The baseball world said goodbye to yet another Hall of Famer this week.
Long-time Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda died Thursday night at the age of 93, after suffering a sudden cardiopulmonary arrest, per a team statement.
Lasorda joined the Dodgers organization as a scout in 1960, and then worked his way up the minor league coaching ranks. He reached the majors as the 3B coach, and after four years in that role he took over as the team’s manager at the very end of 1976, remaining in that post through 1996.
In 20+ seasons as the Dodgers skipper, Lasorda led the club to a .526 winning percentage (1599-1439) and twice won NL Manager of the Year (1983, 1986). His teams also won two World Series championships (1981, 1988), as well as two more NL pennants (1977, 1978). He stands as an enormously popular all-time legend in franchise lore after spending 71 years serving in various roles, and his jersey No. 2 is retired by the Dodgers.
After retiring from MLB, Lasorda returned to the dugout in 2000 to manage the U.S. National Team at the Sydney Olympics. His squad won the gold medal in an upset over Cuba, making him the first manager ever to win both a World Series ring and an Olympic gold.
Lasorda also has his share of connections with the Athletics organization. During his brief playing career, he pitched for the Kansas City A’s in 1956, throwing 45⅓ innings in his final MLB action. Three decades later, he met the Oakland A’s in the World Series and beat them, despite the green and gold being heavily favored.
As a manager, the charismatic Lasorda was known and loved for his animated, outspoken style, with no shortage of clips of his obscenity-laden tirades. He earned the respect of his players and of his team’s fans alike.
Since the beginning of September 2020, Lasorda is the seventh Hall of Famer to pass away, after Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, Joe Morgan, and Phil Niekro.
Lasorda had been the oldest living HOFer. That distinction now falls to 89-year-old Willie Mays.
Eric Stephen of SB Nation site True Blue LA offers a wide look at Lasorda through the eyes of a Dodgers fan:
- Tommy Lasorda, Hall of Fame Dodgers manager, dies at 93
- The baseball world remembers Tommy Lasorda
- Tommy Lasorda’s best moments
- It’s hard to imagine the Dodgers without Tommy Lasorda
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the following:
“Tommy Lasorda was one of the finest managers our 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 pennant-winning clubs. His passion, success, charisma and sense of humor turned him into an international celebrity, a stature that he used to grow our sport.”
All of baseball media is sharing fond memories of Tommy, but here’s one that Athletics Nation might particularly enjoy.
A Tommy Lasorda memory: Before the last night game at Candlestick Park, with the crowd booing him one last time, Tommy stepped up to the mic and said: 'I finally figured it out. You don't hate me. You hate yourselves because you LOVE me.' Truly one of a kind. #RIP— Daniel Brown (@BrownieAthletic) January 8, 2021
Former players also speak highly of him, but perhaps none more so than Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, whose younger brother Thomas is named after Lasorda.
It’s hard to find the right words to say about a man who changed my life and my family’s life forever. A man with a larger than life personality, whose toughness, wit and tenacity rivals anyone I've ever met. Simply put, there is no one like Tommy Lasorda.— Mike Piazza (@mikepiazza31) January 9, 2021
because he saw something in me that I didn’t always see in myself. He taught me a lot about the game but most importantly about life.— Mike Piazza (@mikepiazza31) January 9, 2021
My love and utmost appreciation for Tommy Lasorda is deeper than baseball. He was an inspiration to so many and
Dave Stewart won a ring under Lasorda, in 1981
Playing for Tommy and being a Dodger was the foundation I needed to become a solid player. Pride for the game first, pride for organization second, fun is winning! There are 3 types of player: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happen!— Dave “Smoke” Stewart (@Dsmoke34) January 8, 2021
One of his most classic tirades, after Dave Kingman hit three homers in a win over the Dodgers. Note that by the end, the reporter himself agrees it “wasn’t a good question.”
As for on-field, here is he is arguing a call in the 1978 World Series, involving Reggie Jackson (who was then on the Yankees).
His legendary fight with the Phillie Phanatic
He came back to coach third base at the 2001 All-Star Game, leading to one of the best bloopers in the history of the Midsummer Classic.
Flashing his famous sense of humor
Tommy Lasorda, no shirt, just straight bringing the cheddar. pic.twitter.com/wc5AiPZPzG— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) January 7, 2021
One final fun fact, to add to the aforementioned one about Piazza’s brother: The full name of current MLB catcher Alex Avila is Alexander Thomas Avila in honor of Lasorda, as his grandfather Ralph Avila is a former Dodgers scout and long-time friend of Tommy.
"I bleed Dodger blue and when I die, I'm going to the big Dodger in the sky." -Tommy Lasorda— Dodgers-LowDown (@DodgersLowDown) January 8, 2021