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Thomas Charles Lasorda (born September 22, 1927 in Norristownmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker) is a former Major League baseball pitcher and manager. marks 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 Famemarker as a manager in 1997.

Playing career

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 & 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 June 1, 1948 in a 15-inning game 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 also pitched for the Cristobal Motta's in the Canal Zone Baseball League in Panama from 1948 through 1950. The Motta's 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, 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 and then sold back to the Dodgers in 1957.

He was sent to the Montreal Royals of the International League in 1950. He pitched for Montreal from 1950–54 and 1958–1960 and is the winningest pitcher in the history of the team (107–57).Burnett, Richard. "Walkie-Talkie Lasorda" - Hour.ca - June 1, 2006 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. 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 finally released him on July 9 1960.

Coaching career

Minor leagues

Lasorda's first off-field assignment with the Dodgers was as a scout from 1961–65. 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 Venezuelamarker with a series record of 5 wins and 1 loss.

Dodgers' third base coach

In , 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

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 ( and ), 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 to , he managed Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Howe, Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Sax. From to , he managed Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raúl Mondesí and Hideo Nomo. Before retiring during the 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 Stadiummarker (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 Famemarker in as a manager in his first year of eligibility. The Dodgers retired his uniform number (2) on August 15, 1997 and re-named a street in Dodgertownmarker as "Tommy Lasorda Lane".

2000 Summer Olympics

Lasorda came out of retirement to manage the United States team at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydneymarker. He led the Americans to the gold medal, beating heavily favored Cuba, which had won the gold medals at the two previous Olympics. By winning the Gold medal, he became the first manager ever to win both a World Series and a Gold Medal.

2001 All-Star Game

Lasorda coached the 2001 All-Star Game as third base coach. While at the plate, Vladimir Guerrero broke his bat while swinging, hitting Lasorda and causing him to flip head over heels, 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

During Spring Training in 2008, the Dodgers were selected to play a series of exhibition games in Chinamarker. Current Dodger manager Joe Torre took a group of players with him for that series. The majority of the team remained behind in Floridamarker to finish out the Grapefruit League season. Lasorda briefly came out of retirement to manage the team while Torre was away.

Awards

  • Sporting News Minor League Manager of the Year (1970)
  • UPI & AP Manager of the Year (1977)
  • AP Manager of the Year (1981)
  • Baseball America Manager of the Year (1988)
  • Sporting News Co-Manager of the Year (1988)


Dodger Executive

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."

Life outside of baseball

Lasorda and his wife Jo celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary in 2007. They named a gymnasium and youth center in memory of their son, Tom Jr., in Yorba Linda, Californiamarker on September 7, 1997. They have a daughter, Laura, and a granddaughter, Emily.

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.

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 1976, in which Lasorda ranted at a reporter who asked him about Kingman having hit three home runs against the Dodgers that day. 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 1991, Lasorda's son Tommy Lasorda, Jr. (commonly known to friends and family as "Spunky") died of complications related to AIDS. Lasorda was estranged from his son at the time of his death, and refuses to acknowledge his son's homosexuality and the nature of his illness. According to sportswriter Bill Plaschke, when asked about the cause of death Lasorda insists that it was cancer.

For years, Lasorda appeared in television advertisements for Slim Fast diet shakes (with his famous quote, "If I can do it, you can do it."), and Rolaids antacids where he was seen writing the product's name on a baseball. He briefly owned a restaurant chain bearing his name. He also bottled and sold a failed brand of spaghetti sauce beginning in 1989 through his company Lasorda Foods.

Lasorda portrayed "The Dugout Wizard" in the syndicated children's television show The Baseball Bunch

Lasorda is the godfather to Thomas Piazza, and not Major League All-Star catcher Mike Piazza (also from Norristown), as has been widely circulated. Mike Piazza's younger brother, Thomas, was named for Lasorda.

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 acknowledgement of his contributions to Japanese baseball.

Tom 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 major leagues, especially after becoming a devoted fan of the "chicharrones" (deep fried pork skins) commonly sold in the streets of Villa Mella neighborhood in Santo Domingo City.

On July 23, 2009, Lasorda made a cameo appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.

References

  1. Lasorda biography - Los Angeles Dodgers Official Website - MLB.com
  2. "Torn between two loves Lessons From a Life in and Out of Major-League Baseball" - San Francisco Chronicle - (c/o SFGate.com) - November 30, 2005 - Retrieved 2006-11-30
  3. Gould, Timithie. " Baseball, through Tommy’s eyes", The La Cañada Valley Sun, published November 15, 2007, accessed November 15, 2007.
  4. Reaves, Joseph A. "Piazza returns draft favor, nearly 400 times over" - Arizona Republic - August 7, 2005 - Retrieved 2007-11-06
  5. Lasorda honored by Japan, MLB.com, December 3, 2008


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