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Tommy Lasorda

Tommy Lasorda

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Also Known As: Thomas Charles Lasorda Died:
Born: September 22, 1927 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Norristown, Pennsylvania, USA Profession:

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Thomas Charles Lasorda was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania on September 22, 1927. By the time he donned the Brooklyn Dodgers blue 27 years later, he was just plain old "Tommy." Lasorda is most famous for being the pot-bellied manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, overseeing more than 3,000 games as their skipper. But decades before that, he was a considerably slimmer, hard-throwing pitcher who played in professional and semi-professional leagues from Central America to Quebec. Lasorda attended Norristown High School but did not continue to college. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1945, and put his prospective baseball career on hold to serve extra time. Lasorda made his first pro appearance in 1948 and played baseball for four seasons in Cuba. He also played in Panama's Canal Zone Baseball League and developed fluency in Spanish. Lasorda was a hard thrower, who set a professional record with the minor-league Schenectady Blue Jays by striking out 25 batters in a 15-inning game against the Amsterdam Rugmakers. He even got the game-winning hit in the game, and estimates that he threw over 300 pitches that day. He made his pro debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, but struggled to find a...

Thomas Charles Lasorda was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania on September 22, 1927. By the time he donned the Brooklyn Dodgers blue 27 years later, he was just plain old "Tommy." Lasorda is most famous for being the pot-bellied manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, overseeing more than 3,000 games as their skipper. But decades before that, he was a considerably slimmer, hard-throwing pitcher who played in professional and semi-professional leagues from Central America to Quebec.

Lasorda attended Norristown High School but did not continue to college. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1945, and put his prospective baseball career on hold to serve extra time. Lasorda made his first pro appearance in 1948 and played baseball for four seasons in Cuba. He also played in Panama's Canal Zone Baseball League and developed fluency in Spanish. Lasorda was a hard thrower, who set a professional record with the minor-league Schenectady Blue Jays by striking out 25 batters in a 15-inning game against the Amsterdam Rugmakers. He even got the game-winning hit in the game, and estimates that he threw over 300 pitches that day.

He made his pro debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, but struggled to find a spot on their superb pitching staff, making only four appearances that season. Lasorda never found success as a pitcher in the major leagues, compiling a career 0-4 record with a 6.48 ERA. He had the heat to strike batters out, but he could never locate his pitches with enough consistency. In 58.1 career innings in the majors, Lasorda racked up a staggering 56 walks and 11 wild pitches.

Though he did not play in the 1955 World Series, he did receive a ring because he was on the team. 1956 marked Lasorda's final year as a player in the MLB. He continued playing with the Montreal Royals until retiring in 1960, but not before becoming the winningest pitcher in team history.

For the next dozen years, Lasorda coached minor league clubs in the Pioneer League and Pacific Coast League. In 1973, he became the Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach. Just three years later, he leveraged an offer to manage the Montreal Expos, and was named the Dodgers manager following Walter Alston's retirement.

Lasorda managed the Dodgers from 1976 until 1996, winning two World Series titles in 1981 and 1988. He presided over some of the most memorable moments in Dodgers history, including 1981's "Fernandomania," which was inspired by pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, and a hobbled Kirk Gibson's thrilling pinch-hit homer to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Lasorda was also tasked with managing several notorious personalities, such as suspension-prone and cocaine-addled hurler Steve Howe.

Lasorda was known for a fiery temper and foul mouth at times, most notably his profanity-laden tirade against a reporter's question about Dave Kingman. He also used copious expletives to deride pitcher Doug Rau during the 1977 World Series, all of which was recorded because the manager was wired for sound. As Lasorda's wife Jo told the Los Angeles Times about the infamous Kingman rant, "It's ridiculous someone doesn't have enough adjectives that they have to use the same stupid word I told him you have to have more words in your vocabulary than that." The rant even made it on several sports compilation CDs.

Lasorda retired from managing in 1996 after suffering a heart attack. In 1997, the Dodgers retired his No. 2 jersey, and the Veterans Committee elected him to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He is also a member of at least 16 other halls of fame. His portrait hangs in the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery.

He emerged from retirement to manage the U.S. baseball team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. The U.S. won gold over the favored Cubans, but unfortunately, managers do not receive medals. In 2006, Lasorda got the Branch Rickey Award for his lifetime of service to the community. He was a crucial part of baseball's international expansion, both in scouting and popularity, helping the Dodgers organization scout players and develop training grounds in Latin America and beyond. In 2008, Lasorda received the Order of the Rising Sun for his contributions to Japanese baseball.

Lasorda was a father figure to many players over the years, but he is also the real godfather of catcher Alex Avila and Thomas Piazza, younger brother of Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. The Piazzas are also from Lasorda's birthplace in Norristown, and Tommy Piazza is named after Lasorda. No wonder one of his nicknames is "The Godfather."

Lasorda married Joan Miller, known simply as "Jo," in 1950, making their home in Fullerton, California for decades. They have a daughter, Laura, and a granddaughter named Emily. Their son, Thomas Jr., known as "Spunky," passed away in 1991 from complications related to AIDS. Tommy Sr. was estranged from his son at the time and never acknowledged or accepted his son's homosexuality, as profiled by Peter Richmond in a 1992 issue of GQ.

Lasorda has appeared in numerous TV shows, including an episode each of "Hee Haw" (CBS, 1969-1992) "Silver Spoons" (NBC, 1982-87), and "Who's the Boss?" (ABC, 1984-1992) as himself, plus roles as a soccer coach in "Ladybugs" (1992) and one of the voices in "Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco" (1996). However, his most famous clip is the oft-used blooper reel from the 2001 All-Star Game. Part of a broken bat helicoptered into the third base coach's box and sent Lasorda head over heels. Thankfully, he was not injured, so it was funny.

Lasorda has a couple of other interests beyond the baseball diamond. He established a food company in the 1980s that sold a popular brand of pasta sauces based on Jo Lasorda's recipes. That company was eventually sold in 1993 for a tidy sum. Lasorda was also a longtime friend of Frank Sinatra and is himself a talented singer.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 This Old Cub (2004) Himself
3.
 Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco (1996) Voice Of Lucky Lasorda
4.
 Ed (1996) Lasorda
5.
 Life Remembers (1993)
6.
 Ladybugs (1992) Coach Cannoli
7.
 Americathon (1979) Ring Announcer
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1945:
Signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an undrafted free agent; began professional baseball career with the Concord Weavers
1945:
Served on active duty with the U.S. Army
1948:
Returned to play with the Schenectady Blue Jays of the Canadian-American League
1955:
Won a World Series ring as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers
1956:
Played for the Kansas City Athletics
1976:
Managed the Los Angeles Dodgers; team won 1977 and 1978 National League Pennants, as well as 1981 and 1988 World Series Championships under his management
1978:
Guest starred as himself on "Fantasy Island" (ABC)
1979:
Made film acting debut in the comedy "Americathon"
1992:
Played supporting role in the sports comedy "Ladybugs," starring Rodney Dangerfield and Jackée Harry
1996:
Voiced the character Lucky Lasorda in the family film "Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco"
1997:
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager
1997:
Retired from baseball due to a heart attack; named Vice President of the Dodgers
2000:
Came out of retirement to manage Team U.S.A. at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia; team won gold medal over Cuba
2006:
Appeared in a series of commercials promoting the MLB Playoffs for ESPN and Fox
2007:
Played by actor Arthur J. Nascarella in the ESPN miniseries "The Bronx is Burning"
2011:
Appeared on an episode of the reality series "Hell's Kitchen" (Fox)
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