MLB: A Tribute to the Late, Great Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda

There were not many in this world like Tommy Lasorda, let alone the baseball world, and on Thursday, January 7, the Dodgers’ great was called to The Bigs with the The Big Man.

A devout Catholic, Lasorda famously brought in a priest to give mass for the Catholic players before Sunday games.

He gave some of the best speeches ever.

In fact, he gave a lot of the best things ever, such as life lessons, jokes, moments to laugh at; memories.

This tribute to Lasorda will take you back on a walk through the journey of Tommy Lasorda over the years and may include footage or speeches you might have never seen before. And also to some great quotes that serve as lifelong lessons, harsh criticisms, funny jokes and much more.

Lasorda was 93 years old.

“I love this place. Sometimes I look around and can’t believe it, Blue Heaven on Earth,” Lasorda once said in a 2013 CNN interview. “I used to say, ‘if you want to get to heaven, you’ve got to go through Dodger Stadium.” 

“I’d like to be buried under the pitcher’s mound, and when some young lefthander is out there struggling I’ll say, ‘slow down, son, concentrate, you can do it, you’ve got to believe in yourself,’ and he’ll look around and say to himself, ‘somebody’s talking to me. Where? Who’s this guy talking to me?’ It’ll be Tom Lasorda underneath that pitcher’s mound telling him to slow down and that he could do it,” Lasorda said. 

Tommy Lasorda on When He Wanted to Go, and Who the First Dodger He Wanted to See Up There

“I don’t have the (managerial power) to do that (turn the team into a championship contender) anymore. I’m not the manager of the general manager, but I have been a part of this organization for 64 years (at the time, was 70 as of Thursday night). I will continue doing it until the day the big Dodger in the sky calls me. He’s going to call me one day and I’m going to go up and see all the ex Dodgers there.”

The first Dodger he said he would want to see in heaven is Don Drysdale. He however wanted to wait until he was 100.

Don’t Cross Tommy Lasorda; No Matter Who You Are! He’ll Kill You!

“I was always upset about him (the Philly Phanatic) taking my shirt and putting it on some dummy and then running over it,” Lasorda said.

“I didn’t particularly like that and I told him. I said, ‘I don’t want you to do that anymore.’ The next time I saw him he still put my shirt on so I went after him and I bopped him down a little bit and said, ‘if there weren’t all these people here I’d really rip ya!'”

On August 28, 1988 Tommy Lasorda had enough with the pestering of the infamous Philly Phanatic. After the warnings, he went out and removed the Phanatic’s Honda FourTrax ATV out of the way and started ripping into the mascot, walloping him with the mannequin, putting on quite the show that the team’s identity clearly came from the manager.

The Phanatic then got on the ATV and mocked Lasorda’s famous belly, to which the irate manager threw a baseball at him, as the Phanatic sped off around the Veterans Stadium field.

“I hate the Philly Phanatic,” Lasorda wrote in his book My Way. “In fact, I am not very happy about mascots in general. I think they take away from the game on the field.”

He admitted to nearly killing the San Diego Chicken after a Dodgers loss to the Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium, after the mascot did the Mexican Hat Dance in between innings, dancing around a Dodgers and Padres hat, and “accidentally” stepping on the Dodger hat 28 times.

“He’s yelling to me, ‘You want to step on a Dodger hat?’ Giannoulas, the San Diego Chicken mascot said, to which Lasorda replied, “I’m cleaning this up by the way. You want to step on a Dodger hat, you come into the locker room and step on mine. I’ll kill you, you S.O.B, I’ll murder you. I’ll tear you from limb to wing to tail. You’ll be nothing when I’m done with you. Don’t you ever do that again to the Dodger logo! It’s a sacred thing!”

“He’s gone berserk because I stepped on the Dodgers hat out there in one my gags,” Giannoulas explained. “He’s yelling to me, ‘You want to step on a Dodgers hat?’ — I’m cleaning this up by the way — ‘You want to step on a Dodgers hat, you come into the locker room and step on mine. I’ll kill you, you S.O.B, I’ll murder you. I’ll tear you from limb to wing to tail. You’ll be nothing when I’m done with you.’”

Finally there was the instance with Youppi! the mascot of the Montreal Expos (now the modern-day Washington Nationals), where Tommy got him expelled from the game.

In a marathon of a game in 1989, nothing had seemed to be going the Dodgers’ way, and Lasorda returned to his dugout in the 11th inning after a disputed call and argument on the field.

Youppi! was jumping on top of the Dodgers dugout, which was made of metal and presumably very loud.

The mascot was thrown out of the game and the tide turned, as the Dodgers won in 22 innings (their second 22-inning game of the season), 1-0 on a Rick Dempsey home run off Dennis Martinez.

Ross Porter also set a record for the longest solo television broadcast in this one. The game lasted six hours, 14 minutes.

Need a Pep Talk? Tommy Was Your Man! Some of His Wisest Words:

If you have ever heard Tommy Lasorda speak, you walked out of the conversation pumped up and motivated.

Here’s a pep talk he gave to Steiner Sports employees in 2015. It serves itself well to be a pep talk to just about anybody.

“Vin Scully interviewed me (for the Dodgers manager job) and said, ‘You are replacing a man (Walter Alston) who has been here for 23 years, a future Hall of Famer, one of the greatest managers in the history of baseball. Don’t you think there’s going to be a lot of pressure on you?’ I said, ‘you know what? I’m worried about the guy that’s going to have to replace me.’ If I would have been concerned about who I was replacing, I would have felt inferior. But when I thought about the guy that would have to replace me, I felt superior!” Lasorda said.

“You people as a team, if you walk through that door in the morning and you believe this is the best organization of its kind, then you’re going to continue making it that way! The only way you can continue making it that way is together. Everybody has to do their job to the best of their ability. If you do that, nobody can beat you! That’s the secret to winning and to be successful!”

A Few Tommy Lasorda Quotes and a Joke

We’ll take a quick break from the videos and stories to indulge in some of the best one (or in some cases multiple) liners uttered by this firecracker of a manager heralded as one of the best motivators in sports history.

  1. “The only Angels in Los Angeles are in Heaven, and they’re all ex-Dodgers!”
    an alternate version spoken at Cerritos College at the Dodgers Caravan in 2005, modified from, “The only Angels in Los Angeles are in Heaven, and they’re looking down on the Dodgers!”

2. “When we win, I’m so happy, I eat a lot. When we lose, I’m so depressed, I eat a lot. When we’re rained out, I’m so disappointed, I eat a lot.”

3. “I love doubleheaders. That way I get to keep my uniform on longer.”

4. “Nobody has to tell Frank Sinatra he is a good singer and nobody has to tell me that I am a good manager.”

5. “If you don’t love the Dodgers, there’s a good chance you may not get into Heaven.”

6. “My wife tells me, ‘I think you love baseball more than me,’ to which I say, ‘well, I guess that’s true, but hey, I love you more than football and hockey.”

7. “There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happens.”

8. “Baseball is like driving: it’s the one who gets home safely that counts.”

9. “I motivate players through communication; being honest with them, having them respect and appreciate your ability and your help.”

10. “The saddest day of the year is the day baseball season ends.”

On that note, the last baseball game Lasorda ever got to watch was when the Dodgers defeated the Rays in Game 6 of the 2020 World Series. The final pitch, a fastball by Julio Urias, thrown onto the inside corner and taken for Strike 3 by Willy Adames. It was the franchise’s seventh in its history and first since the two he was responsible for winning in 1981 and 1988.

To lighten the mood back up, here’s a funny joke made by Tommy in 1984.

Tommy Lasorda Always Had Something to Say

“If he raced his pregnant wife, he’d finish third,” a reference made about Braves catcher Bruce Benedict.

“All last year we tried to teach him (Fernando Valenzuela) English, and the only word he learned was ‘million.'”

Those were times when Lasorda was being nice. How about when he wasn’t.

On May 14, 1978, minutes after the Cubs defeated the Dodgers 10-7 behind three Dave Kingman home runs, Lasorda let everybody know just what he thought about it and how hot he was.

Let’s have a listen:

“Well naturally I feel bad about losing a ballgame like that,” Lasorda said. “There’s no way you should lose that ball game; it just doesn’t make sense.”

But then came the question: “what’s your opinion about Kingman?”

And go, Tommy:

“What’s my opinion of Kingman’s performance? What the f*** do you think is my opinion of Kingman’s performance? I think it was f***ing horrible. Put that in. I don’t f***ing care!”

“Opinion of his performance?!” Lasorda continued. “He beat us with three f***ing home runs!”

“What the f*** do you mean, ‘what is my opinion of his performance?! How can you ask me a question like that?! I’m f***ing p***ed off to lose this f***ing game and you’re going to ask me about my opinion about his performance. That’s a tough question to ask me!”

The reporter agrees that it’s a tough question to ask and Lasorda gave his answer, to which Lasorda kept going, “well I didn’t give you a good answer because I’m mad! You wanted me to tell you my opinion about his performance and I just did.”

Classic Tommy.

Then there was the time in 1982 when Dodgers pitcher Tom Niedenfuer was fined $500 for beaning Joe LeFebvre of the Padres, sparking a quote from LeFebvre’s teammate Kurt Bevacqua, who came at Lasorda saying, “the guy they should have fined was the guy who ordered Niedenfuer to throw at Joe … that fat little Italian.”

Shots fired, and you know Lasorda did not keep quiet.

“I’ll tell you what I think about him (Bevacqua): I think it’s very very bad for that man to make an accusation like that. That is terrible. I have never, ever, since I’ve managed, ever told a pitcher to throw at anybody. Nor will I ever.” Lasorda said.

“And if I ever did, I certainly would make him throw at a f***ing .130 hitter like LeFebvre or f***ing Bevacqua, who couldn’t hit water if it fell out of a f***ing boat. And I guaran-f***ing-tee you this, when I pitched and I was going to pitch against a f***ing team that had guys on it like Bevacqua, I’d send a f***ing limousine to get the c***s***er to make sure he was in the motherf***ing lineup, because I would kick that c***s***er’s ass any f***ing day of the week. He’s a f***ing motherf***ing bigmouth, I’ll tell ya that!”

Did you digest that all?

Not Even a Bat Could Keep Tommy Down

Lasorda was given the honor of coaching the National League All Stars in the 2001 All Star Game, and in the 6th inning Vladimir Guerrero (father of the Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.) broke his bat on a Mike Stanton pitch, and the ball went foul toward the first base side, while the bat smacks Tommy on the belly, knocked him over for a quick second before he jumped right back up.

He had a good laugh all right.

No Lasorda Tribute Would Be Complete Without Him Heckling the Umpires

What could have been.

Let’s go back to Game 4 of the 1977 World Series in what has arguably gone down as one of the worst calls in MLB history, let alone in the World Series between two heated rivals of all places.

It was the bottom of the sixth inning and the Dodgers held a 3-1 lead. With one out and Thurman Munson at second and Reggie Jackson at first, Lou Piniella hit a low line driver to Dodgers shortstop Bill Russell, a deceptive play that prompted caution by the runners. They looked to see if the ball was caught, but Russell dropped it.

Russell stepped on the bag at second to get Jackson and threw to first to complete what would have been the inning-ending double play. However, Jackson remained in the baseline and appeared to move his hip as the ball came toward him. The ball caromed off Jackson and allowed Munson to score.

Lasorda argued interference with first-base umpire Frank Pulli saying that Piniella should have been ruled out.

But it wasn’t to be.

The Yankees tied the game in the 8th inning and went on to win in the 10th.

That play very much turned the tide in the series as the Yankees evened things up in that game before winning the championship in seven games.

Still, Lasorda Was a Pleasant Man, and Highly Celebrated by the Dodgers and Their Fans

Happy 90th Birthday, Tommy Lasorda (2017)

The last milestone birthday of Lasorda came on Sept. 22, 2017, as the team celebrated the legend in grand style, singing Happy Birthday to him before giving him a very nice present, a 4-2 victory over the hated Giants, highlighted by Cody Bellinger’s 39th home run of the season, Rich Hill’s 11th win and Kenley Jansen’s 40th save of the season.

Tommy Lasorda’s Hall of Fame Induction Speech (1997)

The greatest honor was bestowed upon Lasorda as a manager in 1997, when he was immortalized in Cooperstown in the MLB Hall of Fame.

In his speech, Lasorda praised his fellow members going into the Hall of Fame, saying they were the greatest role models for the game of baseball.

He then talked about what he would have done if God had planned for him to be a high school baseball coach. “I think my objective would have been to impress upon the youngsters playing for me how important it is to get a good education. It’s more important than winning.”

Had God planned for him to be a college baseball coach, his objective would have been to prepare themselves for the way of life. That’s more important than winning.

But as a manager of a MLB team, “you could forget those two philosophies,” Lasorda said. “You’ve got to win! And if you don’t win, like many, you’ll fall to the wayside.”

“And to tell you how bad I want to win, a few years ago we were playing against Cincinnati. I got up Sunday morning and I went to church, and who came in and sat right next to me? The manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Johnny McNamara. Now I knew why he was in church, and he knew why I was there. At the conclusion of the mass we walked out the center aisle together, and I’m thinking, ‘man, I’ve got to beat this guy today,’ and as we approached the front door he said to me quietly, ‘wait for me outside, Tommy, I’ll be right out,’ and I said, ‘OK, Johnny,’ and I said to myself, ‘where’s he going? the mass is over,’ and I watched him, and he went over to that side of the church and knelt down and lit a candle, and instead of me going out the door, I went over to that side of the church, and I went in front of the alter and I waited. And when he left, I went down and I blew that candle out! I knew one thing: he was not lighting that candle for a dead relative! And all throughout the game I kept telling him, ‘hey Mac! it ain’t gonna work, pal, I blew it out!’ and we clobbered them that day, 13-2.”

Great times, indeed.

Tommy Greets Giants Fans With Kisses On Their Last Day at Candlestick Park (1999)

As part of the final game at Candlestick Park, Tommy Lasorda went onto the field and tipped his hat to the fans and blew kisses to them all, getting booed in the process.

He did all this while wearing a Dodgers jacket with the name “Lasodra” on his back.

Giants announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow reminisced about that game in a 2010 Giants broadcast, and hypothesized how the bit might have been set up.

Duane Kuiper: So do you think the Dodgers brought that jacket and it just happened to be spelled wrong, or do you think the Giants provided the jacket for Lasorda and spelled it wrong on purpose?”

Mike Krukow: Well I’ll tell you what…

Kuiper: I’m going with the last one.

Krukow: Both versions are pretty funny.

Kuiper: I can see it now. ‘Tommy we want you to walk out and do your deal and please put this jacket on, it’s a Dodgers jacket.’ And you know, you never look on the back.

Krukow: I’ve actually gone on eBay to see if I can buy that jacket. … He was the funnest guy in the history of the game to boo.

Barry Bonds was quite fun to boo as well, Mike.

Tommy’s message was not only well sent, but well received.

Repeat After Tommy, “I, Bleed, Dodger, Blue!”

We can go on and watch videos of Tommy forever, and thankfully we have YouTube to thank for that.

For today though, we leave you on one final video of Tommy teaching Japanese standout Hideo Nomo how to say the four most important words he will ever say in his life.

That video is for every Dodger fan though. This is a sacred organization that each fan has learned to love and cherish.

We don’t fight with other fans on Twitter and other social media platforms because we’re justifying our ego. We do so in the name of Tommy Lasorda, who taught each and every one of us to be proud to wear Dodger Blue, because you don’t just wear it, you eat it, drink it, sleep it, and most importantly, you bleed it.

Don’t forget. If you don’t root for the Dodgers, there’s a great chance you won’t get into Heaven!

Tommy, on behalf of Dodger fans worldwide, we will miss you tremendously. There will never be another Tommy Lasorda. We can’t think about the person who will replace you, because it is impossible. Many will try, all will fail.

Thank you for the victories, lessons, laughs and memories we all will cherish.

Rest in peace, Tommy Lasorda.