LOS ANGELES (AP) — Vignettes from the life and career of Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda. He died Thursday at age 93.
Pitcher Orel Hershiser, the 1988 World Series MVP and NL Cy Young Award winner, remembers the banter between him and Lasorda during mound visits. At times, the fiery Lasorda would rip into Hershiser and then leave him in the game. Other times, the manager didn’t need to get tough.
“He actually motivated me by saying, ‘Bulldog, I need you to get these guys out in a hurry. I’m hungry and the postgame spread is cooling.’”
Hershiser recalled a mound visit Lasorda made to reliever Jesse Orosco.
“He was trying to figure out the camera angle so that he could swear on the mound and people couldn’t read his lips because Vin Scully notoriously could read lips as could other broadcasters.”
DINING WITH THE MANAGER
Utility player Bobby Valentine first met Lasorda when he was scouted in 1968 and then played for him in Ogden, Utah, of the Pioneer League. Lasorda picked him up from the airport after his flight from New York. He told Valentine that he had a lot of responsibility as the top pick of the Dodgers.
“I said, ‘Well, you just tell me what the responsibilities are and I’m here to meet those responsibilities.’ And he said, ‘Well, the first thing you have to do is take the manager to dinner.’ And I took him to dinner on the way home from the airport. We bought a steak and I asked if the number two pick was going to take him out the next day. That turned out to be Billy Buckner, who refused to buy him dinner.”
Lasorda often wrote postcards and letters to his players during and after their playing days. Some contained messages of motivation for the coming season. Hershiser left the Dodgers as a free agent and signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1995.
Hershiser received a letter lamenting the distance Lasorda felt in their father-son relationship and his desire to rekindle it.
“He didn’t just write it in one line or one paragraph. It was like a two or three-page letter going through memories that we’d had and phone calls and talks that we’d had and places we had been and how he missed that. That helped motivate me and probably him a little bit, that we stayed in a lot closer contact. He really was telling me that just because you’re wearing another uniform, our relationship is not going to stop.”
Lasorda was popular with autograph seekers throughout his life. He thrived on the human contact, and he had a way with kids who sought him out. One of those was Corey Kasten, the 8-year-old son of Stan Kasten, who was then an executive with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. First, Lasorda had the younger Kasten shake hands and say please. The elder Kasten remembers what happened next.
“He said, ‘Now I repeat after me, I love the Hawks.’ My son goes, ‘I love the Hawks.’ He said, ‘Now, repeat after me, I love the Dodgers.’ Well, this was a problem for my son. He couldn’t trip my son up on that, but I love the Braves. Tommy just roared with laughter and then he gave him his autograph. ‘Dear Corey, your friend Tommy Lasorda. You and the Dodgers are great.’ That was the ultimate compliment for Tommy Lasorda, comparing someone to the Dodgers. Fast forward 35 years, I’m now here running the Dodgers and I see him meet a young kid and go through the same exercise, the same rigmarole. That never changed. Today when I think about saying goodbye to Tommy, the only way I could think to say it is, Tommy, we will never forget you. You and the Dodgers are great.”
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.