WHO IS TOMMY LASORDA?

From Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan's Soul

Who Is Tommy Lasorda?

Regarded by many as baseball’s most popular ambassador, Tommy Lasorda will begin his fifty-second season in the Dodgers organization and fifth as vice president. He was named vice president on July 29, 1996 after retiring as manager, a position he held for the previous twenty seasons. Lasorda assumed all player personnel responsibilities when he was named the Dodgers’ interim general manager on June 22, 1998. He relinquished his general manager duties when he was promoted to senior vice president on September 11, 1998.

In his current front-office capacity, Lasorda spends much of his time scouting, evaluating and teaching minor-league players as well as spreading baseball goodwill to thousands as he makes more than 100 speeches and appearances to various charities, private groups and military personnel each year.

In 1997, Lasorda was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in his first year of eligibility. He was the fourteenth manager and fifteenth Dodger inducted into the Hall of Fame. Lasorda’s uniform number (2) was retired by the Dodgers on August 15, 1997 and the main street that leads to the entrance of Dodger town in Vero Beach, Florida, was renamed Tommy Lasorda Lane on March 5, 1997. Lasorda also threw out the first pitch in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.

Lasorda compiled a 1,599-1,439 record and won two World Championships, four National League pennants and eight division titles in an extraordinary twenty-year career as the Dodgers manager. He ranks thirteenth with 1,599 wins and twelveth with 3,038 games managed in major league history. Lasorda’s sixteen wins in 30 National League Championship Series games managed were the most of any manager at the time of his retirement in 1996. Atlanta’s Bobby Cox now holds the record with twenty-six wins in forty-nine games managed. His sixty-one post-season games managed rank third all-time behind Cox and Casey Stengel. Lasorda posted a 3–1 record as the National League manager in four All-Star Games. He joined St. Louis’ Gabby Street (1930–31) as the only other manager in National League history to win league titles in his first two seasons when he led the Dodgers to titles in 1977–78. Lasorda also managed nine of the Dodgers’ sixteen Rookies of the Year, more than any other big league skipper in history. He also managed six current major league managers during their playing days: Texas’ Johnny Oates, Anaheim’s Mike Scioscia, San Francisco’s Dusty Baker, Detroit’s Phil Garner, Milwaukee’s Davey Lopes and the New York Mets’ Bobby Valentine.

Prior to replacing Hall of Famer Walter Alston as manager on September 29, 1976, Lasorda spent four seasons in Los Angeles on Alston’s coaching staff from 1973–76. He spent eight seasons as a manager in the Dodgers’ minor league system at Pocatello (1965), Ogden (1966–68), Spokane (1969–71) and Albuquerque (1972). Lasorda also spent four years as a Dodgers scout after retiring as a player following the 1960 season. An astounding seventy-five players Lasorda managed in the minor leagues went on to play in the majors.

As a player, Lasorda compiled a 0-4 record and 6.52 ERA as a left-handed pitcher in parts of three major league seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1954–55) and Kansas City Athletics (1956). In all, he spent sixteen seasons in the minor leagues from 1945–60, including a two-year stint in the military from 1946–47.

Lasorda has won numerous awards throughout his career, including being named Minor League Manager of the Year by The Sporting News in 1970, Manager of the Year by UPI and AP in 1977, Manager of the Year by AP in 1981 and National League Manager of the Year by Baseball America and Co-Manager of the Year by The Sporting News in 1988. He was the recipient of the Association of Professional Baseball Players of America’s inaugural Milton Richman Memorial Award with Sparky Anderson in 1987, the BBWAA Philadelphia Chapter’s Humanitarian Award in 1993, Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce’s Award of Merit in 1997, Touchdown Club of Columbus’ Baseball Ambassador of the Year in 1997, Arete’s Courage in Sports Award in 1997 and was honored by the President of the Dominican Republic in 1997 for his dedication to the game of baseball throughout his career.

Lasorda has been a spokesperson for the American Heart Association and has received honorary doctorate degrees from Pepperdine University, St. Thomas University and the University of Phoenix.

Lasorda and his wife, Jo, reside in Fullerton, California. They will celebrate their fifty-second wedding anniversary on April 14, 2001.

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