Remembering Tommy Lasorda: Dodgers Great, Norristown Native

Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda (Otto Gruele/Allsport)
Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda (Otto Gruele/Allsport) /

Remembering Dodgers great Tommy Lasorda, who grew up a Phillies fan and began his Hall of Fame career with the organization.

Los Angeles Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda passed away on Thursday at the age of 93.

Born on September 22, 1927, in Norristown, PA, Tommy Lasorda was an undrafted free agent who was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1945.

“Tommy Lasorda’s iconic status in Major League Baseball history is one whose roots were planted not far from Philadelphia in Norristown, Pa,” the Phillies said in a statement. “Before Mr. Lasorda had a Hall of Fame career with the Dodgers, he grew up rooting for the Phillies and was eventually signed by his hometown team to his first professional contract in 1945.”

“The Phillies organization joins all of Mr. Lasorda’s family, friends, and legions of fans in mourning the passing of a true baseball legend.”

From 1947 until 1949, Tommy served in the U.S. Army, and returned baseball in 1948, pitching for the Schenectady Blue Jays and struck out 25 batters.

Following that season, the Brooklyn Dodgers drafted Lasorda from the Phillies in the 1948 minor league draft; he went on to pitch for Greenville Spinners, and later the Montreal Royals, helping them earn four minor-league championships.

Lasorda did not make his Major League debut until August 1954 with the Dodgers. He played with the Dodgers in 1955, as well, making his only start out of four overall appearances in early May. Following the season, he pitched one year with the Kansas City Athletics, before the end of his MLB playing career.

Last playing for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in 1960, Lasorda went on to become a scout for the organization until 1965. From 1966-1972, he managed in their minor league system, before becoming a third base coach in 1973 under then-manager and fellow future Hall of Famer, Walter Alston. When Alston retired in 1976, Tommy took over as Dodgers manager.

Perhaps the moment that sticks out the most about Lasorda to Phillies fans is from August 28, 1988, when he had “enough” with the Phillie Phanatic’s antics … and the two got into a little tiff. In the Phillies’ statement on Friday, the organization described Lasorda’s on-field comedic ‘feud’ with the Phanatic as one that “entertained generations of baseball fans.”

The Dodgers great’s career included two World Series Championships in 1981 and 1988, as well as National League Manager of the Year in 1983 and 1988. Lasorda also had his jersey No. 2 retired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1997, the same year he was inducted as a manager into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

His managerial career spanned from 1976-1996 and he had a win-loss percentage of .526 with a record of 1599 -1439. Retiring in 1996 from Major League Baseball, Lasorda didn’t give up the game entirely, going on to lead the U.S. Olympic Baseball Team in 2000 in Sydney, Australia, to a gold medal as manager.

I personally got to meet Mr. Lasorda a few years back; he also signed a baseball personalized to me and I will treasure that ball and that memory forever. Our condolences go out to Tommy Lasorda’s family and friends.

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