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End of an Era: Lasorda Retires | REACTION

Lasorda Made Right Call, Colleagues Say

July 30, 1996|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Like many who follow the game, Atlanta Brave Manager Bobby Cox was stunned when he learned that Tom Lasorda had announced his retirement Monday after 20 years in the Dodger dugout.

And like many others, Cox hoped that Lasorda, 68, will remain an important part of the game that has defined his life.

"Knowing Tommy, I thought he was coming back for sure," Cox said. "He's one of those guys we can't afford to let go out of baseball, and I'm glad the Dodgers are making him a vice president. He's still going to be connected with the Dodgers, but his blood pressure will be a lot lower.

"I've known Tommy ever since I broke into baseball at age 18 in 1960. . . . I always thought he was baseball's best ambassador ever. If you mention baseball, you think of Tommy."

Florida Marlin Manager John Boles, whose team plays at Dodger Stadium tonight, agreed, saying: "He meant everything to the game."

Cox predicted that Lasorda, who had a heart attack and an angioplasty procedure last month, will be elected to the Hall of Fame.

"We better be ashamed of ourselves if he doesn't go in on the first ballot," Cox said.

Former Angel Manager Bill Rigney also acknowledged Lasorda's many contributions to the game.

"I think he has a good chance to be in the Hall of Fame," Rigney said. "We just voted Earl Weaver into the Hall of Fame, and I'd have to say that with what Lasorda has done for the game and for his team, my sense would be that he'll make it."

Former Dodger third baseman Ron Cey believes Lasorda made a good decision.

"I think it's probably the wisest decision for him, given what he's been through," Cey said.

"He had his run and it was a great run, but now the most important thing in his future is his health. It's time to go."

Rigney agreed that it was time for Lasorda to step aside.

"I see things today that I don't know if I could stand if I were a manager now," Rigney said. "Like the ineptness of a lot of players who are playing today who can't advance runners and can't do so many things, but that's overlooked if they can hit home runs. I'm sure it was hard for Tommy to stay on top of the young players and what his needs were."

Cey remembers the effort that Lasorda put in grooming young players on their way to the major leagues.

"For us to be growing up with a guy who didn't have a clock that was punched 9 to 5 was great," Cey said. "The day wasn't over with in spring training when it was 4 o'clock in the afternoon. If we wanted to do more, we did more, and sometimes we did it until it got dark.

"He basically surrounded himself with the nucleus of the team while they were in the minor leagues that became the Dodgers of the '70s and early '80s. It was a great honor for us to have a guy like that who was in our corner and worked as hard as he did."

Former Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine, who played with Lasorda, said Lasorda's retirement marks the end of an era.

"I just feel a 50-year era closing out when Tommy takes off the uniform, and it gives me a very sad feeling," Erskine said.

"Tommy was like Jackie Robinson in that he was bigger than the team he played for. He was true blue for the Dodgers. I think Tommy had some fantastic offers from other clubs to come over and manage, but he was very faithful to the Dodgers."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

From Start to Finish

DODGER STARTING LINEUP IN LASORDA'S FIRST GAME

Davey Lopes: 2b

Bill Russell: ss

Reggie Smith: rf

Ron Cey: 3b

Steve Garvey: 1b

Rick Monday: cf

Dusty Baker: lf

Steve Yeager: c

Don Sutton: p

DODGER STARTING LINEUP IN LASORDA'S LAST GAME

Delino DeShields: 2b

Roger Cedeno: rf

Mike Piazza: c

Eric Karros: 1b

Mike Blowers: 3b

Todd Hollandsworth: cf

Billy Ashley: lf

Greg Gagne: ss

Ismael Valdes: p

WHAT SOME CELEBRITIES HAD TO SAY

FRANK SINATRA

'Tommy is the heart and soul of the Dodgers. His loyalty to the organization knows no bounds. And now that he has some time, Tommy can brush up on his singing--I'm always looking for a good opening act.'

DON RICKLES

'He was a great motivator. Whenever I went to a game and I said to him, "I've got a headache," he made it seem like in 20 minutes I'd be dancing at a wedding. He made everything positive, which I love and respect him for to this day.'

CONNIE STEVENS

'I was sitting across from the Dodger dugout and I took my binoculars and looked at the dugout and I see Tommy Lasorda with a cameraman waving at me like crazy. He looked through a camera and saw me and we went out for some pasta after that game too. He was like family to me.'

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