Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, who spent an astonishing 71 years in various roles in the Dodgers organization, died on Thursday night at 93, the Dodgers announced.
Lasorda suffered cardiac arrest at his home just after 10 p.m. Thursday, and was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later, per the Dodgers. This comes just days after he was released from an eight-week hospital stay for heart issues.
“There are two things about Tommy I will always remember,” Vin Scully said in a statement released by the team. “The first is his boundless enthusiasm. Tommy would get up in the morning full of beans and maintain that as long as he was with anybody else.
“The other was his determination. He was a fellow with limited ability and he pushed himself to be a very good Triple-A pitcher. He never quite had that something extra that makes a major leaguer, but it wasn’t because he didn’t try. Those are some of the things: his competitive spirit, his determination, and above all, this boundless energy and self-belief. His heart was bigger than his talent and there were no foul lines for his enthusiasm.”
The enthusiasm was evident immediately with Lasorda, who was as much the face of the teams he managed for 20 years as any of his players. Sometimes that manifested in legendary arguments with umpires, reporters, or even mascots. But it also came through in a maniacal will to win.
I will never forget a champagne-drenched Lasorda, after the underdog Dodgers won the 1988 World Series, addressing his team: “Nobody thought we could win the division. Nobody thought we’d beat the mighty Mets. Nobody thought we could beat the team that won 104 games, but we believed it!”
Lasorda was a player with the Dodgers, pitching in the majors for Brooklyn in 1954-55, and was famously the player sent down to make room for rookie Sandy Koufax on the roster.
After his playing career, Lasorda was a scout for the Dodgers, then a minor league manager from 1965-72 before joining manager Walt Alston’s coaching staff in the majors. He took over as Dodgers manager at the end of the 1976 season, and held the position for 20 years. After winning 1,599 games as a manager, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997.
“This is the greatest thing to ever happen to me in my lifetime,” Lasorda said during his induction speech in Cooperstown. “The Hall of Fame is eternity, and I thank God for all of it. I feel that it won’t be too long before my mother will be shaking me and saying, ‘Wake up, Tommy. It’s time to go to school.’ I’m living a dream.”
The Dodgers won four pennants under Lasorda’s watch, and championships in 1981 and 1988.
Those were the last championships the Dodgers won until 2020, and Lasorda was in Texas to see them beat the Rays in Game 6. That was his last major league game.
“Tommy Lasorda was one of the finest managers our game has ever known. He loved life as a Dodger,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “His career began as a pitcher in 1949 but he is, of course, best known as the manager of two World Series Champions and four pennant-winning clubs. His passion, success, charisma and sense of humor turned him into an international celebrity, a stature that he used to grow our sport.”
Lasorda is survived by his wife Jo, with whom he celebrated 70 years of marriage last April, their daughter Laura, and granddaughter Emily.