Baseball dignitary and veteran Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda died late yesterday evening in his California home due to heart failure at age 93.
Lasorda had a lengthy history of cardiac complications that lead to a heart attack in 1996 forcing him to retire from managing and ultimately having another in 2012 resulting in him wearing a pacemaker.
The ballpark legend dedicated 71 years to the sport that framed him into the fearless spirit we all knew him as.
A Norristown, Pennsylvania native, he began his professional career as a pitcher signed to the Philadelphia Phillies as an undrafted free agent in 1945 before serving in the army.
After returning from his tour in 1948, he resumed in his element making a name for himself striking out 25 in a 15-inning game catching the attention of the Dodgers, who drafted him from the Phillies.
In 1954, he made his major league debut with then Brooklyn Dodgers and gained a team World Series title in 1955, lasting two seasons before being traded to the Yankees in 1956 and later with the Denver Bears.
While playing for Denver, Tommy was mentored by team manager and fellow baseball luminary Ralph Houk. “Ralph taught me that if you treat players like human beings, they will play like Superman” stated the late Lasorda from his 2009 biography “I Live For This: Baseball’s Last True Believer”, and so it was.
In 1957, he made his comeback to the Dodgers making the franchise his home evolving from pitcher, coach, and sequentially manager. He composed a 1,599-1,439 record, attained two World Series titles, four National League pennants, and eight-division titles.
True to form, that quote resonated in Lasorda and became his mantra throughout his life being the club’s colossal patron and strongest defender sounding off to whoever challenged him.
Nonetheless, Lasorda bled blue till the very end even after retirement as appointing Vice President, special adviser, and loyal supporter frequently making appearances in the owner’s box to overwhelming standing ovations.
Tommy Lasorda was a true icon in his own right leaving behind a remarkable legacy. He is survived by his wife of 70 years Jo, their daughter Laura and granddaughter Emily.