Catholic to the core". The Catholic Sun. March 20, 2014. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  57. ^ Lasorda biography – Los Angeles Dodgers Official Web site – MLB.com
  58. ^ "Lasorda chats with fans on birthday". mlb.com. September 22, 2009. Archived from the original on November 21, 2015.
  59. ^ Kettman, Steve (June 22, 2003). "Torn between two loves Lessons From a Life in and Out of Major-League Baseball". San Francisco Chronicle.
  60. ^ Kettmann, Steve (June 22, 2003). "Torn between two loves / Lessons from a Life in and Out of Major-League Baseball". SFGate. Hearst Communications, Inc. Reviewing Going the Other Way by Billy Bean, with Chris Bell
  61. ^ Gould, Timithie (November 15, 2007). "Baseball, through Tommy's eyes". lacanadaonline.com. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  62. ^ Reaves, Joseph A. (August 7, 2005). "Piazza returns draft favor, nearly 400 times over". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved November 6, 2007.
  63. ^ "Tommy Lasorda visits his godson, Alex Avila, in Tigers clubhouse". MLive.com. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
  64. ^ "Catching Up With MLB All-Star Alex Avila". NCR.
  65. ^ "Legendary Ex-Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda Hospitalized After Suffering Heart Attack". CBS Sports. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  66. ^ Gaydos, Ryan. "Tommy Lasorda, Hall of Fame baseball manager, hospitalized with heart issues". foxnews.com. Fox News Media, LLC. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  67. ^ a b "Tommy Lasorda's condition improves, former Dodgers manager remains hospitalized in OC". KABC-TV. December 1, 2020. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  68. ^ Bill Plunkett (December 2, 2020). "Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda continues to improve, moves out of intensive care". Orange County Register. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  69. ^ Burke, Don (January 8, 2021). "Tommy Lasorda, Dodgers icon, dead at 93". nypost.com. New York Post. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  70. ^ Muder, Craig (January 8, 2021). "Lasorda Embodied Spirit of the Game for a Lifetime". baseballhall.org. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  71. ^ Smith, Brook (January 9, 2021). "Dodgers: Los Angeles Lights Up Blue in Honor of Tommy Lasorda". Dodgers Nation. Retrieved January 10, 2021.

External links[edit]