back to top

Dodgers Legend Tommy Lasorda Looks Back On 70 Years In Baseball

The lifelong Dodger — who is the subject of the new book Tommy Lasorda: My Way — invited BuzzFeed into the Dodgers dugout for a chat.

Posted on

Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda has done just about everything in his 70 years in baseball, from striking out Stan Musial to leading the Dodgers to World Series championships in 1981 and 1988.

My Way, the new book by Colin Gunderson, who was Lasorda’s press coordinator and assistant for 12 years, gives extraordinary insight into what makes Lasorda great.

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

The book features a collection of stories from Lasorda’s players and a few of his close friends about his life, career, the lessons he taught, the lives he touched, and his impact on the Dodgers and the game. Gunderson says, "Simply put, it’s Tommy from the people who knew him the best.”

BuzzFeed recently visited Lasorda at Dodger Stadium to discuss the book, baseball, and his extraordinary life.

Advertisement

1. Name one person who should be in the Hall of Fame but isn’t.

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

“I think quite a few of my guys belong in there. Steve Garvey, but he didn’t get enough votes, and Ron Cey, but he didn’t get the votes either.

"A guy with a lot of talent was Reggie Smith, who could do it all. Him and Dusty Baker. Those two guys were really outstanding players. Mike Scioscia could possibly get in. If not as a player, he might as a manager.”

2. What is your 100% honest opinion of the Dodger Dog?

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

“I’ve only eaten about a thousand of them, so I can give you a good report. They’re good, and of course everyone loves them.”

3. Which baseball city has the best food when you’re on the road?

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

“Chicago. New York. St. Louis. Chicago has a lot of good Italian restaurants. It’s a big city with a small-town attitude. The people are so great there.”

One of the most iconic moments in baseball history is when a hobbled Kirk Gibson came off the bench to hit a two-out, game-winning home run in the 1988 World Series…

4. What was going through your mind when Gibson hit that homer?

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

“I got goose pimples, you know? Because everyone knew he wasn’t going to play; he was on the rubbing table the whole game. And now here he is walking out of the dugout and these people — 56,000 people — they just went crazy. The applause was unbelievable.

"That’s when he hit the ball right over there…over the right-field fence. I didn’t see the ball. All I was watching was the right fielder, José Canseco, going back, back, back, and when he went up against the fence I knew that ball was out of here.

"The reaction to that home run I will probably never see again. People used to leave here at a certain time to beat the traffic, and then there were people who left even earlier to beat the people beating the traffic, but that night they were all here. Nobody left. It was a great moment.”

Advertisement

5. In My Way your former players — All-Stars like Orel Hershiser and Mike Piazza – talk about how you played a huge role in motivating them to reach their full potential. What’s the key to successfully motivating a player?

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

“You’ve got to make them believe in themselves. I tell them, ‘Believe you’re the best player in the game, just don’t tell anyone else about it.’

"I was in New York at a memorial mass for my mother when Cardinal O’Connor said to me, ‘All I hear you talk about is motivation. Are you trying to tell us that you have to motivate a guy making 10 million, 20 million dollars a year?’ I said, ‘Everybody in this country, from the president of the United States on down to the lowest job, at some time or another needs to be motivated. They need to be convinced that they can be better than they really are.”

6. What manager inspired you the most in your managing?

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

"Ralph Houk, who managed the Yankees, Red Sox, and Tigers. This guy was the second-most-decorated guy in the history of World War II. I got to play for him, and he was just the greatest. He didn’t get into the Hall of Fame, but he belongs there because he was a great manager, a great person, and he loved his players. I learned a lot from Ralph. I used a lot of his ways of managing, and I think I had some success with them.”

7. If you were playing today, what would be your walk-up music?

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

“If you buy one of our books you’ll see what it says on the cover.” (The title of the book, My Way, is also the name of the signature song by Lasorda’s favorite singer, Frank Sinatra.)

8. Are there any differences between today’s ballplayers and yesterday’s?

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

“Yeah, especially the first and the 15th, when they get that paycheck. People don’t remember this, but in 1947, '48, '49 — in that era of those great Brooklyn Dodgers teams — all those guys had to get a job in the offseason. You don’t see today’s guys working in the offseason. They make so much money in five or six years that they don’t have to work another day in their life.”

9. Is it harder to motivate today’s players?

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

“No, it’s not harder to motivate them. They’re in pretty good shape. They know they’re in a great spot with the salaries they’re making. I mean, the minimum salary right now is $250,000. Times are different.”

Advertisement

10. In the book you say you could take any 80-year-old in a fight. Could you even take Frank Gifford? He's a 6'2" Hall of Fame football player.

12. “What do you think about ballplayers who wear their stirrups low these days?”

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

“I don’t like the way many of the players dress. They have beards today. If they played for me they’d have no beards, no earrings, nothing. They’d be allowed a mustache and that’d be it. Look at the Yankees. That’s the only team that doesn’t allow its players to have beards or anything and that’s the way it should be. Players should all be alike out there on the field. They have to make an impression on the people who are watching them.”

13. What do you think the Dodgers need to do this year to win it all?

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

“The key for the Dodgers is to stay healthy. If this team stays healthy we’ve got an excellent team. We’ve got power, we’ve got defense, we’ve got pitching, and we got a bullpen."

14. What’s the biggest key to winning the World Series?

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

"I’ve said this time and time again: Pennants, playoffs, and World Series wins come from the bullpen. You’ll see that as each game goes. It depends on the bullpen. If you build your bullpen up, you’ve got a chance to be successful.”

15. Who is the player you’re most proud of having mentored along?

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

“I can’t single out one guy. All of them were so great, so wonderful. You know, a funny thing about those guys is that once they got called up to the big leagues they never — or very rarely — ever went back to the minors, and they stayed up here for 10, 12, 14 years. I had them prepared when they played for me in the minor leagues, and I sent them to Dodger Stadium ready to play and not go back. They were ready to stay.”

16. When you’ve finally gone home to the Big Dodger in the Sky, how do you hope you’re remembered?

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

“I hope I’m remembered as a guy who loved his family very dearly, who loved his country very dearly, and who also loved the greatest organization in baseball. Right now I’ve been with the Dodgers 66 years, and I’ve been married 65 years, so you’re looking at the luckiest, most grateful, most contented person around.”

Promoted