Former Dodger skipper to take over for Torre while split squad is in China.The Los Angeles Dodgers have announced that Hall of Fame Manager and Special Advisor to the Chairman, Tommy Lasorda, will return to the dugout to manage the Dodgers during the final week of Grapefruit League action. Dodger Manager Joe Torre made the announcement.
“There is no one else in the game of baseball like Tommy Lasorda,” said Torre. “I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to a man who embodies the Dodger organization than to have him lead the team during our final week of games here in Vero Beach .”
Lasorda will take over the reins of the split squad on March 11 when Torre and a split squad depart for an historic two-game series in Beijing , China , the first of its kind in Major League history. Lasorda will manage the team for seven games, highlighted by the final home game at Holman Stadium on March 17 when the Dodgers will continue the long-standing tradition of wearing green hats for St. Patrick’s Day. Lasorda will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game.
The March 17 contest will culminate a series of events this spring to pay tribute to the many Dodger legends that have created lasting memories for Dodger fans across the globe during the team’s six decades at Dodgertown.
“What a thrill this will be, not just to manage the games, but the thought behind it and the fact that Frank and Jamie McCourt, Ned Colletti, and Joe Torre think enough of me to ask me to do this,” said Lasorda. “When I walk around Dodgertown, I think about all the guys that played for me and all the guys that were here before me. This really is a very, very special honor.”
Lasorda first reported to Dodgertown in Vero Beach in 1949 and made his big league debut as a left-handed pitcher on Aug. 5, 1954. He has served the organization as a player, scout, minor league manager, and Major League coach before being named as only its second manager in Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 1976. Upon his retirement in 1996, Lasorda was named Vice President and he took on the role of interim general manager in 1998. He then served the club as a Senior Vice President before being named Special Advisor to the Chairman in 2005.
The last time Lasorda managed was in 2000 when he guided an underdog U.S. Olympic team to a Gold Medal over the heavily favored Cuban National Team in Sydney , Australia . Still, he regularly sits in the dugout for games at Holman Stadium and his march from the clubhouse to the bench before the game is often accompanied by the playing of “Hail to the Chief” at the Dodgers’ Spring Training home ballpark.
Regarded by many as baseball’s most popular ambassador, Lasorda is entering his 59th season in the Dodger organization. In his 20-year Major League managerial career, he compiled a 1599-1439 record while winning two World Championships, four National League pennants, and eight division titles.
Lasorda and Torre share the same Italian heritage and penchant for success in the postseason. When he retired, Lasorda had managed in 61 postseason games, the third-highest total in Major League history. He has since been surpassed by Torre, who ranks second (126), and Tony LaRussa (107).
Lasorda’s role in the globalization of the game of baseball is now more evident than ever before, as Commissioner Bud Selig appointed him as the Official Ambassador of the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006. He has traveled to 22 countries in his lifetime while promoting the sport and has had the honor of meeting seven United States Presidents.
In 1997, while at Spring Training in Vero Beach , Lasorda reached the pinnacle of his career, as he received the call to let him know that he would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown , NY . On March 5 of that year, the club named the main street that leads to the entrance of Dodgertown “ Tommy Lasorda Lane ” and his uniform No. 2 was retired by the Dodgers five months later.
He and his wife, Jo, will celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary on April 14, 2008.