A Dodger for Life: Tommy Lasorda

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In his first full season as a rookie manager Tommy Lasorda proved that despite getting no wins as a big league pitcher, his managerial career would prove to be different. The 1977 Dodgers were considered to be one of the National League’s best. With a consistent mixture of speed and power, Lasorda was able to lead his team to the Dodgers first pennant since 1974. They’re opponents would be the powerful and crafty New York Yankees. The Yankees had set their eyes on World Series revenge due to their elimination in the previous World Series.

The Yankees would go on to win the World Series in 1977 and 1978 against Lasorda’s Dodgers. Dodger fans were used to losing in the World Series to the Yankees, considering that the Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers many times in the fall classic. However times were changing, as was the era of dominance in baseball. Tommy Lasorda knew this change was coming and sought to do whatever it took to make sure it was his Dodgers on top when it was all said and done.

The year was 1981 and the Dodgers were coming off two consecutive below .500 seasons. Major League Baseball had just finished a work stoppage that just the season nearly in half. Every game was crucial in order to make the playoffs. Lasorda saw that and put all his focused time and energy on the Dodgers. The Dodgers finished the season as first half champions and would eventually move on to the World Series where they would take on the New York Yankees.

The Yankees had a busy 1980 offseason. They signed San Diego Padres superstar Dave Winfield to (at the time) the largest contract in major league history. Lasorda and the Dodgers were considered to be huge underdogs and it show during the first two games of the Series. The Dodgers were outscored 8-3 in the first two games and were down 0-2 in the series. At the time no team had ever come back from a 0-2 deficit in the playoffs. After game 2 Lasorda had to take a good look inside himself and his team to realize that they still had a shot to win the Series.

In the long history of the Dodgers, losing in the World Series seemed to be a tradition. The tradition never seemed more evident after game 2 of the 1981 World Series. To reach the Xanadu that is a World Series title, the Dodgers would need to play at their zenith; their best baseball of the season. Lasorda instilled that in his team before game 3 and the Dodgers played inspired baseball thanks to their manager. Rookie of the Year Fernando Valenzuela led the pitching staff and the Dodgers won a close game 5-4. They would go on to win the next two games only by one run each. As only baseball would have the Dodgers were one win away from the World Series crown. Tommy Lasorda reminded his players to keep playing no matter what and to never concede defeat. It was about to pay off and it would. The Dodgers took all the momentum away from the Yankees and would go on to win the series in six games.

Tommy Lasorda ran out of the dugout in tears of pure joy. He was like a little kid on Christmas morning, just excited to be in that kind of atmosphere. This was Lasorda’s first World Series title as a manager, coach, or player. He finally was able to beat the Yankees and bring redemption to the LA Dodgers franchise in the World Series.

Tommy Lasorda would go on to manage another World Series champion team in 1988 with the Dodgers. It was because of his persistence that Kirk Gibson would pinch hit in game one of the 1988 World Series and hit the game winning homerun. In his career Tommy Lasorda had 1599 wins as a manager and won two World Series titles. His passion and love for the game is second to none, as is his famous quote for his feelings to the Dodgers. His famous quote “I bleed Dodger blue” symbolizes his love for the team. Besides one year with the Athletics in 1956, he was always a Dodger and the fans will always treat him as such. This immortal Dodger will be recognized for as long as there is baseball. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997 for his achievements as the greatest manager in LA Dodgers history. Tommy Lasorda is indeed A Dodger for life.