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Every day should start over breakfast with Tom Lasorda

T.J. SIMERS

Former Dodgers manager, the team's undisputed top ambassador, is still going strong at 83 and serving up one great story after another.

January 03, 2011|T.J. Simers

He's 83, and Tom Lasorda is still full of life. That's life, I say.

"I've got 17 more years to reach my goal," he says. "I'm gonna make it. I don't want to leave this world. I want to continue what I'm doing. I love it. I want to live to be 100 and then deliver a commencement speech. Wouldn't that be great to be up there with young people graduating?"

It's the start of another year and Lasorda can't wait to live it. But first there's Monday morning breakfast at the Mini Gourmet in Placentia, where you'll find no man better at eating, talking and signing autographs at the same time.

"One of my resolutions is to lose at least 10 pounds before the start of spring training," he says, and by the looks of breakfast, the diet will probably have to start tomorrow.

"When I put the uniform on, I don't want to look bad. If I don't lose the weight, I may not even put it on."

Lasorda out of uniform is something no one wants to see, no matter how you read that sentence.

"I don't like wearing that uniform," he says. "I love it."

He adds with a grin: "You know I have several resolutions this year. No. 1 is not reading your column. And No. 2, every homestand, I want to invite two guys from the military to have dinner with me."

By then Lasorda will no longer be in uniform, spring training over. So, it's suggested, it won't matter if he starts beefing up again.

"I told [Mike] Scioscia when he played for me that I'd give him $100,000 if he lost 20 pounds," Lasorda says by way of retort. "But I told him he had to put the check in his son's bank account. Well, he lost the weight, I paid him and then he put on all the weight he had lost."

There is no pause between bites.

"Ever hear the story about Scioscia down in the Dominican? We were always worried about his weight. [Former GM] Al Campanis tells someone to get him a bicycle and count how many miles are on it at the end of each week.

"One day Mickey Hatcher hears this bike pedaling like crazy. He's impressed. He opens the door and Scioscia is lying on the couch with a pizza on his stomach and some Dominican kid pedaling the bike."

Lasorda loves talking about Scioscia. He's "such a tremendous guy," he says. "Yes sir, he would have been the perfect Dodgers manager.

"That regime, they were the worst; they were bad," he says of the Dodgers under Fox and Bob Daly for allowing Scioscia to get away.

He says no one knows whether Don Mattingly will be a good manager. "Why can't he be?" he says.

When asked whether Tim Wallach would have been a better choice, he acts as if his mouth is too full to talk. There's a first time for everything, I guess.

He's quick to say, later, the Dodgers will win a division title this season. Or die trying.

"Cincinnati won back-to-back championships," he says. "I was third base coach and could see how worried our guys were when they played the Reds. When I became manager, I told everyone the Reds would never again beat the Dodgers. I wanted my players to hear me saying so. And believe it.

"Campanis wanted to know if I was crazy. I told him I'm the second-greatest optimist ever. I told him Gen. George C. Custer was surrounded by 3,000 Indians. He hollered to his men, 'Don't take any prisoners,' so I got to put that guy No. 1."

Last week, he delivered one of his inspirational speeches to Wisconsin upon its arrival for the Rose Bowl. He says it would have been better had it come directly before the game.

Wisconsin lost.

"They beat the spread, so that helps a little bit," he says with a laugh.

One hour turns into a two-hour breakfast. What great fun. And Lasorda is just getting started, too many stories to repeat here. He's brought gifts for each of the grandchildren. He's posed for pictures with customers. He's brimming with energy.

"Can't wait to work with the kids," he says. "Last year I'm in San Bernardino and our shortstop comes to bat with runners on and fails to sacrifice them over. We lose by one run.

"After the game I go to him and tell him, 'The manager of the other team wants you to go and shower with him because you were their best player.' "

Too bad he can't have the locker next to Matt Kemp.

He's willing to go anywhere to help the Dodgers or raise money for charity. It's not easy travelling, his two rebuilt knees "making it sound like a burglar alarm going off when I go through security."

But he says he doesn't feel old, although it does take him longer to pull up his socks. "I have the knee-high ones," he says.

"I can't stop. I love what I'm doing."

He says Vin Scully is only two months younger, and he's going strong.

"We need him," Lasorda says. "He's such a great guy. He's in a class by himself."

It's said with a twinkle that Scully looks better.

"That's because he didn't manage," Lasorda snaps, 35 years since being asked his opinion of Dave Kingman. But just as feisty.

"Let him manage for 20 years and then see what he looks like."

Breakfast over, we part ways. Lasorda stays behind to sign autographs. And it's almost time for lunch.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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