PHILADELPHIA — As he has done 999 other times during his 12 seasons as the Dodger manager, Tom Lasorda waddled out of the dugout Saturday night to perform his standard victory celebration.
Upon reaching the mound, where he usually applies spleen-crushing hugs and vigorous handshakes to his players, Lasorda found that the process had been reversed. Players were hugging him and slapping his back in congratulation after a seemingly routine 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
The occasion was Lasorda's 1,000th victory as a major league manager, a milestone of which he claimed he was not aware until after the fact.
"When the guys started hugging me, I looked around and said, 'What for?' " said Lasorda, who also has 859 managerial losses under his considerable belt. "They told me it was my 1,000th win. I was so concerned about winning this game that I really didn't think about it." Seventy-four of Lasorda's victories have occurred this season, and Saturday night's enabled the Dodgers to maintain their 4 1/2-game lead over the second-place Houston Astros in the National League West. Lasorda's players presented him with a steady, if unspectacular, victory as starter Tim Leary earned his 15th win, even though he lasted only 5 innings.
If Lasorda really was unaware of this managerial milestone that only 37 others have reached, he certainly was loquacious in expressing his gratitude to everyone from famous to obscure former players, Dodger management past and present and various family members and restaurateurs.
He did not go so far as to re-enact every win, from No. 1 on April 7, 1977, when the Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants, 5-1, to No. 1,000 Saturday night. But Lasorda did wax nostalgic after his players presented him with the lineup card and then serenaded him with a song too bawdy to be reprinted here.
"I want to take this opportunity to thank all the guys who played for me, and I want to thank the people in the Dodger front office who gave me the opportunity to manage and who gave me the players," Lasorda said. "It's them that I thank, because I could not have done it without them."
Before Lasorda--who usually only choked up on his postgame feast--got too emotional, he injected some humor into what had sounded like an Oscar acceptance speech.
"Hey, maybe I should send a telegram to some of these players who played for me," Lasorda said.
And he did not mean Steve Garvey, Don Sutton or Pedro Guerrero.
"How about Pepe Frias (class of 1980-81)? Or Boog Powell (1977)--did you know he played for me? Or Pickles Garman (1977-78)? Or Al Oliver ('85)? All those guys contributed, too. Let's wire them."
Baseball's oldest manager at 60, Lasorda joins Sparky Anderson and Whitey Herzog as the only active managers to log 1,000 victories. But Herzog and Anderson have done it with two teams, Lasorda with the Dodgers.
If you really want to be technical, this was win No. 1,002 for Lasorda. It seems that with four games to play in the 1976 season, Lasorda was named manager for the 1977 season. Walter Alston, perhaps trying to make the transition easier, spent the remaining four games in the owner's box while Lasorda recorded a 2-2 record. Officially, however, Alston was credited with the wins.
"Alston's already in the Hall of Fame, so I'll take those wins, sure," Lasorda said, laughing. "If he needed those wins to make the Hall of Fame, I'd let him have them. Me? I'll make the Hall of Shame."
A manager whose tactics have been questioned by many, Lasorda nonetheless has won five division titles, three league pennants and one World Series championship. Some observers are saying that this season has been Lasorda's best as a manager, considering the many personnel changes the Dodgers have had after two losing seasons.
Lasorda's 1,000th win, plus the fact that he has the Dodgers (74-54) comfortably in first place with 34 games to play, validates his credentials as a top manager, according to Bill Russell, a longtime Dodger player and current coach.
"Tommy has had the opportunity to manage a lot of great players, and he inherited a great team (in 1977), but he also developed a lot of great players," Russell said. "He'll tell you that he didn't throw a pitch or get a hit in any of the 1,000 wins, but he's been a great motivator and is a great teacher.
"His record speaks for itself. Obviously, the bottom line is winning. People say Gene Mauch is a genius manager. How many titles has he won? Tommy has had a lot of successful teams. I played for Walter Alston and for Tommy. They have different styles, but they both win."
With Saturday night's victory, their second in a row over the Phillies, the Dodgers exceeded the victory total of each of their previous two seasons.