© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Legendary Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda Dies At 93

LA Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda argues a call with an umpire during a game against the New York Mets in 1992. During his two decades as manager, Lasorda led Los Angeles to two World Series championships.
LA Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda argues a call with an umpire during a game against the New York Mets in 1992. During his two decades as manager, Lasorda led Los Angeles to two World Series championships.

Legendary Los Angeles Dodgers manager and Baseball Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, who guided his team to two World Series championships, has died, the Dodgers organization announced. He was 93.

In a tweet, the Dodgers said Lasorda suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest at his home on Thursday night. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Dodgers announced in a tweet on Sunday that Lasorda had been hospitalized in intensive care in Orange County and that he was "resting comfortably," although it didn't provide details of his illness.

Lasorda spent seven decades with the Dodgers, first in Brooklyn, then in Los Angeles, retaining the title of special adviser to the chairman up until his death. As recently as Oct. 27, he attended LA's Game 6 victory over Tampa that clinched the Dodgers' first World Series since 1988, when Lasorda was manager.

Unlike most managers who move from team to team, Lasorda spent his career with the Dodgers — the perfect place for his outsized personality. In 20 years of managing the team, Lasorda — in addition to the 1988 World Series championship and another seven years prior — also led his team to four National League pennants and eight division titles. Those accomplishments, and the enthusiasm of players and fans landed him a spot in the Hall of Fame.

"This game does not belong to the owners nor does this game belong to the players," he said in his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1997. "And I'll tell you why. You can have the greatest stadium in the world and the best ball team. And if no one goes through those turnstiles, you've got nothing."

On the field, Lasorda was a workhorse. In an interview in 2013 with Fresh Air, former Dodger catcher Mike Piazza remembered Lasorda's doggedness.

"I mean, he worked with me many hours in spring training at Dodgertown in Vero Beach," Piazza said. "He threw balls in the dirt, he would throw batting practice. Tommy after a game would pull the batting cage out and we'd hit after a game."

Lasorda was a fierce and passionate competitor. He was also known for his wicked sense of humor and expletive-laden rants against opposing players and managers.

Lasorda's colorful, outgoing personality made him a lot of friends in L.A. show business circles. His nickname was Tommy Lasagna for his love of Italian food. As former Dodger Steve Garvey recalled, he was one of those guys who would talk with just about anyone who'd listen.

"Tommy was sort of the P.T. Barnum of baseball, a character, the best storyteller, the best entertainer," Garvey said.

Lasorda was born in Norristown, Pa., in 1927. As a young man, he was a pitcher, but his career as a player, in the 1950s, was unremarkable. Eventually, he became a scout, then a minor league manager and a Dodger coach. He took over as the Dodger's manager in 1976.

During the 1996 season Lasorda suffered a heart attack. He decided to retire, choosing his health over his career.

"If I'm going to put that uniform on, I'm going to be Tommy Lasorda of old," he said at the time. "I'm gonna be hollering and arguing with umpires and screaming and everything like I do. I can't do that."

Lasorda came out of retirement in 2000 to coach the U.S. Olympic team, which won a gold medal. He became an ambassador for the Dodgers — making more than 100 public appearances a year. On television, in schools and even at the White House.

He was hospitalized again in 2012 after another heart attack.

But until his death, the team and the game were everything to Lasorda, who told Fox Sports that he couldn't think of any better way to have spent his life. "If I could've seen God and wrote on a piece of paper what I wanted to be for my life, it couldn't be any better than this," he said.

Lasorda said he bled Dodger blue. But few people did a better job of promoting all of baseball.

Lasorda is survived by his wife of 70 years, Jo, a daughter and granddaughter.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As supervising editor for Arts and Culture at NPR based at NPR West in Culver City, Ted Robbins plans coverage across NPR shows and online, focusing on TV at a time when there's never been so much content. He thinks "arts and culture" encompasses a lot of human creativity — from traditional museum offerings to popular culture, and out-of-the-way people and events.