Tommy Lasorda

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For the Chrysler executive, see Thomas W. LaSorda.
Tommy Lasorda
TommyLasorda.jpg
Pitcher / Manager
Born: (1927-09-22) September 22, 1927 (age 86)
Norristown, Pennsylvania
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
August 5, 1954 for the Brooklyn Dodgers
Last MLB appearance
July 8, 1956 for the Kansas City Athletics
Career statistics
Win–loss record 0–4
Earned run average 6.48
Strikeouts 37
Games managed 3,041
Win–loss record 1,599–1,439
Winning % .526
Teams

As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
Induction 1997
Election Method Veterans Committee

Thomas Charles "Tommy" Lasorda (born September 22, 1927) is a former Major League baseball player who has had a lengthy career in sports management. In 2009, he marked his sixth decade in one capacity or another with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers organization, the longest non-continuous (he played one season with the Kansas City Athletics) tenure anyone has had with the team, edging Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully by a single season. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 1997.

Playing career[edit]

Tommy Lasorda signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an undrafted free agent in 1945 and began his professional career with the Concord Weavers in 1945. He then 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.

He 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 (since broken), and drove in the winning run with a single.[1] 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 also pitched for the Cristobal Mottas in the Canal Zone Baseball League in Panama from 1948 through 1950. Lasorda played for Almendares (Cuba) from 1950–52 and 1958–60, compiling a 16-13 record in four seasons, including 8-3 with a 1.89 ERA in 1958-59. The Mottas won the championship in '48 and Lasorda made his major league debut on August 5, 1954 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Though he did not play in the 1955 World Series, he won a World Series ring as a member of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers.

He pitched for the Dodgers for two seasons, and then for the Kansas City Athletics for one season, after the Athletics purchased him from the Dodgers. He was later traded by Kansas City to the New York Yankees in 1956. He appeared in 22 games for the Triple-A Denver Bears in 1956–57, and then was sold back to the Dodgers in 1957. However, during his brief tenure with the Bears, Lasorda was profoundly influenced by Denver skipper Ralph Houk, who would become Lasorda's role model as an MLB manager.

"Ralph taught me if 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."[2]

Lasorda was first optioned to the Montreal Royals of the International League in 1950. He also played winter baseball for Almendares (Cuba) from 1950–52 and 1958–60, compiling a 16-13 record in four seasons, including 8-3 with a 1.89 ERA in 1958-59. He pitched for Montreal from 1950–54 and 1958–1960 and is the winningest pitcher in the history of the team (107–57) (Lasorda was sent back down to Montreal in 1954 after the Dodgers were forced to keep a young Sandy Koufax on their roster due to the Bonus rule. He would later joke that it took Koufax to keep him off the Dodger pitching staff). He led Montreal to four straight Governors' Cups from 1951 to 1954, and a fifth one in 1958. On June 24, 2006 he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.[3] He played only in the minors for the Yankees and the Dodgers returned him to the Montreal team where he was voted the International League's Most Valuable Pitcher Award in 1958, when he won his fifth minor league championship. The Dodgers released him on July 9, 1960.

Coaching career[edit]

Minor leagues[edit]

Lasorda's first off-field assignment with the Dodgers was as a scout from 1961 to 1965. In 1966, he became the manager for the Pocatello Chiefs in the rookie leagues, then managed the Ogden Dodgers to three Pioneer League championships from 1966–68. He became the Dodgers AAA Pacific Coast League manager in 1969 with the Spokane Indians (1969–71) and remained in the position when the Dodgers switched their AAA farm club to the Albuquerque Dukes (1972). His 1972 Dukes team won the PCL Championship. Lasorda was also a manager for the Dominican Winter Baseball League team Tigres del Licey (Licey Tigers). He led the team to the 1973 Caribbean World Series Title in Venezuela with a series record of 5 wins and 1 loss.

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. He was widely regarded as Alston's heir apparent, and turned down several major league managing jobs elsewhere to remain in the Dodger fold.

Manager of the Dodgers[edit]

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

Lasorda became the Los Angeles Dodgers manager September 29, 1976 upon Alston's retirement. He compiled a 1,599-1,439 record as Dodgers manager, won two World Series championships in (1981 and 1988), four National League pennants and eight division titles in his 20-year career as the Dodgers manager.

His 16 wins in 30 NL Championship games managed were the most of any manager at the time of his retirement. His 61 post-season games managed ranks fourth all-time behind Bobby Cox, Casey Stengel and Joe Torre. He also managed in four All-Star games.

Lasorda managed nine players who won the National League 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. Before retiring during the 1996 season, he had also managed that year's rookie of the year, Todd Hollandsworth.

His final game was a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros, at Dodger Stadium (att. 35,467), on June 23, 1996. The following day (June 24) 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. His 1,599 career wins ranks 16th all-time in MLB history.

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

2000 Summer Olympics[edit]

Lasorda came out of retirement to manage the United States team at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. He led the Americans to the gold medal, beating heavily favored Cuba, which had won the gold medals at the two previous Olympics. In doing so, he became the first manager to win a World Series Championship and lead a team to Olympic Gold Medal.

2001 All-Star Game[edit]

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, but Tommy was unharmed. As a joke, Giants outfielder Barry Bonds gave Lasorda a chest protector to wear while manning the third base coaching box.

2008 Spring Training[edit]

During Spring Training in 2008, the Dodgers were invited to play a series of exhibition games in China. 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 while Torre was away.

2011 season birthday coach[edit]

An unnamed Dodger executive came up with the idea of having Dodger manager Don Mattingly ask Lasorda to be an honorary coach on Lasorda's 84th birthday against the San Francisco Giants.[4]

Awards[edit]

Dodger executive[edit]

Tommy Lasorda at White House Tee Ball Initiative in 2007.

Tommy 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. He resigned as General Manager after the season and was appointed as "Senior Vice-President" of the Dodgers. After the sale of the team to Frank McCourt, Lasorda took on his current position of "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 franchise at more than 100 speaking engagements and appearances to various charities, private groups and military personnel each year."[6]

Life outside of baseball[edit]

Lasorda speaks Spanish, which allowed him to better communicate with Latin American players as a manager.[citation needed]

Lasorda has supported the U.S. Armed Forces since his 1945 draft at age 18 into the U.S. Army. Stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland after completing basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, Lasorda served two years at the end of World War II. At the end of the war, draftees were given the option to leave or re-enlist, and Lasorda stayed with the Army to serve, putting his professional baseball career on hold to fulfill his duty.

Lasorda joined Pi Kappa Phi fraternity as an alumnus initiate on February 10, 1990. He is a member-at-large and is not associated with any particular chapter.

Lasorda and his wife Jo celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2010. They have resided in Fullerton, California for more than fifty years and they have two children. They named a gymnasium and youth center in memory of their son, Tom Jr., in Yorba Linda, California on September 7, 1997.[6][7] In 1991, Tom, Jr. (commonly known to friends and family as "Spunky"[8]) died of complications related to AIDS.[9] Lasorda was estranged from his son at the time of his death. Not only does Lasorda vehemently deny that his son was homosexual,[10] according to sportswriter Bill Plaschke, Lasorda insists that his son died of cancer.[11]

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.[12]

Lasorda was equally famous for his colorful personality and outspoken opinions regarding players and other personnel associated with baseball. He had a number of obscenity filled tirades, a number of which were taped and became underground classics. 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 having hit three home runs against the Dodgers that day.[13] He also had an altercation with Doug Rau on the pitching mound in the 1977 World Series, which was recorded, since he was wearing a microphone. He befriended Frank Sinatra (a well-known baseball fan) and other entertainment personalities during his career.

In 1996 he voiced the role of Lucky Lasorta, A Rough Collie commentating the Baseball game in the film Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco Lasorda portrayed "The Dugout Wizard" in the syndicated children's television show The Baseball Bunch.[14]

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.[15] In September 1989, the company became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Denver firm Discovery Capital Corp, of which Lasorda would continue to own 10%.[16] 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.[15]

Lasorda is the godfather to Thomas Piazza, the younger brother of Major League All-Star catcher Mike Piazza, both of whom are from Norristown. Thomas was named after Lasorda and it has been widely misstated that Lasorda is Mike's godfather.[17] Lasorda is also the godfather to Alex Avila, a catcher with the Detroit Tigers. Alex's grandfather, Ralph Avila, is a former scout with the Dodgers and friend to Lasorda of over 50 years. Alex's middle name of Thomas was named for Lasorda.[18]

In 2006, Lasorda appeared in a series of commercials promoting the MLB Playoffs for ESPN and Fox. The campaign, entitled "Tommy’s Tough Love", featured Lasorda in a tuxedo motivating fans to watch baseball.

In 2008, the government of Japan conferred 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.[19]

Lasorda became a local celebrity in the Dominican Republic due to his many visits in search of young baseball talents in this land of many famous players in the major leagues, especially after becoming a devoted fan of the "chicharrones" (deep fried pork skins) commonly sold on the streets of the Villa Mella neighborhood of Santo Domingo.

In 2008, he did a commercial for Glad refrigerator bags, which poked fun at his infamous temper. (Using the products catchphrase, "Don't get mad! Get Glad!")

On July 23, 2009, Lasorda made a cameo appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. During his brief cameo Lasorda plugged his upcoming music album of great American standards, one of which is a duet with Rod Stewart.

On June 3, 2012, at age 84, Lasorda was hospitalized in New York after suffering a heart attack. The heart attack was not considered to be overly serious.[20]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hugerich, Frank (May 31, 1948). "LaSorda Singles in 15th to Give Jays Victory Over Amsterdam". Schenectady Gazette. p. 14. Archived at Google News. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  2. ^ Plaschke, Bill, I Live for This: Baseball's Last True Believer. New York: Hughton Mifflin Co., 2007, p. 85
  3. ^ Burnett, Richard. "Walkie-Talkie Lasorda" - Hour.ca - June 1, 2006
  4. ^ "Tommy Lasorda suits as Los Angeles Dodgers coach on 84th birthday - ESPN Los Angeles". Espn.go.com. 2011-09-22. Retrieved 2013-01-03. 
  5. ^ Tuesday July 17, 2007 (2007-07-17). "Donovan Presented With United States Sports Academy Coaching Award". GatorZone.com. Retrieved 2011-03-18. 
  6. ^ a b Lasorda biography - Los Angeles Dodgers Official Website - MLB.com
  7. ^ Lasorda chats with fans on birthday, 2009 interview from dodgers.com. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  8. ^ "Thomas C. "Spunky" Lasorda, Jr". Find a Grave. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  9. ^ Kettman, Steve (June 22, 2003 ). "Torn between two loves Lessons From a Life in and Out of Major-League Baseball". San Francisco Chronicle.
  10. ^ http://thestacks.deadspin.com/the-brief-life-and-complicated-death-of-tommy-lasordas-485999366
  11. ^ Gould, Timithie (November 15, 2007). "Baseball, through Tommy’s eyes". The La Cañada Valley Sun.
  12. ^ "Tommy Lasorda: Special Advisor to the Chairman". Los Angeles Dodgers Official Website. MLB.com. Retrieved January 3, 2013. 
  13. ^ "SI.com - Top 10 Most Embarrassing TV/Radio Interview Moments - Friday August 6, 2004 10:08 am". Sportsillustrated.cnn.com. 2004-08-06. Retrieved 2011-03-18. 
  14. ^ Mark Bechtel (October 20, 1998). "1998 World Series Diary". Sports Illustrated (CNN). Retrieved January 3, 2013. 
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Galante, Mary Ann (September 27, 1989). "Lasorda Foods to Be Acquired by Denver Firm : Irvine Sauce Maker to Expand Product Line". Los Angeles Times.
  17. ^ Reaves, Joseph A. "Piazza returns draft favor, nearly 400 times over" - Arizona Republic - August 7, 2005 - Retrieved 2007-11-06
  18. ^ "Tommy Lasorda visits his godson, Alex Avila, in Tigers clubhouse". MLive.com. Retrieved 2011-03-18. 
  19. ^ Lasorda honored by Japan, MLB.com, December 3, 2008
  20. ^ "Legendary Ex-Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda Hospitalized After Suffering Heart Attack". CBS Sports. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 

External links[edit]