Tommy Lasorda was a baseball icon. The Dodgers Hall of Fame manager touched the lives of many, including those here in the Coachella Valley.
Steve Garvey, a Palm Desert resident and Dodger legend in his own right, played for Lasorda, starting in the minor leagues for the Ogden Dodgers in 1968.
“This must be Steve Garvey… and I went, ‘yes sir.’ He goes, ‘son, welcome, your life’s changed forever,’ and I thought, ‘uh oh! Who is this man?’ He said, ‘I’m Tom Lasorda!’” Garvey recalled of the first time he met Lasorda.
Garvey went on to be an integral part of the Dodgers 1981 World Series Championship team under Lasorda.
“He never changed over the 50 plus years I knew him. He was a teacher, he was my manager, he was a mentor, and he was a second father to me,” Garvey said of Lasorda. “Throughout our whole journey we’re touched by people who make a difference in our lives and Tommy made a significant difference in mine. A young boy after a couple of years at Michigan State goes to professional baseball and becomes mentored by what eventually becomes a Hall of Fame manager. It doesn’t get any better than that, but more importantly it wasn’t just about playing baseball, it was about being a man and being a gentleman.”
The Dodgers Hall of Fame manager, who spent 71 years with the organization, passed away Thursday night at the age of 93.
“He’ll always be remembered by being someone who was truly passionate about what he did and that he loved people,” Garvey said.
Lasorda even spent some time with the Palm Desert baseball team. Lasorda gave the team, including Garvey’s son Ryan, a pre-game speech at Dodger Stadium for the CIF finals.
“Those kids' eyes were like… popping out of their head and he talked to them like men. He wasn’t holding anything back, it was like we were the Dodgers and we were going to the seventh game of the World Series,” said Palm Desert baseball coach Darol Salazar.
Lasorda was known for his enthusiasm and energy. His speech went on so long that the officials had to step in.
“One of the officials came out and was like… ‘Darol, we’ve got to get this game started,’ and I said, ‘ok… that’s like my idol right there and this is his house, I don’t feel confident enough to go up and tell him.’ I said, ‘you can do it if you want to, you can go tell him,’ and the guy goes, ‘no.’ So we just waited until he finished,” Salazar said. “It was the thing I will always remember.”
Lasorda spent his final game watching his beloved Dodgers win the World Series for the first time since his team did it back in 1988.
“I’m quite sure he’s going to be on the mound tomorrow in a big game in heaven. He’ll be pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers and be throwing to Campanella and Hodges at first and Jackie Robinson at second, Pee Wee at short… all those iconic Brooklyn Dodgers players. He’ll be restored and back to what he loves to do probably the most and that’s pitch,” Garvey said.
According to the Dodgers organization, Lasorda suffered a sudden cardiopulmonary arrest in his home just two days after returning home from a two-month hospital stay.
The Dodgers organization released a statement Friday morning, sharing the sad news of Lasorda's passing.
Lasorda managed the Dodgers from 1976 to 1996, winning two World Series titles and four National League pennants.
"Lasorda's wish to see another Dodgers World Championship was fulfilled last October, when he traveled to Arlington, Texas to witness the Dodgers 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series," the team's statement read.
College of the Desert softball coach Garrett Estrin reflected on Lasorda's visit to Cimarron Golf Course in 2010 to speak at the Prendy Golf Classic. Estrin said he met Lasorda when he was an intern for the Dodgers organization in 2000.