Spokane Indians Remember Tommy Lasorda
SPOKANE, Wash. - Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, who guided the 1970 Spokane Indians to a Pacific Coast League championship and later won a pair of World Series titles with the Los Angeles Dodgers, has died. He was 93 years old.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Tommy Lasorda, one of the most iconic figures in the history of our franchise," said Spokane Indians Senior Vice President Otto Klein. "Tommy was a larger-than-life personality and true ambassador for the sport who left an indelible mark on the Spokane Indians. Our thoughts are with his family and friends in this difficult time."
A native of Norristown, Pa., Lasorda was a talented minor league pitcher - including a 25-strikeout performance in 1948 - and spent parts of three seasons in the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1954-55) and Kansas City Athletics (1956). After wrapping up his playing career in 1960, Lasorda became a scout for the Dodgers before finding his true calling as manager. He spent one season with the Pocatello Chiefs and three with the Ogden Dodgers before being promoted to Spokane in 1969.
The Indians finished 71-73 that season as a young team, that featured a pair of 19-year-olds in Bill Buckner and Bobby Valentine, underwent growing pains against the veteran-laden teams of the PCL. Everything clicked for Lasorda and Spokane the following year though, with the Indians posting a 94-52 record (26 games ahead of the Portland Beavers in the North Division) before sweeping the Hawaii Islanders for the PCL title. Players from that team would go on to account for 21 All-Star selections and 23 World Series appearances, and Baseball America would later recognize the 1970 Indians as the best minor league team in the second half of the 20th century. Lasorda would spend one more year in Spokane (69-76) before returning to the majors as the Dodgers third base coach in 1973, where he remained until taking over for Walter Alston as manager in 1977.
Lasorda led the Dodgers to back-to-back pennants in 1977 and 1978 and captured his first World Series title against the arch-rival Yankees in 1981. He steered the Dodgers to another Fall Classic victory in 1988, four games to one over the Oakland Athletics, and continued at the helm in Los Angeles until his retirement in 1996. Overall, Lasorda finished with a 1599-1439 (.526) record in 21 seasons and collected eight NL West titles, four NL Pennants, and a pair of World Series. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, becoming the 15th manager and fifth Indians alum, joining Stan Coveleski, George Kelly, Duke Snider, and Hoyt Wilhelm, to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Lasorda continued as an active force in baseball following his retirement from the Dodgers and won a gold medal as manager of the U.S. Olympic Baseball Team in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics. He was honored by the Spokane Indians in 2007, becoming one of four permanent members of the team's Rim of Honor. Lasorda was still a part of the Dodgers organization at the time of his passing, serving as a special advisor to the chairman in his seventh decade with the franchise. He is survived by his wife, Jo, daughter, Laura, brother, Harry, and granddaughter, Emily.
"In a franchise that has celebrated such great legends of the game, no one who wore the uniform embodied the Dodger spirit as much as Tommy Lasorda," Dodger president and CEO Stan Kasten said. "A tireless spokesman for baseball, his dedication to the sport and the team he loved was unmatched. He was a champion who at critical moments seemingly willed his teams to victory. The Dodgers and their fans will miss him terribly. Tommy is quite simply irreplaceable and unforgettable."
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Northwest League Stories from January 8, 2021
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