The Lore of Tommy Lasorda, One of Major League Baseball’s Last Great Characters
Remembering some of the best moments in the the Dodger legend's storied career
Outside of Fernando Tatís Jr. of the Padres, Tim Anderson of the White Sox and a few other exciting young players, modern-day Major League Baseball is fairly bereft of the sorts of personalities that used to partake in America’s Pastime.
Mike Trout of the Angeles has won the MVP award three times, but if you know anything more about him than that he shills subs for Subway and rarely makes the playoffs, you are a more dedicated fan than most. Trout is a sandwich man — and he’s milquetoast.
That cannot be said about Tommy Lasorda, the fiery Hall of Fame manager who steered the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series titles and spent 71 years with the franchise.
Lasorda, who died this week at the age of 93 after suffering a heart attack at his California home, was a character back when MLB was still full of ’em.
Never a standout as a professional pitcher (0-4 with a 6.48 ERA and 13 strikeouts at the major league level from 1954-56), Lasorda used his personality to help separate himself from the pack and employed it to rise through the ranks of the Dodger organization all the way to manager.
Once he was in the Dodger dugout, and on his way there, Lasorda was involved in too many colorful incidents and notable moments to count, but we did our best to collect some of the most memorable below.
The story about the ’27 Yankees
On Twitter, former Seattle sports talk host Mike Gastineau shared a story he was told about Lasorda by former Mariners outfielder Tom Paciorek, who played for the legendary manager in 1972 as a member of the minor leagues’ Albuquerque Dukes.
They led the PCL all year but lost 5 straight in August. Suddenly, the lead was in peril. Lasorda spoke to them:— Mike Gastineau (@gasman206) January 8, 2021
“You guys are moping around because you lost 5 games. The 1927 Yankees were the greatest team in history and they had a seven game losing streak. 2/4
Discussing Dave Kingman
While playing for the Chicago Cubs, Kingman hit three homers and drove in eight runs in a 10-7, extra-inning victory over the Dodgers. Afterward, a reporter asked Lasorda what he thought of Kingman’s performance. Lasorda’s response was … colorful. We’d transcribe it for you, but there are so many bleeps you can’t really even understand what he’s saying, The gist of it is that he was not thrilled with Kingman’s performance or the reporter’s question about it.
The meltdown about Kurt Bevacqua
In July of 1982, Kurt Bevacqua of the San Diego Padres called Lasorda “that fat little Italian″ after Dodgers pitcher Tom Niedenfuer was fined $500 for throwing at Joe Lefebvre, Bevacqua’s teammate. After denying he ordered Niedenfuer to hit Lefebvre, Lasorda put Bevacqua on blast, saying, among other things, that he “couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a fucking boat.″
Fighting the Phillie Phanatic
In this 1988 encounter, Lasorda took exception to the Phanatic riding around on an ATV while holding a life-sized doll of the iconic manager in uniform, with extra padding in the stomach. A big guy with a larger-than-life person, Lasorda showed the Phanatic what he thought of being fat-shamed by green goof.
A mound visit in the ’77 World Series
In Game 4 of the 1977 World Series at Dodger Stadium. lefty Doug Rau gave up several hits to the Yankees in the top of the third inning. Lasorda, wearing a microphone attached to his uniform as part of the national broadcast on CBS, went out to relieve Rau. But Rau didn’t want to give up the ball. Rau tried arguing with his manager and it did not go well. Thankfully, thanks to the hot mic, it was recorded.
His Olympic medal
Writing on Twitter, New York Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman shared an encounter he had with Lasorda at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Curious about whether he would get a medal if the team won, Lasorda had a funny reaction when he found out that he would not be leaving with gold, silver or bronze no matter how the Americans finished.
2/I think this was a day before the US played Cuba in the gold medal game, he said, “so you know I don’t get a gold medal if we win.” I said, yes, it is not like rings in MLB, coaches don’t get anything at the Olympics, just the athletes. Tommy is getting hot about how much— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) January 8, 2021
The Youppi incident
Managing against the Montreal Expos (remember them?) in 1989, Lasorda began to get annoyed with the team mascot after Youppi began jumping on the top of the metal Dodger dugout. That annoyance grew when the game went into extra innings and Youppi! changed into pajamas and pretended to sleep on top of the dugout. Ultimately, Lasorda convinced the home plate umpire to eject Youppi! from the game.
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