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Tommy Lasorda

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Thomas Charles Lasorda

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1997

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[edit] Biographical Information

"I bleed Dodger blue and when I die, I'm going to the big Dodger in the sky." - Tommy Lasorda
"Guys ask me, don't I get burned out? How can you get burned out doing something you love? I ask you, have you ever got tired of kissing a pretty girl?" - Tommy Lasorda

[edit] Introduction

Tommy Lasorda was a famous manager and also pitched 14 seasons from 1945 to 1960, three in the Major Leagues (1954-1956) and 14 in the minors, losing two years to the military.

He was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1945 by Jocko Collins. He served in the United States Armed Forces for two years (1946-1947) (BR). He married Joan Miller on April 14, 1950. He had cups of coffee with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1954 and 1955) and Kansas City Athletics (1956) and was 132-104 in the minors (1945-1960). He tied the National League record by making three wild pitches in an inning on May 5, 1955.

After his playing career, he became a scout, minor league manager, coach, manager, general manager and Vice President, all in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. As a manager, in 21 seasons, he won seven division titles and proceeded to four World Series, winning two and losing two. His hobbies: home movies and good pasta.

"My heart bleeds Dodger blue," Lasorda has claimed, during his 35-plus years in the Dodgers organization.

[edit] Playing Career

Lasorda started in the Philadelphia Phillies chain with the Concord Weavers, going 3-12 for the last-place team in 1945. He then missed 1946 and 1947 due to military service. Returning to baseball, he looked like a promising pitcher on June 1, 1948, when, in a 15-inning game for the Schenectady Blue Jays (Canadian-American League, Class C), he struck out 25 Amsterdam Rugmakers, setting a since-broken pro record. He even drove in the winning run with a single. In his next two starts, he struck out 15 and 13, gaining the attention of the Dodgers, who drafted him from the Phillies chain and sent him to the Greenville Spinners in 1949.

Lasorda compiled a 107-57 (.652) record in nine years with the Montreal Royals of the International League, the Dodgers' top farm club, from 1950 to 1955 and 1958 to 1960. His best records were 17-8 in 1953 and 18-6 in 1958, when he led the league in victories, complete games, and shutouts and was named the league's Pitcher of the Year. Lasorda helped Montreal to the International League championship five times. He received only two brief trials with the Dodgers. Lasorda made it hard for the Dodgers to bring him up, since he was an immensely popular player in Montreal who made a point of learning to speak French.

In 1954 he was a teammate of Roberto Clemente at Montreal.

Lasorda was demoted in 1955 to make room for bonus baby Sandy Koufax, then was sold to Kansas City in 1956, but couldn't stick with the Athletics or the New York Yankees either. Stuck in the high minors, Lasorda moved to Los Angeles a year before the Dodgers did, with the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. In 2006 he was elected to the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame and in 2008 he was elected to the International League Hall of Fame.

[edit] Managerial Beginnings

After his second stint in Montreal, Lasorda became a Dodger scout in 1961 and then a minor league manager in 1965. As a scout in 1964, he discovered and/or signed Willie Crawford, Tom Hutton and Jim Strickland. Promoted by the Dodgers to coach in 1973, Lasorda served as Walter Alston's understudy until September 29, 1976, when Alston retired.

Becoming the Dodger manager in 1976, he won eight division titles and finished second thrice and third once through 1996. He inherited the infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey that he had helped assemble in the minor leagues, and he reacquired catcher Joe Ferguson, another of his protégés, to alternate with Steve Yeager.

[edit] The Glory Years

In 1977 and 1978, he became the first National League manager to win pennants his first two seasons, but the Dodgers lost the World Series to the Yankees in six games each time. After the 1981 player strike, Lasorda's Dodgers defeated the Houston Astros in the divisional playoff; they then beat the Montreal Expos in the NLCS on Rick Monday's 9th-inning homer in Game 5; and then crushed the Yankees with a power display in the World Series.

His best season came in 1978. Dodger Stadium is great for pitching, but in 1978 it didn't matter where the Dodgers played: the Big Blue Wrecking Crew was a handful everywhere. Their ERA at home was 2.92 and their road ERA was 3.35 (the best in the league). The Dodger rotation featured right-handers Don Sutton (15-11, 3.55) and Burt Hooton (19-10, 2.71), and left-handers Tommy John (17-10, 3.30) and Doug Rau (15-9, 3.26). Lefty Terry Forster (22 saves, 1.93) was in the bullpen, which wasn't called on that often. Offensively, the infield of Steve Garvey (.316, 21 HR, 113 RBI), Davey Lopes (.278, 17, 45 SB), Bill Russell (.286, 32 2B), and Ron Cey (.270, 23, 84) anchored the team. In the outfield were Dusty Baker (.262 in an off-year), Reggie Smith (.295, 29, 93) and Rick Monday (19 homers). The bench was very good: Billy North had 27 steals and Lee Lacy hit 13 homers as a substitute. Forty-somethings Manny Mota (.303) and Vic Davalillo (.312) added some punch as pinch hitters. Pitching was the difference, as the Dodgers edged the Cincinnati Reds in the National League West by 2½ games. They defeated the Phillies in the NLCS in four games, and then lost the World Series to the Yankees for the second straight year, after winning Games 1 and 2. Considering the offensive and defensive balance, this was Lasorda's best team, even though he failed to win the Fall Classic.

Lasorda managed the Dodgers to division titles in 1983 and 1985, but lost both times in the NLCS. In 1988, he shared National League Manager of the Year honors with the Pittsburgh Pirates' Jim Leyland and took the Dodgers to an upset win over the New York Mets in the NLCS and a shocking World Series upset of the Oakland A's.

He built his teams around pitching and defense with a preference for regular lineups that included nine Rookies of the Year. Bobby Valentine had a similar style as manager as he played for Lasorda in Spokane, WA in the mid 1960s for the AAA Spokane Indians of the Pacific Coast League. He was elected to the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame in 2006 for his managing success: in four seasons, his teams finished first twice, second once and third once and won the league playoffs twice, in 1970 with Spokane and 1972 with Albuquerque. He is one of four permanent members of the Spokane Indians Rim of Honor, which was created in 2007. His greatest strength as a manager was his willingness to put young players in key positions and his biggest weakness was in-game strategy (a tendency to play small ball). A media favorite, Lasorda was noted for his good humor and his love of Italian cooking. (MC)

[edit] Later Years

File:Torre nd lasorda.jpg
Joe Torre (left) and Tommy Lasorda attend an unveiling for Lasorda's portrait at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., Sept. 22, 2009.

Lasorda was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1997. After his retirement as a manager, he became a Dodgers executive, and his association with the club has spanned seven decades. He also managed the United States to its first-ever gold medal in baseball at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. That made him the only manager in baseball history to win a World Series (1981, 1988) and an Olympic gold medal (2000).

He was a close friend of the father of Mike Piazza (so much so, he became young Mike's godfather). He then saw to it that the Dodgers drafted Piazza as a favor to his dad. Lasorda was a regular member of The Baseball Bunch TV show with Johnny Bench. He served as interim General Manager of the Dodgers in 1998 after Fred Claire resigned.

Lasorda poses with his portrait to be added to the National Portrait Gallery

In 2006, Lasorda was the recipient of the Branch Rickey Award, which is given to the major league personality who best demonstrates exemplary community service.

In 2009, a portrait of Lasorda in a Dodgers uniform was added to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. In 2012, the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame topped that by erecting a statue of him outside its home in La Romana, Dominican Republic; the Hall gives out an annual "Tommy Lasorda Award" to a non-Latin personality who worked to promote the development of baseball in Latin America. In Lasorda's case, he was instrumental in having the Dodgers develop scouting in the Dominican Republic and establish the first major league baseball academy on the island.

[edit] Quotes

  • "Lasorda has such a sensitive feeling for people. It might look like it's all for show, but the feeling is genuine. He really does love people" - Sparky Anderson
  • "The important thing about Tommy is that he is not just a guy who makes out the lineup and decides strategy. He makes everyone feel a part of it." - Bill Russell
  • "Tommy was a great motivator. He treated his players and coaches tremendously, and everyone on the team would do anything for him." — Danny Ozark

[edit] Highlights

  • 1948: Playing for the Schenectady Blue Jays of the Can-Am League, Lasorda pitches a 15-inning complete game on May 31. He strikes out 25 batters and drives in the game's winning run.
  • 1952: Lasorda's pitching leads the Montreal Royals in clinching the International League pennant on August 31.
  • 1955: Lasorda throws three wild pitches in the same inning on May 5, tying a MLB record. To round out a bad day, he is spiked by Wally Moon of the St. Louis Cardinals in a race to the plate. Stitches are required. Lasorda later blames his wildness on his catcher, Roy Campanella, but the Dodgers go on to win the game, 4–3. He got his chance when Don Newcombe refused to pitch batting practice for the second time in a week and Manager Walter Alston suspended him.
  • 1956: On May 28 Lasorda yields Chicago White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio's first major league round-tripper. Little Louie hit only 83 home runs in his 18-year Hall of Fame career.
  • 1974: Third base coach Lasorda prophesies a Cey home run in the second inning when he is hooked up to a "Game of the Week" microphone at Wrigley Field on June 1. Cey leads the Dodgers' charge with 7 out of ten runs batted in in a Dodger romp over the Chicago Cubs, 10-0.
  • 1976: Walter Alston, after 23 years and 2,040 victories, retires as Dodger manager on September 29. Lasorda becomes the new Dodger manager, a post he will hold until 1996.
  • 1977: Cey has 29 RBI in April to help give rookie manager Lasorda a 17-3 Division-leading start.
  • 1980: While taping separate interviews at KNBC-TV studios in Burbank, CA, Giants coach Jim Lefebvre and Lasorda trade punches after a brief argument on September 17, bloodying Lasorda's lip. Lefebvre had been a Dodger coach in 1979 until Lasorda gave him the sack.
  • 1982: Jay Johnstone breaks out of a slump with a pinch hit on May 24, but is told by Lasorda that he is released when he completes his turn.
  • 1988: Tommy Lasorda wins his 1,000th game as a manager on August 27 in a 4-2 victory over the Phillies.
  • 1989: Rick Dempsey homers off Dennis Martinez in the top of the 22nd inning to break up a scoreless tie and give the Dodgers a 1–0 win over the Expos on August 23rd. The game features one thumbing - the umps toss the Montreal Expos mascot Youppi! in the 11th inning for annoying Lasorda - and he then returns in the 13th wearing pajamas. He carries a pillow and sleeps on the home dugout roof, where the umps have restricted him. In the 16th, Larry Walker apparently scores the game-winner, but the Dodgers appeal - with two umps in the tunnel - and get the play overturned. Eddie Murray in the 18th moves the 2B umpire and slams a drive that Walker makes a phantom catch off the padding in right field. Fans stand for three "seventh-inning stretches" during the major-league record (in time, and for a 1–0 game) six hours, 14 minute game. Other club records are set and several ML records are noted: most innings (22) without a walk by the Expos tops the Pirates (who used one pitcher) against the Giants, July 17, 1914.
  • 1993: Mike Piazza is the unanimous choice for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, justifying Lasorda's signing him as a favor to his father, a close peronal friend of his.
  • 1994: Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott starts a flap by expressing disdain over her players wearing earrings, saying "only fruits wear earrings". Lasorda doesn't allow them to wear them on the field but avoids the controversy.
  • 1995:
    • The Cardinals are awarded a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers by forfeit on August 10th at "Ball Day" at Dodger Stadium. In the bottom of the 9th, Raul Mondesi strikes out and is then ejected for arguing the call. Lasorda gets thumbed as well when he joins the discussion. With that, the fans bombard the field with more than 200 balls they had received as souvenirs and the umpires order the Cardinals into the dugout. It is the first forfeit in the major leagues since July 12, 1979.
    • On August 12, the Dodgers defeat the Pirates, 11-10 in 11 innings, with the help of an unusual play. With the potential winning run at third base, Mitch Webster of the Dodgers swings at a pitch in the dirt. When Pittsburgh rookie catcher Angelo Encarnacion casually fields the ball with his mask, Lasorda appeals, citing the rule which awards a runner two bases if a fielder uses his mask to touch a thrown ball. The umpires agree and allow the winning run to score.
  • 1996: Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda undergoes an angioplasty on June 26 after suffering a mild heart attack. Bill Russell is named Los Angeles' interim manager. On July 29, Lasorda announces his retirement and becomes a Dodger vice president. Russell is named manager.
  • 1997: Nellie Fox, Lasorda, and former Negro Leaguer Willie Wells are elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee. They are inducted on August 15 with Phil Niekro. The Dodgers retire Lasorda's #2 on 15 August, the ninth uniform number retired by the franchise.
  • 1998: The Dodgers fire general manager Fred Claire and manager Russell. Lasorda is hired as GM on June 21 on an interim basis. Glenn Hoffman, who managed the team's Triple–A Albuquerque farm club, takes over as interim manager. Lasorda sends blue chip prospects Dennys Reyes and Paul Konerko to the Reds for closer Jeff Shaw on July 4. Lasorda later admits he was unaware that Shaw, under terms of the Basic Agreement, had the right to demand a trade at the end of the season.
  • 2000: Tommy Lasorda is named manager of the United States' Olympic baseball team, which will compete in September in Sydney, Australia.

[edit] Notable Achievements


Preceded by
Walter Alston
Los Angeles Dodgers Manager
1976-1996
Succeeded by
Bill Russell
Preceded by
Fred Claire
Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager
1998
Succeeded by
Kevin Malone

[edit] Minor League Managerial Record

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs
1965 Pocatello Chiefs Pioneer League 33-33 (t) 2nd Los Angeles Dodgers
1966 Ogden Dodgers Pioneer League 39-27 1st Los Angeles Dodgers League Champs
1967 Ogden Dodgers Pioneer League 41-25 1st Los Angeles Dodgers League Champs
1968 Ogden Dodgers Pioneer League 39-25 1st Los Angeles Dodgers League Champs
1969 Spokane Indians Pacific Coast League 71-73 2nd Los Angeles Dodgers
1970 Spokane Indians Pacific Coast League 94-52 1st Los Angeles Dodgers League Champs
1971 Spokane Indians Pacific Coast League 92-56 3rd Los Angeles Dodgers
1972 Albuquerque Dukes Pacific Coast League 92-56 1st Los Angeles Dodgers League Champs

[edit] Sources

Principal sources for Tommy Lasorda include newspaper obituaries (OB), government records (VA,CM,CW), Sporting Life (SL), Baseball Digest, The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs (1956) (WW), old Baseball Registers (1955-1956;1977-1996) (BR), TSN's Daguerreotypes (none) (DAG), The Historical Register, The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase(PD), The Baseball Library (BL); various Encyclopediae including The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball by Turkin & Thompson (T&T), MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia (Mac), Total Baseball (TB), The Bill James Historical Abstract (BJ) and The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (LJ); Retrosheet (RS), The Baseball Chronology (BC), Baseball Page (BP), The Baseball Almanac (BA), Baseball Cube (B3) and obituaries at deadballera.com (DBE) as well as research by Reed Howard (RH), Pat Doyle (PD) and Frank Hamilton (FH).

[edit] Further Reading

  • Tommy Lasorda (as told to Al Doyle): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, November 2003, pp. 74-76. [1]

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