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End of an Era: Lasorda Retires | A HIGHER CALLING?

From Dugout Lead to The Commish?

July 30, 1996|ROSS NEWHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vice President of the Dodgers? Why not commissioner of baseball?

Dodger President Peter O'Malley said he almost raised the concept during the news conference Monday at which Lasorda announced his retirement as Dodger manager but didn't want to sound glib and didn't think it was the right time or place.

"If a higher calling comes along, I wouldn't stand in Tommy's way," O'Malley said after the news conference.

"I think there's a role for Tommy in major league baseball because of his enthusiasm, expertise and knowledge.

"He's an extraordinary asset for the industry. No one has reached out to the fans the way Tommy has.'

On the first day of the rest of Lasorda's life, all of this was just conversation and speculation.

Park Avenue can wait.

It's the Dodgers who will put Lasorda's assets to use as an advisor, instructor and international ambassador.

Jo Lasorda, for one, said she thinks her husband "will have more fun in that role than he would as commissioner."

And Lasorda said, "I'll do whatever Peter O'Malley wants me to do."

If it was up to O'Malley, of course, baseball would have already replaced acting Commissioner Bud Selig with an independent, full-time commissioner.

He has said that he regrets participating in the push that ousted Fay Vincent as commissioner in 1992. He has decried the leadership void.

Reached at his vacation home on Martha's Vineyard on Monday, Vincent said:

"As far as I'm concerned, Lasorda is capable of doing anything he wants. I have nothing but good memories of our relationship. He's been a credit to the Dodgers and the industry. You can change the commissioner's role and responsibilities any way you want, but it otherwise wouldn't be right for me to comment."

Bowie Kuhn, a Vincent predecessor, said he could see a dual role for a person of Lasorda's enthusiasm and charisma.

"It doesn't have to be as commissioner, it could be as a roving ambassador," Kuhn said. "First of all, the future of the game is on the international stage. Tommy is idolized in Italy and has a natural, magnetic attraction for people in other countries. And nationally, I could see him help healing the [post strike] division between baseball and the fans."

"His loyalty to the Dodgers in an era when that kind of loyalty is disappearing has been marvelous."

Lasorda as commissioner may be nothing more than a whim. Then again. . . .

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