Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Tommy Lasorda: 1927-2021

January 8th, 2021 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Dodgers, Olympics

Everyone who covered the Los Angeles Dodgers for any amount of time during Tommy Lasorda’s 20 years as the club’s manager has a Lasorda story. Probably dozens and dozens of them.

My Lasorda moment happens to rank as one of the best-known.

I was one of a couple of dozen people in his office, post-game, for the “Kingman’s performance” rant in 1978. I was not the Dodgers reporter for my newspaper, but I was in Chavez Ravine that day, giving a colleague a day off. Dumb luck.

Dave Kingman, the Chicago Cubs slugger, had hit three monstrous, towering homers and driven in eight runs as the Cubs beat the Dodgers in extra innings.

Tommy was sitting at his desk when a radio reporter named Paul Olden asked Lasorda for “a few words” about “Kingman’s performance.”

What followed was several minutes of obscenity-laced response, with Lasorda getting louder and seemingly more angry, as he considered Kingman’s performance.

Which, happily, was tape-recorded for posterity, and is now posted online and should be easy to find. (If you don’t mind the &*#$@% language, that is.)

Lasorda died Thursday night, at the age of 93. He was the oldest living Hall of Famer.

Tommy Lasorda did many things well. He was a savvy manager who won two World Series, a man who had the pulse of the clubhouse and a colorful figure who loved the attention he received for the club — and himself. He was a man who “bled Dodger blue.” He told us so with regularity.

He also was one of the most profane men I encountered during 40 years in journalism. He was an artist, really. Inflection, variety, anger, all calculated to end with a foaming-at-the-mouth crescendo. Sailors couldn’t keep up with him.

Most of the time it was for show. Sometimes it was meant to bruise. Whichever worked better for the Dodgers.

One other moment with Tommy. Sydney 2000, the Summer Olympics.

Lasorda by now had been moved to the Dodgers front office, and he was not the same overpowering presence he had been while Dodgers manager.

Then he was named manager of the U.S. Olympic team, which was not allowed to use big-league players, and Tommy was back, at age 73.

Tommy and his staff rounded up some pretty sharp minor-league players, and their Olympics ended with Tommy’s team winning gold by defeating the powerful Cuban team. He was so happy and so proud, and he was the perfect man to make it all possible.

I watched the end of the game, after covering the track meet, and Tommy talked about American spirit and pride, and he was as serious as he could ever be. I wrote a comment piece on it.

If readers want to be reminded about Tommy Lasorda, and what he meant to baseball, and vice versa … just check the usual sports sites. There ought to be some fine obituaries.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Steven Herbert // Apr 15, 2021 at 12:16 AM

    There’s a moment in the Kingman interview when Lasorda says, “See you Joe.” Was that Joe McDonnell he was referring to? If not, who was it?

Leave a Comment