|Pitcher / Manager|
|Born: September 22, 1927|
Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died: January 7, 2021 (aged 93)|
Fullerton, California, U.S.
|August 5, 1954, for the Brooklyn Dodgers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|July 8, 1956, for the Kansas City Athletics|
|Earned run average||6.48|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Election method||Veterans 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.
Lasorda graduated from Norristown High School in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 1944. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1945 and began his professional career that season with the Concord Weavers of the Class D North Carolina State League. 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. 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. He played with Schenectady from 1948 through 1950.
Lasorda then played for Almendares of the Cuban League in Havana, Cuba in 1950–52 and again in 1958–60, compiling a 16–13 record in four seasons, including 8–3 with a 1.89 ERA in 1958–59. Lasorda also pitched for Marianao, a league rival of Almendares also in the Havana area.
The Brooklyn Dodgers drafted Lasorda from the Phillies organization in 1949. 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 made only three more appearances for the Dodgers, was optioned back to Montreal on June 8, and replaced on the major league roster by one Sandy Koufax.
Before the 1956 season, Lasorda was sold to the Kansas City Athletics, Kansas City traded him to the New York Yankees for Wally Burnette in July 1956. 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.
"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."
Lasorda returned to Montreal for the 1958 through 1960 seasons, but was released in July 1960. 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. He ended his major league career with a 0–4 record and a 6.52 ERA in 26 games.
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. To inspire confidence in his players at Ogden, he would have each of them write a letter to the LA Dodger that played their position everyday in the big leagues, informing the regular that they would be replacing him one day. He became the Dodgers' AAA Pacific Coast League manager in 1969 with the Spokane Indians. He remained manager of the AAA team when it became the Albuquerque Dukes in 1972. His 1972 Dukes team won the PCL Championship. 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.
In 1973, Lasorda became the third-base coach on the staff of Hall of Fame manager Walter Alston, serving 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. He also later returned to the third-base coach's box on a temporary basis while managing the Dodgers.
Lasorda became the Los Angeles Dodgers manager September 29, 1976, upon Alston's retirement. When asked by broadcaster Vin Scully if he felt any pressure replacing Alston, Lasorda responded, "No, Vin, I'm worried about the guy who's gonna replace me. That's the guy who's gonna have it tough." He managed the final four games of the 1976 season. 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. His 16 wins in 30 NLCS games were the most of any manager at the time of his retirement. His 61 postseason games ranks fourth all-time behind Bobby Cox, Casey Stengel (all of whose games took place during the World Series in baseball's pre-LCS days), and Joe Torre. He also managed in four All-Star games.
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. Before retiring during the 1996 season, he had also managed that year's eventual winner, Todd Hollandsworth.
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 pain, and in fact was having a heart attack. Former shortstop Bill Russell would take the reins of the team on an interim basis. While Lasorda would recover, the Dodger front office decided to make Russell's appointment permanent on July 29 upon Lasorda announcing formally his retirement, thus making Russell only the third man to manage the Dodgers in 43 years. His 1,599 career wins rank 22nd all-time.
|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|
Lasorda was named vice president of the Dodgers upon his retirement from managing in 1996. On June 22, 1998, he became interim General Manager upon the firing of Fred Claire. After the season, he helped find a permanent replacement for Claire and was made senior vice president of the Dodgers.
Lasorda came out of retirement to manage the U.S. national team at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. 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. Lasorda coached the 2001 All-Star Game as third base coach. While at the plate, Vladimir Guerrero broke his bat while swinging and it flew towards Lasorda, causing him to fall backwards. Lasorda was unharmed.
Following the sale of the Dodgers to Frank McCourt in 2004, Lasorda was appointed special advisor to the chairman, where his responsibilities included 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.
During spring training in 2008, the Dodgers were invited to play a series of exhibition games in Taiwan. Dodgers 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.
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.
Lasorda 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.
The University of Pennsylvania's baseball field was named after Lasorda in 2020.
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. 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.
He was also known for being fiercely loyal to his players. He explained in an essay he wrote for Tim McCarver’s compilation volume Diamond Gems that he wanted to break a mold by ending a longstanding unspoken taboo against managers socializing with their players off the field. He felt it made players even more loyal to him if they saw him as a friend as well. He also said that he made it his business to know the names of all of his players’ wives and children and to ask about them regularly, another characteristic that endeared him to his players for many years.
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. His other television credits playing himself include Silver Spoons, Who's the Boss?, CHiPs, Hart to Hart, Fantasy Island, Police Squad!, Hee Haw, Simon & Simon, Everybody Loves Raymond, and American Restoration.
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. 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. The parent company through which Lasorda maintained his stake, 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.
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. 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.
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.
Lasorda was born and raised with four brothers. His father, Sabatino was an Italian immigrant from Tollo the region of Abruzzo (Italy). His mother was Carmella (Cavuto) Lasorda. He 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. 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. In 1991, Tom Jr. (known as "Spunky") died of complications related to AIDS. Lasorda denied that his son was gay; according to sportswriter Bill Plaschke, he insisted his son died of cancer.
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. Lasorda was also the godfather to Alex Avila, a catcher with the Washington Nationals. 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 given for Lasorda.
On June 3, 2012, at age 84, Lasorda was hospitalized in New York City after suffering a heart attack which was not considered very serious. On November 8, 2020, Lasorda was hospitalized for heart problems and reported to be "in serious condition" in intensive care. The Dodgers did not make the announcement public about his hospitalization until a week later. On December 1, 2020, Lasorda was moved out of intensive care as his condition improved. After being released from the hospital, he went into sudden cardiac arrest at his home two days later on January 7, 2021. He was rushed back to the hospital, where he died that night at the age of 93. Numerous buildings in Los Angeles were illuminated in blue in tribute to Lasorda, including City Hall, Staples Center, and Banc of California Stadium; at Dodger Stadium, flags were flown at half-staff. He was buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park alongside his son, Tom Jr.
On September 21, 2021, the Dodgers announced on Twitter the death of Lasorda's widow, Jo, at age 91.
In March 2023, a stretch of the Interstate 5 was named in his honor as "Tommy Lasorda Dodger Legend Memorial Highway," located in his former residence of Fullerton between Lincoln Avenue and Ball Road.
Reviewing Going the Other Way by Billy Bean, with Chris Bell