LOS ANGELES — Growing more and more frail, Tommy Lasorda looked on from a suite at Globe Life Field in Texas, watching as the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the World Series in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Surrounded by family and friends, Lasorda celebrated the team’s first championship in 32 years that October evening amid the coronavirus pandemic. As his mobility was slowed, his mind still was sharp.
Fittingly, it was the final game he ever attended.
“He always said he wanted 2 things, to live to be 100 and to see another championship brought to the city of LA,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tweeted. “Although he fought like hell to hit triple digits, I couldn’t be more proud to know he got to see the Dodgers on top again, where he knew we belonged.”
The Hall of Fame manager who was true blue to the Dodgers for more than seven decades died late Thursday after having a heart attack at his home in Fullerton, Calif., the team said Friday. Lasorda was 93. He had just returned home Tuesday after being hospitalized since Nov. 8 with heart issues.
Lasorda had been the oldest living baseball Hall of Famer — that distinction now belongs to Willie Mays, who turns 90 in May.
Flags at Dodger Stadium were lowered to half-staff and Lasorda’s No. 2 was painted in the outfield. A jersey with his number hung in the dugout and fans showed up with flowers, candles and Dodgers memorabilia at the ballpark.
Lasorda had a history of heart problems, including a heart attack in 1996 that hastened the end of his managerial career and another in 2012 that required him to have a pacemaker.
“It feels appropriate that in his final months, he saw his beloved Dodgers win the World Series for the first time since his 1988 team,” commissioner Rob Manfred said.
Lasorda spent 71 years in the Dodgers organization, starting as a player when the team was still based in Brooklyn. He later coached and then became its best-known manager for 21 years in Los Angeles, leading the franchise to two World Series championships. After stepping down in 1996, he became an ambassador for the sport he loved.
Alternately fiery, comforting, profane and full of flair, Lasorda used to say, “I bleed Dodger blue.”
Lasorda was a master motivator among his players, always knowing just the right amount of confidence or candor required to induce stellar performances.
“He believed all that stuff that he said, he really did,” said former Dodgers second baseman Steve Sax, who played on both of Lasorda’s championship teams and was a five-time All-Star. “He really believed that you were better if you wore a Dodger uniform. He was all in. And because he believed it, we did too.”
Lasorda served as special adviser to team owner and chairman Mark Walter for the past 14 years, and maintained a frequent presence at games sitting in Walter’s box.
“In a franchise that has celebrated such great legends of the game, no one who wore the uniform embodied the Dodger spirit as much as Tommy Lasorda,” said Stan Kasten, team president and CEO.
Lasorda compiled a 1,599-1,439 record as manager from 1977-96. He won World Series titles in 1981 and ’88, four National League pennants and eight division titles as the leader.
Lasorda kept a bronze plaque on his desk reading: “Dodger Stadium was his address, but every ballpark was his home.”
He was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1997 as a manager. He guided the U.S. to a baseball gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Lasorda was the franchise’s longest-tenured active employee since Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully retired in 2016 after 67 years.
“There are two things about Tommy I will always remember,” Scully said. “The first is his boundless enthusiasm. Tommy would get up in the morning full of beans and maintain that as long as he was with anybody else. The other was his determination. He was a fellow with limited ability and he pushed himself to be a very good Triple-A pitcher. He never quite had that something extra that makes a major leaguer, but it wasn’t because he didn’t try.”
As a pitcher, Lasorda had a limited career at the major league level, going 0-4 with a 6.48 ERA and 13 strikeouts from 1954-56.
He made only one start for the Dodgers — in 1955, the only year they won the crown while in Brooklyn, he threw three wild pitches against the Cardinals and was pulled after the first inning.
Overall, he pitched eight games for the Dodgers and compiled a 7.62 ERA.
After his playing career was finished, the Dodgers hired him as a scout in 1960. He stayed in that role until 1965, when he became the manager of the rookie league Pocatello Chiefs. In an early show of his personality, he was fined $25 for his part in a benches clearing brawl in the third inning of a game against Idaho Falls. The game was delayed 20 minutes.
He then moved up to lead the team in Ogden, Utah, from 1966-68 before getting a promotion to lead the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Spokane.
His 1970 Pacific Coast League championship team, which won the Northern Division by 26 games, is regarded as one of the best in minor league history. The roster included Steve Garvey, Bobby Valentine, Tom Paciorek, Davey Lopes and Bill Buckner. Garvey and Lopes later manned the Dodgers’ infield for a decade and was joined by Ron Cey, who arrived in Spokane in 1971.
He moved with the Triple-A team to Albuquerque in 1972 before ascending to become the third-base coach for the major league team under legendary manager Walter Alston. He was in that position for four seasons before becoming L.A.’s manager.