Baseball legend Tommy Lasorda died January 7, 2021 in Fullerton, California as a result of cardiopulmonary arrest at the age of 93.
The long time Los Angeles Dodger’s manager was on hand when the Dodgers took home the World Series trophy after beating the Tampa Bay Rays at Globe Life Field in Texas in 2020, after a 32 year dry spell.
The man who once said he “bleeds Dodger blue”, had hoped to live to see 100, but heart issues cut that dream short. It was those same heart issues that forced Lasorda to retire from coaching in 1996.
At the time of his death, Lasorda was the oldest living member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. That distinction now goes to 89 year old Willie Mays.
The 2021 baseball season is still a couple of months away, but that did not stop the Dodgers and fans from honouring Lasorda. The flags were lowered to half mast, his number two jersey hung in the dugout and the number two was painted on the field. Fans stopped by the stadium to leave flowers, candles, and Dodger memorabilia.
He began his career with the Dodgers while they were still in Brooklyn as a pitcher. He later turned to coaching and then spent 21 years as the team’s manager where he led the team to two World Series championships. After he retired in 1996, Lasorda became a baseball ambassador and a special advisor to Dodgers owner Mark Walter. At the time of his death, Lasorda had spent a total of 71 years with the Dodgers.
During his 21 year career as the manager for the Dodgers, Lasorda racked up two World Series championships, four National League titles, eight division titles, was the manager in four All-Star games, and a record of 1,599 wins and 1,439 loses.
His accolades include induction into 17 Halls of Fame including the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a gold medal for the baseball Team USA at the Sydney Olympics, the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, has an asteroid name after him, and has eight honourary doctoral degrees.
While best known as the manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lasorda made numerous appearances on television including sporting events, variety shows, talk shows, “Hee Haw”, “A Yabba-Dabba-Doo Celebration!: 50 Years of Hanna-Barbera”, “Who’s the Boss”, documentaries, the jerry Lewis Telethon, “Everybody Loves Raymond”, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, “Rome is Burning”, the daytime drama “The Young and the Restless”, news shows, “Fantasy Island”, “Hart to Hart”, “Police Squad!”, “CHiPs”, “Simon & Simon”, and the voice of Lucky Lasorda in “Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco”.
He was born Thomas Charles Lasorda on September 22, 1927 in Norristown, Pennsylvania the son of Italian Immigrants. His baseball career began in 1945 as a Philadelphia Phillies but missed the next two seasons while serving in the military. After his service, he returned to the Phillies before being traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers. After losing his spot in the rotation to a young Sandy Koufax, Lasorda played for the Kansas City Athletics, the New York Yankees, and the AAA Denver Bears before making a return to the Dodgers. Before becoming the Dodgers’ manager, he was a scout and a third base coach for the team.
Predeceased by his son Tom Jr, Lasorda is survived by his wife of 70 years Jo, daughter Laura, and granddaughter Emily.
feature photo credit: By Djh57 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10613940