Former Dodgers HOF manager Lasorda dies at 93

Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda has died at the age of 93, the team announced.

He suffered a sudden cardiopulmonary arrest at his home Thursday night and was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

Lasorda managed the Dodgers from 1976 to 1996, winning two World Series titles, four National League pennants and eight division crowns. He was named NL Manager of the Year twice and won 1,599 career games.

Lasorda was born on Sept. 22, 1927, and he grew up in the blue-collar city of Norristown, Pennsylvania, located just outside of Philadelphia. In 1945, at the age of 18, the left-handed pitcher got his big break by signing with the hometown Phillies organization.

“I did not have a lot of ability, but I’ll guarantee you one thing, when I stood on that hill of thrills, I didn’t believe that there was any man alive who could hit me,” Lasorda said in 1997. “And if they did hit me, which they did, I thought it was an accident.” Lasorda’s baseball career was interrupted in 1946 and 1947 because of military service with the U.S. Army. Lasorda returned in 1948 and didn’t miss a beat; on May 31 that year, he struck out 25 batters in Schenectady’s 15-inning win over Amsterdam and singled in the deciding run. After that season, Lasorda was selected by the Brooklyn Dodgers in the minor league draft, beginning a longtime relationship with the franchise.

Lasorda reached the majors with the Dodgers in 1954 and 1955. He also pitched for the Kansas City Athletics in 1956, but he never played in the big leagues again after that season. He retired from pitching in 1960.

With his playing career finished, Lasorda remained with the Dodgers. He was a scout for the team until becoming a minor league manager from 1965 to 1972. Seventy-five players Lasorda managed in the minors went on to play in the big leagues.

In 1973, Lasorda was the third base coach for the Dodgers under Hall of Fame manager Walter Alston. When Alston retired in 1976, Lasorda was named his replacement.

Lasorda quickly found success in Los Angeles. In 1977 and 1978, he led the Dodgers to the National League title, but lost to the Yankees in the World Series both seasons. In 1981, Lasorda finally got his first World Series title as the Dodgers defeated the Yankees in six games. The Dodgers also won the World Series in 1988 under Lasorda.

After 20 seasons, Lasorda retired as Dodgers manager in 1996 because of health concerns. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997 by the veteran’s committee, but Lasorda remained active in the sport. He served various roles with the Dodgers and he was manager of the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 over favored Cuba. Lasorda was also the official ambassador of the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009.

Lasorda was also a distant relative of Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, and was godfather to Piazza’s brother Tommy. Lasorda was instrumental in influencing the Dodgers to select Piazza in the 62nd round in the 1988 draft. Piazza went on to become a 12-time All-Star with a .308 career batting average, one of nine NL Rookies of the Year to play for the Dodger under Lasorda. Piazza finished with 427 home runs, including a record 396 as a catcher.

In 2009, Lasorda had his portrait hung in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery. Lasorda’s No. 2 was retired by the Dodgers in 1997 and the main street that leads to the entrance of the Dodgers complex in Vero Beach, Florida, was renamed Tommy Lasorda Lane that year.

“Fifty years from now, we’re still going to know Tommy Lasorda as a great ambassador to baseball,” said former Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser, who spent 14 of his 18 seasons playing under Lasorda. “And I think that’s going to be the number one thing on his resume.”

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