LASORDA PASSES AWAY, LEAVING LASTING LEGACY
Ink Free News / Sports on Friday, January 8, 2021
LOS ANGELES – Tommy Lasorda, the fiery Hall of Fame manager who guided the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series titles and later became an ambassador for the sport he loved during his 71 years with the franchise, has died. He was 93.
The Dodgers said Friday that he had a heart attack at his home in Fullerton, California. Resuscitation attempts were made on the way to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday.
Lasorda had a history of heart problems, including a heart attack in 1996 that ended his managerial career and another in 2012 that required him to have a pacemaker.
He had just returned home Tuesday after being hospitalized since Nov. 8 with heart issues.
Lasorda attended the Dodgers’ Game 6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Oct. 27 in Texas that clinched the team’s first World Series title since 1988.
“It feels appropriate that in his final months, he saw his beloved Dodgers win the World Series for the first time since his 1988 team,” commissioner Rob Manfred said.
Lasorda had served as special adviser to team owner and chairman Mark Walter for the last 14 years, and maintained a frequent presence at games sitting in Walter’s box.
“He was a great ambassador for the team and baseball, a mentor to players and coaches, he always had time for an autograph and a story for his many fans and he was a good friend,” Walter said. “He will be dearly missed.”
Lasorda may have been an international figure in baseball, but had ties to the Warsaw community, partnering with an auto dealership. And on more than one occasion could be found catching a basketball game at the Tiger Den, watching the Kesler family perform.
Lasorda worked as a player, scout, manager and front office executive with the Dodgers dating to their roots in Brooklyn.
He compiled a 1,599-1,439 record, won World Series titles in 1981 and ’88, four National League pennants and eight division titles while serving as Dodgers manager from 1977-96.
He was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1997 as a manager. He guided the U.S. to a baseball gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Lasorda was the franchise’s longest-tenured active employee since Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully retired in 2016 after 67 years. He drew standing ovations when introduced at games in recent years.
“There are two things about Tommy I will always remember,” Scully said. “The first is his boundless enthusiasm. Tommy would get up in the morning full of beans and maintain that as long as he was with anybody else. The other was his determination. He was a fellow with limited ability and he pushed himself to be a very good Triple-A pitcher. He never quite had that something extra that makes a major leaguer, but it wasn’t because he didn’t try.”
Lasorda often proclaimed, “I bleed Dodger blue” and he kept a bronze plaque on his desk reading: “Dodger Stadium was his address, but every ballpark was his home.″
As a pitcher, Lasorda had a modest career at the major league level, going 0-4 with a 6.48 ERA and 13 strikeouts from 1954-56.
Born Thomas Charles Lasorda on Sept. 22, 1927, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, his pro career began when he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an undrafted free agent in 1945. He missed the 1946 and ’47 seasons while serving in the Army.
Lasorda returned in 1948 and once struck out 25 in a 15-inning game. In his next two starts, he struck out 15 and 13, gaining the attention of the Dodgers, who drafted him from the Phillies. He played in Panama and Cuba before making his major league debut on Aug. 5, 1954, for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Although he didn’t play in the 1955 World Series, he won a ring as a member of the team.
Lasorda pitched for the Dodgers for two seasons before the Kansas City Athletics bought his contract. He was traded to the Yankees in 1956 and sent down to the Triple-A Denver Bears before being sold back to the Dodgers in 1957. During his time with the Bears, Lasorda was influenced by manager Ralph Houk, who became his role model.
“Ralph taught me if that if you treat players like human beings, they will play like Superman,″ Lasorda said in his 2009 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.″
Lasorda stayed on with the Dodgers as a scout after they released him in 1960. That was the beginning of a steady climb through the Dodgers’ system that culminated in his 1973 promotion to the big-league staff under longtime Hall of Fame manager Walter Alston.
Lasorda spent four seasons as third base coach while considered to be the heir apparent to Alston, who retired in September 1976.
Lasorda took over and his gregarious personality was in stark contrast to his restrained predecessor. Lasorda was known for his enthusiasm and outspoken opinions about players. He would jump around and pump his arms in the air after Dodgers victories and embrace players in the dugout after home runs or other good plays.
In L.A., Lasorda found many of the players he had managed in the minors, including Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Bobby Valentine and Bill Buckner.
As beloved as Lasorda was publicly, behind the scenes he was known for cussing a blue streak with reporters, rendering many of his quotes unusable.