LOS ANGELES – Tommy Lasorda, the son of Italian immigrants and a professional pitcher who became a legendary Dodgers manager, global baseball ambassador and national treasure, died on Thursday. He was 93 years old.
Commissioner Rob Manfred made the following statement:
“Tommy Lasorda was one of the best managers the game has ever known. He loved life as a Dodger. His career began as a pitcher in 1949, but he is, of course, best known as the manager of two World Series champions and four flag-winning clubs. His passion, success, charisma and sense of humor made him an international celebrity, a growth he used to develop our sport. Tommy welcomed Dodger players from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere ̵
“I am extremely happy to have a wonderful friendship with Tommy and I will miss him. It feels appropriate that in recent months he has seen his favorite Dodgers win the World Series for the first time since his team in 1988. On behalf of Major League baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to his wife of 70 years, Joe, and the whole their family, the Dodger organization and their generations of loyal fans. “
In three seasons as a pitcher in the Major League, Lasorda went 0-4 and did not remind anyone of Sandy Kufax, who replaced him on the Brooklyn list. But as manager of the Dodgers for two decades, Lasorda created a career that earned him a seat next to Kufax in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Before his death, Lasorda was the oldest living hall of fame, a distinction that now passes to Willie Mace, 89.
He died after serving in his 71st season with the Dodgers, an extraordinary display of loyalty. He spent the last two decades as a special adviser to the president (now Mark Walter) after being rescued by former president Frank McCourt from exile when News Corp. bought the club from Peter O’Malley and his sister Terry Seidler.
“My family, my partners and I have been blessed to have spent a lot of time with Tommy,” Walter said in a statement. “He was a great ambassador for the team and baseball, a coach for players and coaches, he always had time for an autograph and a story for his many fans and he was a good friend. He will be greatly missed. ”
– Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) January 8, 2021
Lasorda’s career began as a small pitcher with a left hand with a big heart and fighting spirit. When that dream ended, he moved on to intelligence, after which he prepared a resume as a Little League manager, a Major League third base coach, a Major League Hall of Fame manager, acting general manager and senior vice president.
He won eight honorary doctorates, had an asteroid named after him by Cal Tech, had a wife (Joe) of 70, and still spoke each year on behalf of the Dodgers and MLB. He is in 17 Halls of Fame and if they had one to eat, he would be there too. He enjoyed the “fruits of victory,” not to mention industrial-sized portions of linguine and mussels.
Lasorda was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997 with the strength of over 20 seasons governing the Dodgers (1976-96). He is one of four managers in the history of the major leagues who have managed the same team for 20 years or more – the others are Connie Mack, John McGraw and Lasorda’s predecessor, Walter Alston.
“In a franchise that celebrates such great legends of the game, no one who wore the uniform embodied the spirit of the Dodger like Tommy Lasorda,” said Dodger president and CEO Stan Kasten. “A tireless baseball player, his dedication to the sport and the team he loved was incomparable. He was a champion who at critical moments seemingly wanted his teams to win. The Dodgers and their fans will miss him terribly. Tommy is simply irreplaceable and unforgettable. “
Lasorda retired as a manager after suffering a heart attack in 1996, after winning the World Series in 1981 and ’88, plus four pennants in the National League and eight titles in the division. He was 3-1 as the manager of the stars. His 1,599 victories ranked 22nd of all time.
The undisputed goodwill ambassador of baseball led the U.S. Olympic baseball team to a gold medal in 2000. In 2009, his portrait hung in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. In 2008, he received the Order of the Rising Sun, Golden Rays with a Rosette from the Japanese emperor, just one of the many heads of state that Lasorda considers his friends.
Lasorda is one of two managers in the history of baseball who won flags during his first two years in office, joining Gabby Street, who did so with the Cardinals in 1930 and ’31. Lasorda manages nine rookies of the National League of the Year, a Premier League record. And he served as official ambassador for the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and ’09.
As a pitcher, he was best known for his fighting. He could never take that last step of Triple-A’s dominance in Major League’s success as a pitcher, breaking short records 4-4 in short trials with Dodgers and Kansas City A’s.
Alston runs Lasorda at Triple-A Montreal and Brooklyn and considers leftists a better cheerleader than a pitcher. When the Dodgers sent Lasorda back to Triple-A in 1955, he had to release a list of newly signed bonus babies, Kufax.
However, Lasorda would go on to baseball fame and fortune that no one could have foreseen, not even him. It was the mentor and then-intelligence director Al Campanis, who told Lasorda in 1960 that his acting days were over by softening the news by hiring him as a spy. When Campanis became general manager, he turned Lasorda into a rookie manager, first in Pocatello, Idaho, then in Ogden, Utah.
It was there, and later in Triple-A Spokane, where Lasorda formed the connection with what would become the core of the Dodgers in the 1970s – Steve Garvey, Bobby Valentine, Bill Russell, Willie Crawford, Charlie Hough, Tom Paciorek, Bill Buckner, Tommy Hutton, Ron Zey and others.
Lasorda, who credits Ralph Hawk as his management role model, is honing his motivational skills by teaching these raw talents how to play and win. He made his mark as a manager who got closer to his players, and Joe Torre said that it was Lasorda who brought the manager’s embrace to the game. Lasorda would communicate with his players, usually at dinner, but still respect them.
Lasorda was ugly, sometimes deep, always funny. He was effective enough as a teacher that 75 players he ruled in the Minor Leagues reached the Premier League.
Lasorda is left by his wife Joe; daughter Laura and granddaughter Emily. Lasorda’s son, Tom Jr., died in 1991.