Tommy Lasorda, American (1927 - )

Thomas Charles Lasorda (born September 22, 1927 in Norristown, Pennsylvania) is a former Major League baseball player and manager.

2009 marked his sixth decade in one capacity or another with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers organization, the longest non-continuous (he played one season with the Kansas City Athletics) tenure anyone has had with the team, edging Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully by a single season. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 1997.

Tommy Lasorda signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an undrafted free agent in 1945 and began his professional career with the Concord Weavers in 1945. He then missed the 1946 & 1947 seasons because of a stint in the United States Army. He served on active duty from October 1945 until spring 1947.

He returned to baseball in 1948 with the Schenectady Blue Jays of the Canadian-American League. On May 31, 1948, he struck out 25 Amsterdam Rugmakers in a 15-inning game setting a professional record (since broken), and drove in the winning run with a single. In his next two starts, he struck out 15 and 13, gaining the attention of the Dodgers, who drafted him from the Phillies chain and sent him to the Greenville Spinners in 1949. Lasorda also pitched for the Cristobal Motta's in the Canal Zone Baseball League in Panama from 1948 through 1950. Lasorda played for Almendares (Cuba) from 1950–52 and 1958–60, compiling a 16-13 record in four seasons, including 8-3 with a 1.89 ERA in 1958-59. The Motta's won the championship in '48 and Lasorda made his major league debut on August 5, 1954 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Though he did not play, he won a World Series ring as a member of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. He pitched for the Dodgers for two seasons, and then for the Kansas City Athletics for one season, after the Athletics purchased him from the Dodgers. He was later traded by Kansas City to the New York Yankees in 1956 and then sold back to the Dodgers in 1957.

He was sent to the Montreal Royals of the International League in 1950. Lasorda played for Almendares (Cuba) from 1950–52 and 1958–60, compiling a 16-13 record in four seasons, including 8-3 with a 1.89 ERA in 1958-59. He pitched for Montreal from 1950–54 and 1958–1960 and is the winningest pitcher in the history of the team (107–57). He led Montreal to four straight Governors' Cups from 1951 to 1954, and a fifth one in 1958. On June 24, 2006 he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He played only in the minors for the Yankees and the Dodgers returned him to the Montreal team where he was voted the International League's Most Valuable Pitcher Award in 1958, when he won his fifth minor league championship. The Dodgers finally released him on July 9, 1960.

Lasorda's first off-field assignment with the Dodgers was as a scout from 1961–65. In 1966, he became the manager for the Pocatello Chiefs in the rookie leagues, then managed the Ogden Dodgers to three Pioneer League championships from 1966–68. He became the Dodgers AAA Pacific Coast League manager in 1969 with the Spokane Indians (1969–71) and remained in the position when the Dodgers switched their AAA farm club to the Albuquerque Dukes (1972). His 1972 Dukes team won the PCL Championship. Lasorda was also a manager for the Dominican Winter Baseball League team Tigres del Licey (Licey Tigers). He led the team to the 1973 Caribbean World Series Title in Venezuela with a series record of 5 wins and 1 loss.

Lasorda became the Los Angeles Dodgers manager September 29, 1976 upon Alston's retirement. He compiled a 1,599-1,439 record as Dodgers manager, won two World Series championships in (1981 and 1988), four National League pennants and eight division titles in his 20 year career as the Dodgers manager.

His 16 wins in 30 NL Championship games managed were the most of any manager at the time of his retirement. His 61 post-season games managed ranks fourth all-time behind Bobby Cox, Casey Stengel and Joe Torre. He also managed in four All-Star games.

Lasorda managed nine players who won the National League Rookie of the Year award. The winners came in two strings of consecutive players. From 1979 to 1982, he managed Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Howe, Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Sax. From 1992 to 1995, he managed Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raúl Mondesí and Hideo Nomo. Before retiring during the 1996 season, he had also managed that year's rookie of the year, Todd Hollandsworth.

His final game was a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros, at Dodger Stadium (att. 35,467), on June 23, 1996. The following day (June 24) he drove himself to the hospital complaining of abdominal pains, and in fact he was having a heart attack. He officially retired on July 29, 1996. His 1,599 career wins ranks 16th all-time in MLB history.

He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997 as a manager in his first year of eligibility. The Dodgers retired his uniform number (2) on August 15, 1997 and re-named a street in Dodgertown as "Tommy Lasorda Lane".

Lasorda came out of retirement to manage the United States team at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. He led the Americans to the gold medal, beating heavily favored Cuba, which had won the gold medals at the two previous Olympics. In doing so, he became the first manager win a World Championship and lead a team to Olympic Gold.

Lasorda coached the 2001 All-Star Game as third base coach. While at the plate, Vladimir Guerrero broke his bat while swinging, and the broken part flew towards Lasorda, causing him to fall backwards, but Tommy was unharmed. As a joke, Giants outfielder Barry Bonds gave Lasorda a chest protector to wear while manning the third base coaching box.

In 2006, Lasorda appeared in a series of commercials promoting the MLB Playoffs for ESPN and Fox. The campaign, entitled "Tommy’s Tough Love", featured Lasorda in a tuxedo motivating fans to watch baseball.

During Spring Training in 2008, the Dodgers were invited to play a series of exhibition games in China. Dodger manager Joe Torre took a group of players with him for that series. The majority of the team remained behind in Florida to finish out the Grapefruit League season. Lasorda briefly came out of retirement to manage the team while Torre was away.

In 2008, the government of Japan conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, which represents the fourth highest of eight classes associated with the award. The decoration was presented in acknowledgment of his contributions to Japanese baseball.

Tom became a local celebrity in the Dominican Republic due to his many visits in search of young baseball talents in this land of many famous players in major leagues, especially after becoming a devoted fan of the "chicharrones" (deep fried pork skins) commonly sold in the streets of Villa Mella neighborhood in Santo Domingo City.

On July 23, 2009, Lasorda made a cameo appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. During his brief cameo Lasorda plugged his upcoming music album of great American standards, one of which is a duet with Rod Stewart.

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