Lasorda, Tommy

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Tommy Lasorda


American baseball manager

Tommy Lasorda has been called one of the most successful managers in baseball history. In 20 years as a manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he led his team to a total of eight division titles. Also on his watch, the Dodgers went to the World Series four times, winning it twice (in 1981, and again in 1988). He retired as Dodger manager in 1996, and became a Dodgers vice president. In 1999, with a total of 50 years with the Dodgers under his belt, he managed the United States Olympic baseball team, leading it to its first-ever Olympic gold medal at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney.

Born for Baseball

Thomas Charles Lasorda was born in 1927 in Norris-town, Pennsylvania, one of five sons of immigrants from Italy. Growing up, Lasorda's passion was baseball. In particular, he was inspired by the great players of the day. "They were my heroes," he told Woody Woodburn of the Denver Rocky Mountain News many years later. "I knew them all by their names, their middle names, their batting averages." Lasorda's greatest dream was to become a major league pitcher. A dream which he would later realize, albeit briefly. "My father used to say to me," he told Woodburn, "If you studied in school as hard as you do those batting averages you'd be a professor at Yale one day."

After serving in the U. S. Army for a year, from 1946 to 1947, Lasorda began his career in baseball as a minor league pitcher. In 1948, he set a Canadian-American League record for number of strikeouts in a single game; while pitching for the Schenectady Blue Jays in a 15-inning game against the Amsterdam Rugmakers, he struck out 25 batters. To top it off, during that same game, he hit the winning runner home. Around this time, Lasorda also married his wife, Jo.

Starts a Half-Century with the Dodgers

Lasorda's pitching record attracted the attention of scouts for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and he was signed to that organization's Montreal teamthe Dodgers' top farm team. He played for the Dodgers from 1950 to 1955, and again from 1958 to 1960. During his tenure with the Dodgers' Montreal team, he helped the team win five International League championships.

Lasorda played briefly for the major leagues as a pitcher, playing a total of only 26 gamesfor the Dodgers in 1954 and 1956, and for the Kansas City Athletics in 1956. "I always wanted to be a major leaguer," Lasorda later told Woodburn. "When I was growing up all I ever wanted to do was be a major league baseball player. That was the goal of my life. And by golly I reached that goal. I was in the major leagues as a player.

Not very long, not very successful, but I reached the level of the top."

In 1961, Lasorda retired from playing baseball, and became a talent scout for the Dodgers. It was during this time that he resolved to become a major league manager. "I was at the 1963 World Series between the Dodgers and the Yankees," he later told the St. Petersburg Times, "and I was sitting with the scouts up behind home plate. I was up so high I could give the guy in the blimp a high-five. And I said to my wife, 'You want to know something, Jo. One day I'm going to be in that dugout managing the Dodgers to a World Series.'"

An Outstanding Manager

In 1965, Lasorda became a manager in the minor leagues, winning five pennants. In 1977, Lasorda became manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a post he would hold for about the next 20 years, until his retirement in 1996. In Lasorda's very first season, 1977, he took the Dodgers to the World Series, a feat he repeated the following season. Unfortunately the Dodgers lost each time to the Yankees. The Dodgers came back, though, in 1981, beating the Yankees at the World Series.

In June, 1996, Lasorda, then 68 years old, suffered a mild heart attack that required him to step away from his managerial duties. Less than two months later, his doctors cleared him to return to work, but the time away had forced him to examine the high-stress lifestyle that had brought on the attack. With great reluctance, he decided to step down as manager of the Dodgers.

Lasorda officially retired as Dodgers manager in July, 1996. The Dodgers organization had left open the option for him to return, but, as he said in a press conference quoted by the St. Petersburg Times, "even though the doctors gave me a clean bill of health, for me to put on a uniform again, as excitable as I am, I could not go down there and not be the way I've always been." Lasorda said he felt his resignation was "best" for himself and for the Dodgers organization. Struggling to compose himself, Lasorda spoke through tears of his enthusiasm for managing, but noted the importance of his family and his desire to spend time with them.

Lasorda did remain with the Dodgers, however, as a vice president. As he explained his appointment to the new job to the Daily News 's Bill Madden, "[Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley] supplied the answer [Jo and I] needed to hear after I made my decision to give up managing. He said: 'You did the right thing and now you'll be vice president helping us in many different directions. We need you.'"

Olympic Gold

In May, 2000, four years into his new job as a vice president for the Dodgers, Lasorda was called on to manage the U.S. Olympic baseball team at the Olympic games in Sydney, Australia. "Being selected to manage the U. S. Olympic team is a great privilege and honor; it's bigger than the World Series," he told USA Today 's Mike Dodd on the occasion. "It's bigger than the Dodgers, bigger than Major League Baseball, because it's the United States of America. It's your country."


1927Born on September 22 in Norristown, Pennsylvania
1946Serves in the U.S. Army
1948Becomes a professional baseball player in the minor leagues
1940sMarries wife Jo
1954Makes major league debut as a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers
1956Plays in the major leagues a final season, pitching for the Kansas City Athletics
1961Becomes a talent scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers
1965Becomes a manager in the minor leagues
1977Becomes manager of the Dodgers
1996Retires from managing the Dodgers, becomes Dodgers vice president
2000Selected to manage the U. S. Olympic baseball team

Chosen from among minor league players from around the United States, the members of the U. S. Olympic team would not even be brought together as a team until just a month before they played. "Wish it was like it used to be," Lasorda told Dodd, "here you went around the country playing some games. I want to show the country, let them see these guys. I want to show my team off."

Instead, Lasorda told Dodd, "September the first, I will meet with the players and that'll be the first time I've seen these guys in person. September the second, we board a plane for Brisbane. I'm only going to have eight or nine (exhibition) games to know what they can do. It's not going to be easy."

Nevertheless, the American baseball team took home the gold in 2000 in a stunning 4-0 defeat of the favored Cuban team. Lasorda described his reaction to the victory to Bill Conlin in the Sunday Mail: " bawled like a baby. I was just so thrilled for these young men and what they accomplished. I told my wife before I left home, 'Fifty years from now, I'm gonna be a trivia question. The question will be: Name the only man in history to manage both a World Series team and an Olympic gold medal winner. I'm gonna be the answer to that question.'"

Career Statistics

BRK: Brooklyn Dodgers; KC: Kansas City Athletics.

Awards and Accomplishments

1981, 1988As manager, led Los Angeles Dodgers to victory in World Series
1988Named National League Manager of the Year honors (with Jim Leyland)
1997Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame
2000As manager, led U.S. Olympic baseball team to gold medal victory

Where Is He Now?

After leading his team to a gold medal at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia, Lasorda returned to his duties as vice president at the Los Angeles Dodgers. He manages the team's public relations efforts and scouting activities, and helps to develop the organization's minor league teams.

Lasorda also acts as something of an ambassador for the sport. The close of 2002 saw him in Japan for the ninth time to scout for players and help Japanese players play the game right. "I'm a consultant, scout, general manager and a teacher all rolled into one," he said to Bill Gallo of the Daily News about his activities in Japan.

At home in the United States, Lasorda also spends time seeking to motivate young people to realize their full potential, not just in the area of sports, but in every aspect of their lives. "If you make up your mind what you want to be, you can be it," he told a group of youths in Omaha in the spring of 2002, wrote Cliff Brunt in the Omaha World-Herald. "All you have to do is pay the price. Nobody's going to hand it to you."

It was a fitting finish to a long and illustrious managing career for Lasorda. As for what the future might bring for him, he gave this hint to Woodburn: "I'll do everything I can to make baseball better. I love to go around this great country of ours, and around the world, and spread the word of baseball." Lasorda spoke with pride of his 46-year association with the Dodgers organization, and of his 45-year marriage to wife, Jo.



Brunt, Cliff. "Lasorda's Message: Love and Respect." Omaha World-Herald (June 14, 2002): 6C.

Conlin, Bill. "Against All Odds; US No-Names Steal Cuba's Gold." Sunday Mail (October 1, 2000): L21.

Dodd, Mike. "Patriot for the Games Lasorda All Wrapped Up in Olympic Excitement." USA Today (July 3, 2002): 1C.

Gallo, Bill. "These Skippers Mean World to Tommy." Daily News (October 20, 2002): 75.

Madden, Bill. "Pastime Always His Time: Preachin' Dodger Gospel Is Still Essence of Lasorda." Daily News (September 8, 1996): 92.

"Sadly, Lasorda Hangs Up His Dodger Blues." St. Petersburg Times (July 30, 1996): 5C.

Woodburn, Woody. "Lasorda Returning to the Game He Loves." Denver Rocky Mountain News (October 15, 1995): 30B.


"Tommy Lasorda." (November 13, 2002).

"Tommy Lasorda." (November 13, 2002).

"Tommy Lasorda." National Baseball Hall of Fame. (November 13, 2002).

"Tommy Lasorda Statistics." Baseball Almanac. (November 13, 2002).

Sketch by Michael Belfiore