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DODGERS : Lasorda Retires the Speculation

February 23, 1995|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VERO BEACH, Fla. — Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said Wednesday that he has no plans to retire after this season, and if it's up to him, he wouldn't mind continuing for another five years.

"Twenty years ago," he said, "I said to my wife that my goal is to be with the Dodgers 51 years and be married to you 50 years. Well, I've been with the Dodgers for 46 years and been married 45 years. So I've got a few years left.

"Believe me, if I'm with the Dodgers for 51 years, that would be quite an accomplishment."

It has become a spring training ritual the last few years to speculate whether this will be Lasorda's final season. It creates speculation about whether the successor will be Bill Russell or Reggie Smith.

"Tommy and I prepare for that story each spring," said Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president. "It's not an irritant, but it can be amusing. People have been saying for years that this is Tommy's final year, and look at him."

Lasorda, 67, is beginning his 19th year as Dodger manager. Only Walter Alston has managed longer for the Dodgers, and Sparky Anderson of Detroit is the only active manager with more victories.

"I'm living my dream right now," Lasorda said. "Why would I want to stop? I feel good physically. I feel good mentally. And I've never lost enthusiasm for the job.

"I'm the happiest guy in the world."

The only damper, of course, is that Lasorda has no major league team to manage. He's willing to make do with replacement players, but believes that major league players could cross the picket line if the strike persists.

"I think that sometime during this thing," Lasorda said, "a guy is going to say, 'Hey, buddy, I'm losing too much money.' If this doesn't end, it's going to be strange, but you have to live with what's presented to you.

"They're not major league players, and we know that. We're not trying to fool the fans. But the fans want baseball back.

"This game doesn't belong to the owners. This game doesn't belong to the players. It belongs to the fans, and we've taken that away from them.

"They've become irate, and rightfully so."

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