In a 21-year career as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda enjoyed great success. His teams won eight division titles, four pennants, and two World Series. He managed nine Rookie of the Year award winners, two Cy Young Award winners, and one MVP. He used his undying enthusiasm to push, prod, and coerce his teams to the top of the standings. He made more “ho-hum” players seem like stars than probably anyone who ever filled out a lineup card.
To honor Lasorda’s memory and to celebrate the great Dodger teams of his era, we’ve selected an All-Time Team made up of Dodgers who played for Tommy (anywhere between 1976 and 1996).
Mike Piazza, Catcher
Lasorda knew Mike Piazza practically before he was born. Tommy’s childhood friend Vince Piazza and his wife were close with the Dodger manager. When little Mike was born, Tommy was asked to be his godfather. Twenty years later, as a favor to Vince, the Dodgers picked Mike in the 62nd round of the amateur draft. Talk about a favor paying off: Piazza made it to the Dodgers four years later, and averaged .330 with 32 homers and 100 RBI in four seasons playing for Tommy.
TRIVIA: Name the three Hall of Fame position players who played for Lasorda on the Dodgers.
Honorable Mention: Mike Scioscia, Steve Yeager, and Joe Ferguson. Scioscia played more games for Lasorda than any other player, and went on to an excellent managerial career of his own in southern California, with the Angels.
Steve Garvey, First Base
When Lasorda assumed command of the Dodgers, taking over from his mentor Walter Alston for the 1976 season, Garvey was the biggest star on the team. Of all the Dodgers who played for Tommy, Garvey probably accepted the Hollywood schtick that Lasorda created around his time more than anyone else. Garvey loved attention, looked great, and had a beautiful wife who worked in television. He was also a superb player, and while time has not been good to him, he remains a franchise legend.
Honorable Mention: Eric Karros, Eddie Murray, and Franklin Stubbs.
Davey Lopes, Second Base
Probably the most underrated of the Dodgers who starred for Tommy’s teams in the 1970s and early 1980s. Lopes was a little stiff in the field, but he was a nice package of power and speed offensively. He’s in the discussion as one of the best baserunners in history, and he hit a lot of key home runs for Tommy over the years.
Honorable Mention: Steve Sax
Bill Russell, Shortstop
Russell was never a brilliant shortstop: his throwing arm was average and a bit erratic, but he was steady and made all the plays he needed to at the position. Like many of the Dodgers of his era, Russell was switched to his position based on need. He played on five division winners and three pennant winners for Tommy, who groomed Russell to be one of his coaches and eventually his replacement as manager of his beloved Dodgers.
Honorable Mention: Alfredo Griffin, Jose Offerman.
Ron Cey, Third Base
The last of the four players who made up the famed Dodger infield, Cey was awkward looking, but effective. He had a short, powerful stroke, and he was the best defensive player of the longtime Dodger infield.
Honorable Mention: Tim Wallach, Mike Sharperson, and Mickey Hatcher.
Dusty Baker, Left Field
Baker arrived in LA the same year Lasorda assumed the managerial job. He spent eight seasons under Tommy, saving some of his biggest moments for the pennant races and postseason. He’s now managed more games, and won more games than Tommy did.
Brett Butler, Center Field
The only player on this team who did not play in a World Series for Lasorda, Butler served six seasons under Lasorda, doing all the fundamental things a fundamental player could do. When he was 37, he led the league in triples, and the next year when he was 38, Butler did it again.
Honorable Mention: Rick Monday and Ken Landreaux.
Pedro Guerrero, Right Field
Play this guy wherever you want, just get Pedro’s bat in the lineup. He batted .309 for Lasorda in 11 seasons, and in 1981 he smacked four home runs for the Dodgers in their postseason run to Tommy’s first championship.
Honorable Mention: Reggie Smith, Raul Mondesi, Mike Marshall.
Kirk Gibson, Pinch-Hitter
No player who ever wore the Dodger blue was more of a misfit in SoCal than Gibby, but no player was ever more dedicated to winning. Here’s a great trivia question: who is the only Dodger to win the MVP award playing for Tommy Lasorda? The answer is Kirk Gibson, of course.
Honorable Mention: Manny Mota, Lenny Harris, and Chris Gwynn.
Orel Hershiser, Starting Pitcher
The gutsiest and most important decision Lasorda ever made in his celebrated career came in Game Four of the 1988 NL Championship Series. With the Dodgers trailing in the series two games to one, and nursing a one-run lead in the 12th inning, the Mets loaded the bases with two outs. Hershiser had started the day before and also started Game One. But Tommy couldn’t risk falling down 3-1 in the series, and waved his ace into the game. Three gutsy pitches later, Hershiser got a short fly to center field and the Dodgers survived to even the series. From there, the Dodgers won six of their next eight games to win one of the most unlikely championships in the history of the sport. We defy you to identify another manager who could have coaxed that generally mediocre team to wins over the Mets and A’s in the postseason.
Fernando Valenzuela, Starting Pitcher
Before there was Hershiser, there was Fernandomania. What Orel did for 1988, Lasorda let Valenzuela do for 1981, when the Dodgers stampeded through an expanded playoff scenario to win the first World Series for the Italian manager. The Mexican southpaw was a great pitcher for Lasorda for six seasons, and no one enjoyed his popularity more than his beaming manager.
Don Sutton, Starting Pitcher
By the time, Lasorda replaced Walt Alston, Sutton was a bonified ace and one of the league’s most dependable pitchers. Apparently, the pitcher and manager had a cool relationship (cool as in “icy”), but Lasorda appreciated the 15 wins and 230+ innings Sutton averaged in his five years on his staff.
Sutton knew Lasorda as well as anyone. Once, when he was asked to describe Tommy’s “charitable” side, Sutton said, “Every year Tommy offers $50,000 to the family of the unknown soldier.”
Bob Welch, Starting Pitcher
Only Fernando and Hershiser won more games for Lasorda than Welch, the hard-throwing right-hander who was shaky in the postseason, but a rotation cog for several seasons in Los Angeles.
Tommy John, Starting Pitcher
The left-handed complement to Don Sutton in Lasorda’s early years, John was a big game pitcher. The Bionic Pitcher was 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in five postseason starts for Lasorda’s Dodgers.
Honorable Mention: Ramon Martinez, Jerry Reuss, Burt Hooton, Tim Belcher, and Hideo Nomo. Lasorda developed as many good starting pitchers as any manager since World War II. It’s not surprising, since Lasorda was a promising pitcher himself in the Brooklyn organization until he hurt his arm.
Jay Howell, Relief Pitcher
Just make sure he has access to pine tar.
Steve Howe, Relief Pitcher
Just make sure he faces Reggie Jackson.
Todd Worrell, Relief Pitcher
His 92 saves are the most of the Lasorda era. Usually, Tommy liked to have a few options out of his bullpen, as opposed to using one ace closer. Worrell and Howell were the exceptions to that rule, and the came along later in Tommy’s tenure.
Tom Niedenfuer, Relief Pitcher
Only Hershiser and Fernando pitched more games for Tommy Lasorda, and Neidenfuer’s all came in relief. His performance in long relief in the 1981 World Series goes unnoticed, but it was crucial. Niedenfuer tossed five scoreless frames in that series as his teammates dug themselves out of an 0-2 hole to finally slay the Yankees.
Honorable Mention: Charlie Hough, Jim Gott, Alejandro Pena, Ken Howell, and Terry Forster.