Sports

Five Tommy Lasorda stories from his playing days that you probably haven’t heard

Tommy Lasorda loved baseball, and baseball loved Tommy Lasorda. 

The sport lost an icon on Friday, when Lasorda died at the age of 93. It’s nice that he was able to see his beloved Dodgers win one more World Series championship before he died. He spent his life bleeding Dodger Blue. 

MORE: Classic photos of Tommy Lasorda

The stories about Lasorda are endless, whether it was Tommy telling the tales or others telling the tales about Tommy. And those classic yarns — the time he “fought” the Phillie Phanatic, the time he had a mascot ejected in Montreal, the time he gave a reporter his thoughts on Dave Kingman’s performance — deserve to be told over and over. 

Today, we’re going to look back through The Sporting News archives to find five stories from his playing days that you might not have heard. Let’s start with this item from the Jan. 18, 1945, issue, the first time his name was mentioned by TSN. 

The Phillies have signed Tommy Lasorda, a southpaw hurler, to a Utica Eastern League contract. Seventeen years old, Lasorda hails from Norristown, Pa.

He spent the rest of his career filling up TSN pages. Here are just five of countless highlights.  

Not a typo: 25 strikeouts in one game

Headline: LaSorda fans 25 to win 15-inning Can-Am game
Issue date:
June 9, 1948

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Fanning 25 batters and singling home the deciding run, Tommy LaSorda, southpaw of Schenectady, went the route against Amsterdam to win a 15-inning Canadian-American League game, 6 to 5, here the night of May 31. LaSorda allowed ten his, walked 12 and hit one. 

Fred Prior also went the distance for Amsterdam, giving up ten safties, walking six and fanning five. 

Amsterdam broke a 3 to 3 tie by scoring two runs in the twelfth frame, but an inside-the-park homer by Larry Rush and one outside the park by Ernie Woods re-knotted the game. 

The league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game is 22, established by Earl Jones of Gloversville against Rome in 1942

‘We want Tommy’ apparently

Headline: Crank threatens Montreal pilot, calls off tilt
Issue date:
 June 2, 1954

MONTREAL, Que. — A crank and a practical joker caused considerable consternation among Montreal players and officials, May 19-23, by first sending Manager Max Macon a threatening letter and then calling off a game. 

Following a 19-4 shellacking by Buffalo, May 19, Macon disclosed receipt of the letter, obviously from a crank. The letter, written in French, said that unless Macon pitched Tommy Lasorda against Richmond the following Sunday and the Royals won, the pilot would be “dealt with. You will be strangled.” It was signed “One Who Hits” and “The Puncher.”

Montreal police assigned a bodyguard to Macon the next few days. The night after receipt of the letter, Macon pitched Lasorda against Buffalo and he won, 4 to 3. The Royals also swept the subsequent Sunday bill with Richmond, but Lasorda saw no service in either game. 

On May 22, an unknown person called off that night’s game some 12 hours before the scheduled starting time. Identifying himself as “phoning from the Royals’ park” he notified newspapers and radio stations that the game had been postponed because of wet grounds although at the time it had not been called off.

In one instance, the caller identified himself as “a groundskeeper.” A check later disclosed that sometimes a man’s voice and at others a woman’s voice announced the postponement.

Feisty Lasorda leads to an inadvertent umpire injury

Headline: Ump hurt in fall, running to break up fight in Cuba
Issue date:
 Jan. 16, 1952

HAVANA, Cuba — Umpire Pat Padden of the American Association was hospitalized, January 5, following a fight between pitcher Tom Lasorda (Montreal) of Almendares and Lorenzo Cabrera (Ottawa) of Marianao, but not as a result of any blows struck. Padden tripped while running out to intervene and fell on his side, which had suffered a previous injury, the fall knocking him unconscious. No bones were broken, but he was taken to a clinic for observation. 

The fight between Lasorda and Cabrera was the culmination of a series of disputes. A ball pitched by Lasorda came close to the head of Cabrera, who protested to Manager-Catcher Fermin Guerra, who assured him Lasorda always had a tendency to be wild. However, when the second pitch came close again, Cabrera let the bat slip from his hand to land near the pitcher’s mound. After Lasorda’s third pitch hit the batter squarely in the ribs, Cabrera started toward Lasorda, bat in hand, and the two soon were swinging at each other. 

Cabrera was ordered from the game, but Lasorda was permitted to remain in the box. He was lifted later by Almendares when he tired.  

Tommy Thunderstorm

Headline: Lasorda in rain-maker role, first four dates washed out
Issue date:
 May 1, 1957

DENVER, Colo. — Southpaw Tommy Lasorda of the Denver Bears might find hiring out as a drought-breaker more profitable than pitching if the early days of the American Association race are an indication. 

The Bears were rained out on four of their first six dates and Lasorda was scheduled to pitch each time. And the last time the Bears played in Florida in spring exhibitions, rain washed out the game in the third inning just as Lasorda took the mound. 

Tommy does it all, sees his future clearly

Headline: Lasorda pitches, coaches, fills in as Royals’ manager
Issue date: 
June 18, 1958

MONTREAL, Que. — Tom Lasorda was pitching a game recently for the Montreal Royals when Manager Clay Bryany was ejected, along with Sandy Amoros, for disputing a decision with too much vehemence. 

Southpaw Lasorda then became pilot pro-tem as well as the pitcher. He delivered one of the club’s few hits and scored the only run. He finished up coaching at third base. 

That’s the way it is with Thomas Charles Lasorda, Royals’ general factotum as pitcher, coach, road secretary and interpreter for the Latin members of the team. 

If there’s a busier man in baseball, among the players, that is, a man with more jobs to do, then he hasn’t passed this way. 

— snip – 

When not pitching, Lasorda does the coaching at first base. He runs the pitching staff for Manager Bryant aside from assignments, of course. He runs the pitchers in the outfield when they’re not scheduled to work. He runs with them. He bats for the fielding warm-ups. 

When the team is on the road, Lasorda handles train and plane transportation, books the players into hotels, looks after their injuries and, when necessary, hospitalization. 

Sometimes he sleeps!

When asked if these multiple duties weren’t too much for one man, Tom’s eyes sparkled. “I love them all,” he said. “They keep a guy out of mischief.”

Lasorda is never at a loss for a word, or rather words. His teammates good-naturedly call him “Walkie Talkie.”

— snip – 

Regarding the future, Lasorda said that it is his ambition to become a full-time manager — in the Dodger organization if possible. He wants to keep on working for Buzzie Bavasi and Fresco Thompson, whom he describes as “wonderful bosses.”

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