Tommy Lasorda, the eternally optimistic Hall of Famer who managed the Los Angeles Dodgers for 20 seasons and led them to two World Series titles, has died at the age of 93, the team announced Friday.
Lasorda, long hailed as one of the most colorful figures in baseball, suffered cardiopulmonary arrest at his home just after 10 p.m. Thursday and was taken to a hospital “with resuscitation in progress,” according to the Dodgers. He was pronounced dead at 10:57 p.m.
Lasorda had just been released Tuesday from an Orange County hospital, where he spent about six weeks. He was hospitalized in November, shortly after attending the Dodgers’ World Series-clinching victory in Arlington, Texas.
The San Diego Padres expressed their condolences on his death, tweeting that they “join the entire baseball community in mourning the loss of Tommy Lasorda.”
We join the entire baseball community in mourning the loss of Tommy Lasorda.
Our thoughts are with the Lasorda family in this time. https://t.co/BHM2JMVvi6
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) January 8, 2021
“He always thought he was blessed,” Steve Garvey, who began his career with the Dodgers before becoming a Padre, told MLB.com (in video above). “And the blessing, you know, was sincere too. Bottom line was he loved people, he loved his country. I would say he’s gotten the most out of his life of really anyone I know.”
Former Padre and New York Yankee Dave Winfield posted his thoughts on Lasorda on Twitter: “Anyone that ever met him knows he was one of a kind!”
Long-time Dodger and New York Met Mike Piazza, who spent one year as a Padre, posted that his “love and utmost appreciation for Tommy Lasorda is deeper than baseball.”
A Hall of Famer since 1997, Lasorda led the Dodgers to two World Series championships, in 1981 and 1988, and two World Series losses, in 1977 and 1978, during his managerial career.
First met @TommyLasorda back in early 70’s when representing @Padres @Dodgers organizations. We became close when we both retired. Anyone that ever met him knows he was one of a kind! #RIP Tommy @MiLB @MLBPAA @MLB_PLAYERS @mlb pic.twitter.com/wFQ1XUXrvL
— Dave Winfield (@DaveWinfieldHOF) January 8, 2021
The Fullerton resident was with the Dodgers organization for more than 70 years as a player, scout, manager and front office executive. He managed the Dodgers from 1976-96.
“My family, my partners and I were blessed to have spent a lot of time with Tommy,” Mark Walter, Dodgers owner/chairman, said. “He was a great ambassador for the team and baseball and a mentor to players and coaches. He always had time for an autograph and a story for his many fans and he was a good friend. he will be dearly missed.”
Stan Kasten, team president/CEO, added, “In a franchise that has celebrated such great legends of the game, no one who wore the uniform embodied the Dodger spirit as much as Tommy Lasorda.”
Praised as one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors and known as one of the sport’s great interviews, Lasorda was a ubiquitous media presence during his managing days. He made multiple appearances on television shows, often playing himself.
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
Lasorda was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 22, 1927. He was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1945, but reached the big leagues as a pitcher with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954.
He started one game for the 1955 Dodgers and won a World Series ring that year despite only appearing in four games.
After his playing career ended in 1960, Lasorda spent the next decade working his way up through the Dodgers organization as a scout and minor league manager. In 1973 he was made the team’s third-base coach, heir-apparent to longtime manager Walter Alston. He took over when Alston retired at the end of the 1976 season.
In his early years managing the team, the gregarious Lasorda was often known as much for his celebrity connections, bringing famous pals such as Frank Sinatra and Don Rickles into the clubhouse after games.
— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
(@baseballhall) January 8, 2021
His outgoing personality had a bit of a salty side, notoriously captured in a furious 1978 tirade. A reporter asked for his opinion of Dave Kingman’s performance after the Cubs outfielder had hit three home runs against the Dodgers.
Lasorda cursed a blue streak, and bootleg versions of the tape made the rounds for years.
Lasorda took over a talented young team led by the infield of Garvey at first, Davey Lopes at second, shortstop Bill Russell and third-baseman Ron Cey. They made it to the World Series, losing two frustrating six-game series to the New York Yankees in consecutive seasons.
Lasorda cemented his credentials with a second World Series title in 1988, as the team beat the heavily favored Oakland A’s in five games. The 1988 team was led by starting pitcher Orel Hershiser, who blossomed into a dominating force.
Lasorda was named a team vice president after he stepped down from the manager’s role and has spent subsequent years helping the team’s scouting and community relations departments, making several speaking engagements annually.
He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 1997, his first year of eligibility. Since the death of Red Schoendienst in June 2018, he had been the oldest living Hall of Famer.
“This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me in my lifetime,” Lasorda said in his HOF induction speech. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win world championships, (manage teams with) Cy Young Awards, MVPs, nine rookies of the year, All-Star games, but they come and go. But the Hall of Fame is eternity, and I thank God for all of it.”
In the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Lasorda became the first manager to win a World Series championship and lead a team to an Olympic gold medal, when the U.S. defeated Cuba, 4-0 in the gold medal game.
Lasorda is credited with spending 71 years working for the Dodgers organization, edging out broadcaster Vin Scully for the longest tenure. Scully retired in 2016. In recent years, Lasorda was a special adviser to the chairman.
Scully, whose wife Sandi died Sunday, said he will forever remember Lasorda’s “boundless enthusiasm.”
“Tommy would get up in the morning full of beans and maintain that as long as he was with anybody else,” Scully said.
Lasorda was married to Jo for 70 years. The couple met in Greenville, South Carolina, Jo’s hometown, while Lasorda played for the minor league Greenville Spinners.
Lasorda is survived by Jo, their daughter Laura and granddaughter Emily Tess. Lasorda’s son, Tom Jr., died in 1991.
– Staff and wire reports
Note – Photo credit: Lasorda and his wife Jo with President Ronald Reagan on Dec. 7, 1981, from the White House Photographic Collection via Wikimedia Commons.