Brooklyn mourns Tommy Lasorda, Dodgers’ Hall of Fame manager
Gained fame in LA, but got ML start in Flatbush
Tommy Lasorda, the fiery Hall of Fame manager who guided the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series but got his start in the Major Leagues as a short-lived pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was remembered fondly in the borough after his death on Friday.
The Dodgers said 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.
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
Lasorda originally played in the minor leagues Panama and Cuba before making his major league debut on Aug. 5, 1954, for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field.
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.
By June 1955, his career ERA stood at 7.62 over 13 innings. The Dodgers decided to send Lasorda down to Triple-A Montreal on June 8. His place was taken by Lafayette High School graduate Sandy Koufax.
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.″
After his short-lived career in the Brooklyn organization, Lasorda 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, later a Yankees manager, 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.″
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.
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.
Some of his most memorable rants live on via the internet, notably one from July 1982 involving Kurt Bevacqua of the San Diego Padres, who called Lasorda “that fat little Italian″ after Dodgers pitcher Tom Niedenfuer was fined $500 for beaning Joe Lefebvre, Bevacqua’s teammate.
Lasorda denied ordering Niedenfuer to hit Lefebvre while unleashing a series of F-bombs.
“If I ever did,″ Lasorda said, his voice rising, “I certainly wouldn’t make him throw at a (expletive) .130 hitter like Lefebvre or (expletive) Bevacqua who couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a (expletive) boat.″
In 1978, Dave Kingman of the Chicago Cubs hit three homers and drove in eight runs in a 10-7, extra-inning victory over the Dodgers and a reporter asked Lasorda what he thought of Kingman’s performance.
“I think it was (expletive) (expletive). Put that in,″ Lasorda said. “He beat us with three (expletive) home runs. How could you ask me a question like that?”
Lasorda was known for his friendship with Frank Sinatra and other Hollywood stars. Sinatra sang the national anthem on opening day of the 1977 season to mark Lasorda’s debut as manager. The faux-wood paneled walls of Lasorda’s office were crowded with black-and-white autographed photos of his celebrity friends, the framed glass stained by red sauce from the pasta served in large foil trays after games.
Lasorda’s appetite for winning and eating was equally voracious. His weight ballooned throughout his years as manager, and he explained, “When we won games, I’d eat to celebrate. And when we lost games, I’d eat to forget.″
Lasorda managed in four All-Star games. He was serving as third base coach in the 2001 game when he tumbled backward while trying to avoid the shattered barrel of Vladimir Guerrero’s bat in a comical scene.
Leave a Comment
Leave a Comment