Archive for September, 2007

Tommy Lasorda remember Sydney 2000

September 14th, 2007

Tommy Lasorda celebrate his 80th birthday, and he still remember the Sydney 2000 Olympics, “And who ever could have dreamed that the Olympic baseball team I managed in 2000 in Sydney would beat the so-called unbeatable Cubans”.

You can find it at “MLB.com

Dodgers to celebrate Tommy Lasorda’s 80th birthday with special pregame ceremony
Hall of Fame manager to be honored with Hall of Fame bobblehead tomorrow

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers will celebrate Hall of Fame Manager and Special Advisor to the Chairman Tommy Lasorda’s 80th birthday during a special pregame ceremony tomorrow, September 14. A video montage of Lasorda’s friends and former players will be played on Dodgervision and a cake will be presented to Lasorda at home plate.

“I am so very grateful the Dodgers are honoring my birthday with such a special bobblehead,” said Lasorda. “I hope the fans have a great time and enjoy the celebration.”

While Lasorda’s actual birthday is September 22, the Dodgers will celebrate on September 14 and give away a special Tommy Lasorda Hall of Fame bobblehead doll to the first 50,000 fans in attendance, compliments of FSN Prime Ticket. Lasorda will sign 80 dolls that will be randomly given away as fans come through the turnstiles.

In an effort to pay further tribute to Lasorda’s life in baseball, dodgers.com has constructed a special tribute web page to Lasorda that includes four photo galleries of rare photos of Lasorda throughout his life in baseball and a video of his Hall of Fame induction speech. The photo galleries include pictures that date from 1944 to 2007.

Earlier in the day Lasorda will be honored by the Hollenbeck Youth Center at their 26th Annual Salute to the Dodgers luncheon. Lasorda will receive the Legacy Award for his life-long contributions to the greater Los Angeles community. The luncheon is being held at the Westin Bonaventure.

Also included in the special section on dodgers.com is a collection of stories written about Lasorda by his friends and former players. Contributors include Vin Scully, Joe Garagiola, Mike Scioscia, Steve Garvey, Charlie Hough, Jerry Reuss, Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Rick Monday, Jay Johnstone, Tom Paciorek, Tommy Hutton, Wes Parker, Steve Yeager, Ben Sheets, Bill Dwyre, Charley Steiner and Don Rickles among others.

Lasorda compiled a 1,599-1,439 record and won two World Championships, four National League pennants and eight division titles in an extraordinary 20-year career as the Dodgers’ manager. He ranks 16th with 1,599 wins and 12th with 3,038 games managed in Major League history. His 16 wins in 30 NL Championship Series games managed were the most of any manager at the time of his retirement in 1996.

Lasorda managed an underdog United States Olympic Baseball Team to the Gold Medal at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, just five days after celebrating his 73rd birthday. On Nov. 6, 2000, the Tom Lasorda Heart Institute officially opened at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, California.

Lasorda posted a 3-1 record as the NL manager in four All-Star Games. He joined St. Louis’ Gabby Street (1930-31) as the only managers in NL history to win league titles in his first two seasons when he led the Dodgers to titles in 1977-78. Lasorda also managed nine of the Dodgers’ 16 Rookies of the Year, more than any other big league skipper in history.

Prior to replacing Hall of Famer Walter Alston as manager on Sept. 29, 1976, Lasorda spent four seasons in Los Angeles on Alston’s coaching staff. He spent eight seasons as a manager in the Dodgers’ minor league system at Pocatello (1965), Ogden (1966-68), Spokane (1969-71) and Albuquerque (1972). Lasorda also spent four years as a Dodger scout after retiring as a player following the 1960 season. An astounding 75 players Lasorda managed in the minor leagues went on to play in the Majors.

And “Long Beach Press Telegram“.

Former Dodger manager Lasorda still as spry as ever as he turns 80

They will be handing out thousands of bobblehead dolls of Tommy Lasorda tonight at Dodger Stadium in commemoration of his upcoming 80th birthday.

But, befitting a career that has not exactly followed the boundaries of convention, the bobblehead will not be the standard one, as it will feature Lasorda holding his Hall of Fame plaque.

It could serve as a metaphoric symbol of the unique odyssey Lasorda has trod throughout his long existence.

“I look back at my life and I’m still in awe of it, still can’t believe how it has turned out,” says Lasorda, who signed with the Dodgers in 1949 and has worked for the organization ever since, except for a brief tour with the Kansas City Athletics in 1956 when he lost all four of his major league decisions.

“Who ever could have dreamed that the son of an Italian immigrant from Norristown, Pennsylvania, who was a third-string pitcher on his high school team his senior year would become the manager of the greatest franchise in Major League Baseball for 20 years?

“Who ever could have dreamed that a guy like me who never stepped foot on a college campus in my younger days would wind up wearing a cap and gown and receiving six honorary doctorate degrees?

Or would meet Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush? Or would travel all over the world, and become good friends with people like Frank Sinatra and Don Rickles. Or would give speeches all over the country, including at all our military academies?

“Who ever could have dreamed that my name would be mentioned right there with Connie Mack, John McGraw and Walter Alston, when it comes to guys who managed one team for such a long period? And who ever could have dreamed that the Olympic baseball team I managed in 2000 in Sydney would beat the so-called unbeatable Cubans?”

There never has been a baseball manager who has shaken more hands, signed more autographs, consumed more tasty meals, uttered more memorable radio sound bites, gone on more diets, created more hoopla and had more fun than Lasorda.

But sometimes almost overlooked in all the blustery hijinks swirling in his orbit – the Slim-Fast diet hysteria, the Jim Healy Show expletives-deleted tapes, the Big Dodger In The Sky spiels, the America’s Dining Guest persona – was the fact that he was one inspirational manager who always was able to dredge the most out of his ball players.

During his lengthy incumbency as the Dodgers’ field commander that started in 1976 and ended in the middle of the 1996 season when he decided to retire after suffering a heart attack, his teams won four National League titles and two World Series titles.

The first one was improbable enough – his 1981 Dodgers came back from an 0-2 deficit against the New York Yankees to win it in six games – but the second one turned out to be even more stunning and climaxed a most memorable season.

That came in 1988 when the Dodgers, a big underdog against a powerful Oakland A’s team, wound up slaying the A’s in five games on the batting heroics of Kirk Gibson, the pitching exploits of Orel Hershiser and the fiery leadership of Lasorda.

But Lasorda will tell you what he was able to achieve in the Sydney Olympics with a bunch of youngsters against the experienced, talented Cubans ranks as his most noble achievement.

“Obviously, it was a great thing when we finally beat the Yankees after they had beaten us in the Series in 1977 and 1978,” says Lasorda. “I remember praying to God and saying, `Please, if we ever get back in the Series, let us face the Yankees.’ And, of course, beating the A’s was very special.

“And I’m quite proud of the fact we had nine Rookie if the Year players when I managed. No team ever has had that many, much less one manager.

“But I’d have to say bringing that baseball gold medal back to the United States at the expense of the Cubans is what makes me the proudest. I think it’s my top achievement in baseball.

“You must understand when the Dodgers win a pennant, San Francisco Giant fans aren’t happy, St. Louis Cardinal fans aren’t happy, Chicago Cub fans aren’t happy. And neither are any of the other fans in the other National League cities. But when we brought that medal back to America, everyone in this country was happy.

“No one thought we could beat the Cubans, but I did. Why couldn’t we? We had good players. They just had to believe in themselves, and they did. Once they got that confidence, there was no stopping us.”

It might be a surprise to some people, but Lasorda didn’t begin his career with the Dodgers. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies when he was a mere 16 in 1944, and even pitched a year later with one of their minor-league teams, the Concord Weavers, before being drafted into the Army.

He did his basic training at Fort McClellan in Alabama, and also was stationed at Fort Mead in Maryland and Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

It turned out service life wasn’t too taxing for Lasorda, who was in charge of athletic activities and played baseball and basketball.

“I actually had a pretty good time in the Army,” he says. “When I was in South Carolina, I was able to play for semi-pro teams in small cities called Camden and Joanna. I made 100 bucks a game when I pitched, and I made some good money.

“I always remember calling my dad, and asking him how much money he would need to refurbish our three-story Norristown home. He said it would take about $4,000 for what he wanted done. I wound up sending him $5,500 from the money I made pitching for those semi-pro teams. I lived on five bucks a week in those days.”

After Pfc. Lasorda left the Army, the young left-hander made such an impression with the Schenectady Blue Jays – he struck out 25 in a 15-inning game – that he was drafted from the Phillies chain by the Brooklyn Dodgers.

He went to the Dodgers’ Vero Beach training camp in 1949, and has never forgotten the experience.

“Here I was at the dining table eating next to people like Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and all the other big Dodger stars,” says Lasorda. “Once again, I just couldn’t believe what was happening to me. These guys were like gods to me, bigger than life. And here I was eating next to them and playing in the same training camp.”

Lasorda would pitch in Greenville, S.C., in 1949, where he would meet his future wife, Jo, whom he’s been married to now for 57 years.

Lasorda was promoted to the Montreal Royals of the Triple-A International League in 1950, and would lead the team to four straight Governors Cup between 1951-54.

Although he proved to be an exceptional minor-league pitcher, Lasorda never made it with the Dodgers, who in those days were overflowing with talented personnel.

He did appear briefly with the team during the 1954 and 1955 seasons – he pitched four games in each without a decision – before being traded to Kansas City.

The A’s dealt Lasorda to the Yankees during the 1956 season, but the Yankees sent Lasorda to the minors and later sold him back to the Dodgers.

Lasorda would finish up his playing career with a brief stay with the Los Angeles Angels of the old Pacific Coast League in 1957 and with a triumphant return to Montreal in 1958, as he would propel the Royals to another title and was named the International League’s Most Valuable Pitcher. He wound up 107-57 in his six seasons with the Royals.

He was a scout for the Dodgers between 1961-65 before becoming a manager in the team’s minor-league system, and his work at each venue – Ogden, Pocatello, Spokane and Albuquerque – impressed management enough that he was brought up in 1973 to become Walter Alston’s third base coach.

Lasorda remained in that position until Sept. 29, 1976, when he was named to succeed Alston, who was retiring.

After that, Lasorda would become one of the most famous managers in the history of the sport and would be enshrined in Cooperstown in 1997.

And, even though he soon will be celebrating a milestone birthday – he actually will turn 80 on Sept. 22 – Lasorda has no plans to retire from his current position as special adviser to Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.

“No way do I feel 80,” he says. “No way I’m leaving this game. I still can contribute. I still can motivate. I still can evaluate talent. I still like to talk to players and to help them in anyway I can.

“The Dodgers have been utilizing what I’m good at doing, and I’m grateful for that. Grady Little has been wonderful to me, as has Ned Colletti. And the McCourts have just been tremendous.

“I feel good physically. I just got back from Dallas where I was honored at a banquet. It seems like I’m always being honored somewhere. My book `I Live For This’ is coming out this month, and I’ll soon be traveling around the country promoting it. In November, I’m scheduled to speak to the Air Force Academy for the ninth time.

“I’m the most appreciative guy in the world for what has happened to me. I’ll never forget back in 2000 when the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs were opening the season in Tokyo, and I’m seated in Bud Selig’s box. And I get the word that the Crown Prince of Japan, Naruhito, wanted to meet me. Who ever could have dreamed that the crown prince of Japan would want to meet me? And a little later the president of Japan said he also wanted to meet me. I tell you, my life still amazes me.”

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