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Different Strokes for Lasorda, Russell

August 19, 1996|STEVE SPRINGER

When new Dodger Manager Bill Russell suspended outfielder Raul Mondesi for one game for arriving late to the ballpark last week, it signaled a break from the 20-year policy of former manager Tommy Lasorda.

Lasorda himself, while saying he staunchly supports Russell, admits things have changed.

"My theory was, you always put the best eight guys out there," Lasorda said. "I disciplined players in my own way. But I want [Russell] to do things his way. I hope it works for him. I love him like a son."

To avoid even the appearance of interfering with the new regime, Lasorda, now a team vice-president, has not visited the Dodger clubhouse since July 29, the day he announced his retirement.

"I don't want the players to have to see me," he said, "where I could be a distraction. It's tough for me but it's important for Bill to have control. I told him, 'You want me to talk to the players, I'll talk. I'm as close as the telephone and I'll always be there to help you.' "

Russell says he feels for his mentor.

"This is his team," Russell said. "It's got to be tough. He's back to his old self. He's feeling good. He knows he could be in the dugout if he wanted to be. It's got to get to him. But he's got a new role now and he seems to be happy."


Russell has been mentioned as the heir-apparent to Lasorda for years. Since ending his playing career in 1986, Russell has been in training for the job, as an assistant coach under Lasorda and as head coach of the team's Albuquerque farm team.

Now 47, Russell is still only the interim manager. The Dodgers won't tell him until after the season if his promotion is permanent.

Was Russell beginning to think he might have to go elsewhere to finally get his chance to manage in the majors?

"I was getting to that point," he admitted. "I felt like I could not stay here forever and not pursue other things. But fate has a way of working things out."

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