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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: JULY 29, 1996

The Day Mr. Dodger Retired From Managing

July 29, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Between 1953 and this date in 1996, the Dodgers had employed two managers, Walter Alston and Tom Lasorda. Since this date in 1996, they're on manager No. 3.

The leadership continuity that stretched from Brooklyn to Los Angeles ended when Lasorda, 68, announced his retirement at an emotional Dodger Stadium news conference.

It wasn't an unexpected development. Lasorda had suffered a heart attack the previous June 24 and the Dodgers had been led by Bill Russell in his absence.

Still, the news came as a shock. During Lasorda's 20 years at the helm, 185 major league managers had been fired, 19 by the Yankees alone.

The Dodgers stuck with their man, through good and lean times. There were two World Series championships and four National League pennants.

But even at the finish line, some wondered if it had been Lasorda's decision to step down. He had been cleared medically to return to the dugout.

Dodger owner Peter O'Malley said at the news conference the decision was Lasorda's alone. And Lasorda said it was his decision.

Yet Lasorda's friends and family members said O'Malley had urged Lasorda to retire during a 90-minute meeting at Dodger Stadium.

Whatever, an era had closed. Lasorda's Dodger years, starting as a player, stretched to 1954. After his playing career, he signed on as a scout in the 1950s.

As his manager's salary grew in later years, he often talked of the early scouting days with the Dodgers, when, to save money, he'd bring his family's laundry to Dodger Stadium to use the club's laundry facilities.

Also on this date: In 1989, 33 years after the first seven-foot high jump, Cuban Javier Sotomayor became the first jumper to clear eight feet, at San Juan, Puerto Rico. . . . In 1958, Boston's Ted Williams hit his 17th and last grand slam. Williams is tied with Jimmie Foxx for fourth place on the all-time grand slam list. Lou Gehrig hit 23, Eddie Murray 19 and Willie McCovey 18.

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