“My heart bleeds Dodger blue,” Lasorda has claimed, during his 35-plus years in the Dodger organization. He looked like a promising pitcher on June 1, 1948 when, in a 15-inning game for the Schenectady Blue Jays (Canadian-American League, Class C), he struck out 25 Amsterdam Rugmakers, setting a since-broken pro record. He even drove in the winning run with a single. In his next two starts, he struck out 15 and 13, gaining the attention of the Dodgers, who signed him for their Montreal club. Lasorda compiled a 98-49 record in nine years with Montreal of the International League, the Dodgers’ top farm club, 1950-1955 and 1958-1960. His best records were 17-8 in 1953 and 18-6 in 1958, when he led the league in victories, complete games, and shutouts. Lasorda helped Montreal to the International League championship five times. He received only two brief trials with the Dodgers, and on May 5, 1955 he tied a ML record with three wild pitches in one inning. Lasorda was demoted in 1955 to make room for bonus baby Sandy Koufax, then sold to Kansas City in 1956, but couldn’t stick with the Athletics or Yankees either. Stuck in the high minors, Lasorda moved to Los Angeles a year before the Dodgers did, with the Angels of the Pacific Coast League.
After his second stint in Montreal, Lasorda became a Dodger scout in 1961 and then a minor league manager in 1965. He won five pennants and finished second twice and third once through 1972, with only one record below .500.
Promoted to the Dodgers as a coach, Lasorda served as Walter Alston’s understudy until September 29, 1976, when Alston retired. He inherited the infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey that he had helped assemble in the minor leagues, and he reacquired catcher Joe Ferguson, another of his proteges, to alternate with Steve Yeager. In 1977-78, he became the first NL manager to win pennants his first two seasons, but the Dodgers lost the WS to the Yankees in six games each time. After the 1981 player strike, Lasorda’s Dodgers defeated the Astros in the divisional playoff; beat the Expos in the LCS on Rick Monday’s two-out, ninth-inning homer; and then crushed the Yankees with a power display in the World Series. Lasorda managed the Dodgers to division titles in 1983 and 1985, but lost both times in the LCS. In 1988, he shared NL Manager of the Year honors with the Pirates Jim Leyland and took the Dodgers to an upset win over the Mets in the LCS and a shocking WS upset of the A’s. A media favorite, Lasorda is noted for his good humor and his love of Italian cooking.