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Homer Is Also a Blast for Lasorda

July 11, 1996|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, ordered to stay home instead of coaching at the All-Star game and advised by his doctors that the stress may be too much, just couldn't help himself.

He sat up at the edge of the couch Tuesday night, saw the ball jump off Dodger catcher Mike Piazza's bat, and screamed aloud:

"It's gone. It's out of here."

Lasorda, recuperating from a heart attack and ulcer, knows he's supposed to stay calm. But it was impossible for him after watching Piazza hit his mammoth home run, and later be voted the most valuable player of the All-Star Game.

"Jo [Lasorda's wife] kept telling me, 'Take it easy, take it easy,' "Lasorda said, laughing, "but I really got excited.' "

Who can blame Lasorda?

He's the one responsible for Piazza being in a Dodger uniform, and perhaps even playing major league baseball. The Dodgers drafted him in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft as a favor to Lasorda, who was boyhood friends with his father, Vince Piazza. Today, Piazza is considered the greatest hitting catcher in the game.

"I begged the Dodgers to draft him," Lasorda said. "That's what I wanted more than anything to give him an opportunity.

"But he's done this all by himself and made himself the player he is today. He deserves all the credit. All I did was give him the opportunity.

"He's a special kind of guy, and it's a pleasure to see what he's done. Four years in a row he made the All-Star team . . . . it's amazing.

"I remember telling him years ago that the last catcher to lead the league in hitting was Ernie Lombardi [in 1942]. I told him, 'And he was Italian. You're going to be the next catcher to lead the league in hitting.' "

Piazza is batting a league-leading .363 with 24 homers and 63 runs batted in. He received more votes than any National League player for the All-Star team.

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