Lasorda Q-and-A Part IV: The personna vs. the person

lasordasparkyesQ: Sparky Anderson would often say that he had two different people inside of him. One was “Sparky,” the manger, the one the public saw. And there was “George,” his real name, the private person from Thousand Oaks. You’ve built yourself a real a Hollywood success story.  Someone from small means, driven to become someone important – and now bigger than life. Are there two separate people there: “Tommy,” the public person, and “Tom,” the private person who not a lot of people don’t know, living in the same house in Fullerton with his wife Jo?
A: Well I’d have to say there would be. Yeah, sure. The one thing about it, the whole concept, we’d go out with the Sinatras, or Gregory Pecks, or Kurt Douglases, we’d drive home and my wife would say, “Now you’re coming back to reality. Don’t think you’re like those people. You think about us.” That’s the truth. We were with them all and knew them all. I’ve been able to dine with presidents, with leaders of corporations, traveled for 14 years with (financier and philanthropist) Michael Milken, who has taught me so much about life. Hanging around with them, it’s nothing I could have believed in grade school. I could be with all of them? Milton Berle, Don Rickles, Dean Martin … this former third-string pitcher from the Norristown High baseball team and the son of an Italian immigrant? I really am in awe when I think that has happened to me. What a life.

lasordalaangelsQ: Do you like keeping that private part of you separate from the public part?
A: Hey, it doesn’t make any difference to me.
Q: Do you feel like you have to flip a switch on sometimes and be the public “Tommy” and people want you to be?
A: No, I never wanted that.
Q: Did you get your first sense of being part of Hollywood when you ended up pitching in the Pacific Coast League for the Los Angeles Angels (then a Dodgers’ minor league team before their move to L.A.)?
A: I think I got a little bit of it. That’s where I first met (actor) George Raft. I started a big fight one game and afterward he was waiting for me to say, “That was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.”

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Lasorda Q-and-A Part III: Current events

irQ: This whole Yasiel Puig phenomenon. Any comparisons to things you’ve seen in the past?
A: He reminds me a lot of (former Dodger outfielder Raul) Mondesi. Power, average, fielding, throwing. That’s what he’s displayed so far. Still, you can’t go overboard. Many years ago, Pittsburgh had a guy come up from their Hollywood farm team. Hit 11 home runs or something right away. Reporters went to Ted Williams and asked him what they thought of this guy. “See me after the league has seen him the second time around,” he said.
The other teams will find your holes and they’ll get you. I’ll wait and see what he does long term. The talent and ability is there. He’s done what we’ve needed, having fans get interested in the team again.

Q: But it’s only lately that the team has started winning with him the lineup. You wrote in one of your books that there are ways to get a team motivated – you’re a yeller and screamer, because you didn’t want to keep the anger inside. But you also talked about why a thoroughbred jockey carries a whip – even the best need to be pushed.
A: I told that story to Tony LaRussa once. The greatest class of horses are in the Kentucky Derby. On top of each of them is one of the greatest jockeys in the world. When that jockey gets up there what does he have? A whip. If he’s one of the greatest horses in the world, why would he need a whip? He doesn’t hit the horse when he’s coming out of the gate. It has it for the home stretch – boom – he pops the horse to extract every ounce of energy that horse still has.

Q: When you look up and down this Dodger roster of players, do they need some kind of whip to remind them how good they are?
A: Without a doubt. When you’re not playing up to your capability, you gotta try everything, to motivate, to get them going. All of them have to be on the same end of the rope pull together. It’s playing for the name on the front of the shirt, not the back. Individualism gets you trophies and plaques. Play for the front, that wins championships. I try to remind them of that.

Q: You must get the urge to go down there and start yelling sometimes?
A: Sure, but I talk to them in spring training. I give the speech – this is where you win championships, right here. If you leave and you’re not in good physical condition, you’ll have a problem with a 162-game schedule.
Take two fighters, one is in tremendous shape and the other isn’t. The guy who isn’t, by the the fifth or six round, his hands start to drop and he doesn’t realize it. And he gets the (bleep)  beat out of him. The pitcher’s arm starts to drop and the ball gets up. The batters tries to pull the ball and he ends up hitting to the opposite field because he can’t get his bat around.

 © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

© Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Q: Don Mattingly appears to be the complete opposite of you when it comes to giving fiery speeches. Or is he? You may now him better … Is there a side of him we don’t know that can ignite a team? Or is that just not his style?
A: All managers are different. A lot of times, when things go wrong, you start playing too defensively. You may not want to do something because it may not work. When that gets in your head — don’t do it.
Donnie has control of the team, I think. The players like him. But you can’t be too concerned with them liking you. You can’t forget to chew them out, and there are different ways to do it. Still, the manager doesn’t hit the ball, doesn’t catch the ball or throw the ball. But when things go bad, who do they blame?

Q: Did you get a sense recently that Mattingly’s job was on the line, that there was a tipping point?
A: I never thought that was in the minds of the higher ups. I never heard it, and I probably would have. This is a team that just isn’t always doing the job. And they have all the talent in the world. I remember once when (former Dodger owner) Peter O’Malley once asked me: What can I give you? I said: Two things. One, give me 25 guys all playing out their options. Two, have me make more money than at least one guy on the team.

Q: Did you try to convince Joe Torre to stick around a couple years when he wanted to retire?
A: I had no idea what he was going to do.
Q: Torre said in essence he felt he couldn’t communicate with today’s ballplayers, they needed someone more contemporary to speak to them on their level. Is that true? Can you always find a way to get through to a player?
A: I can’t tell you what he should say. But I can tell you what I’d say — and I don’t believe that. You can handle all players. When I managed in the rookie league for four years, Al Campanis was the only one who wanted to promote me to Triple A. Someone who didn’t want me to get that promotion said, “Well, he’s good with young kids, but he won’t be able to do the same with veterans.” I got the job in Spokane, we won the pennant by 26 games.
You’ve got to have confidence in your abilities as a manager. When I was interviewed after I got hired to replace Walter Alston, a future Hall of Famer, I was asked: “Don’t you feel pressure on you?” I said: “I want to know something, I’m worried about the guy who’s going to have to replace me.”
Q: That turned out to be Bill Russell.
A: I was in favor of him becoming the manager. I thought he had the right personality. I pushed him for it. But I was wrong. You know, you can get too interested in someone and maybe you can’t see over there (pointing right) or there (pointing left) you can only see there (pointing straight ahead). He just didn’t have the qualifications, he couldn’t handle the job.

95e25a_MANAGER_wallachQ: What former players that you had could make the best managers today?
A: I think the best would be (current Dodgers third base coach Tim) Wallach. He belongs in the major leagues. He’s got major-league talent as a manager. At one time I had 13 of my guys managing in the big leagues.
I know (current Dodgers first base coach Davey) Lopes could do it again, probably better now than before. He’s a knowledgeable guy. Maybe he’ll know better how to extract from the players the best of their ability. I wish he would get a second chance.
I’m proud of all those guys (who played under me), getting a chance to manage. I hope there’s a little bit of me in each one of them. When a guy plays for you, your personality, your knowledge, that’s what they look for. I made the clubhouse a lot of fun.
The players really do react to the manager. When Walter Alston walked into the clubhouse, we might be hollering and throwing food at each other, but then everything would get quiet. My personality I know is loud, boisterous, screaming — but I never allowed anyone else to holler at my players. I was the one who did that.

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Lasorda Q-and-A Part II: Curses …

20130601__IDB-L-GRAD-LAVERNE~p1Q: This is the time of year when you get booked for commencement addresses.  Do you have a prepared speech to give?
A: I just wing it. Last week, my good friend Mitch Modell, from the sporting goods company, I spoke to his group. About 1,000 people. I was eating first with the senior vice president. He asks me, “What are you going to talk about?” “I don’t know.” “What, are you bull (bleeping) me? There’s 1,000 people and you don’t know what you’re going to say?” “No I don’t.” “Any idea?” “No.” “C’mon, you’re telling me you’re about to speak to all these people and you don’t know.” “That’s right.” But when I do get up there, then I know what I’m going to say.
Q: A prayer first?
A: No, you look at the crowd and get the feeling of what they want to hear. Then I just do it.
See, when I first started, (bleep), I was so nervous about public speaking.  I couldn’t eat. I was afraid I’d forget what I wanted to say. But now, I don’t give a (bleep) how many are out there now. I feel comfortable up there talking.

Q: Just like when you’re up on the stadium video screen before the game telling people in the park the rules of fan conduct — Don’t run on the field, don’t interfere with a ball in play, and don’t use profanity.
A: That’s when the fans start laughing, right?
But you know, when I was asked to do a book recently, the author wanted to include all the profanity. I didn’t want that. “But that’s how you speak,” he said. “I don’t give a (bleep), I don’t want no profanity in the book. I want my granddaughter to read the book. I would hope it would be in libraries. No profanity. If you don’t want it my way, we don’t do it.
But … I’ve been married 63 years. I’ve never used one word of profanity in front my wife, or my daughter, or my granddaughter … or anybody else’s wife.
My God, look at the words people use today. They use profanity like it’s nothing. Christ almighty. When I was growing up, I never heard people swear the way they do today.
Hey, I know, when I’m in the clubhouse or on the field, I’m bad. I know that. One time Billy Buckner (with the Chicago Cubs) beat us on a Friday night with a double off Tommy John. He beat us Saturday with a homer off Mike Garman. Sunday, I hold a team meeting. I got really (bleeping) mad. “I want him (bleeping) drilled when he comes up”… I went on and one. Finally, Don Sutton jumps up with a counter and says, “You just used the F-word 144 times and this meeting isn’t even over.”
I admit it, I’m bad on the field. But never when I speak to a group. Never. Not even a men’s club. You never know who’s the crowd — a priest or preacher or rabbi. Just don’t do it.

Q: Then people must try to egg you into it. How many times do you get asked about “your opinion of Kingman’s performance?”
A: They still bring it up! They do. You’d think they’d forget it. I know I haven’t forgotten it. It’s quite often.
But you know what gets me? They’ve got a recording of that out there on the Internet. People hear that? My wife, who’s never had a computer, I hope she never hears me on that.

Q: On my computer, it says you’re big on social media and the Internet — 90,000 followers on Twitter.
A: I don’t even know what that means. It’s scary, really scary, to me.
Q: On your Twitter feed, there’s a picture with you and Taylor Lauter. Do you even know who he is?
A: What does he do?
Q: An actor. You must get your picture taken all the time with people you don’t even know who they are.
A: Yup. Hey, people write to me, I send them a picture.

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Lasorda Q-and-A Part I: When’s the Lasorda Restaurant going into Dodger Stadium (McCourt promised)?

Tommy Lasorda gets a hug from Andre Ethier prior to the Dodgers' game against the Chicago White Sox on June 16, 2012.  Lasorda suffered a heart attack earlier at month. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Tommy Lasorda gets a hug from Andre Ethier prior to the Dodgers’ game against the Chicago White Sox on June 16, 2012. Lasorda suffered a heart attack earlier at month. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

QUESTION: With all this construction done at the stadium over the last few months, they still haven’t installed a Tommy Lasorda restaurant in Dodger Stadium?

ANSWER: (Holding his finger and thumb inches apart) It’s that much short of a miracle what they’ve done to this place. How do you build that much under ground? They took tons of dirt away. It’s gotta be a new way of doing things. When they said they wanted to make all these changes to the stadium, I said, “They can’t do it.” They couldn’t increase the clubhouse. There was this huge wall next to it, and all this hillside dirt behind it. Never thinking this engineer could come up with idea. Damn it, it’s great.

I’m waiting for them to build a restaurant here. A guy comes to the park early, beats the crowd, then after the game, goes back in, has a drink or something to eat. You’d clean up. They’re going to do it. Frank McCourt said he was going to do one and name it after me.

Q: The new ownership team – would they impress you more if they put in that restaurant?
They’ve been great. I knew many of them before they. They’re good people. All they want is to bring a championship to L.A., and they’ve put their money where their mouth is. They’re all good, successful people in their own right. They’ve done everything they said they were going to do. And they want to see a championship.

Q: Even if you can’t just go out and just buy one as it looks like they’re trying to do?
A: Well, they’ve told the general manager, “We’ll give you anything you want as long as you win.” That’s their attitude. They’ve lived up to it. I’m so proud of them and just hope we can win for them.

Q: Have they given you any special job title?
A: Who needs a title? I might have one (special advisor to the chairman), but I don’t need it. I just do everything they ask.

Q: Don’t you have any vacation time saved up? Why do you always have to be on the go somewhere?
Vacation time? I’m a vacation every day. I love what I’m doing. I’ve never taken a vacation, so to speak. I mean, if I were to quit, I don’t know how many years of vacation time I’ve got saved up.
If you’d see my schedule, you’d know I have no time to slow down. I’ll tell you why. I think I’ve been put on this earth for something. I have right now 10 honorary doctorate degrees. That’s unbelievable. I never set foot in college. Cal Tech honored me – they named an asteroid after me. There’s only two of them up there with names. One of them is Walter Cronkite. The other is Tommy Lasorda. I’ve got a portrait in the Smithsonian. Who ever thought that would happen?

Q: And your energy comes from … where?
A: Loving what I do. My wife said, “Don’t you ever say no.” “A lot of times.” “When?” “When they’ve asked me if I’ve had enough to eat.”

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Q and A: Food for thought, from Tommy Lasorda

Tommy Lasorda waves to the crowd while at a Dodgers game against St. Louis on May 25. (Photo by Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2013)

Tommy Lasorda waves to the crowd while at a Dodgers game against St. Louis on May 25. (Photo by Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2013)

Tommy Lasorda ambles into the executive dining room of the Dodger Stadium press box, and no one’s there.
How does he play to an empty room?
It’s only for a split second. A staff employee pops in. Lasorda asks about the soup of the day.
“Split pea,” is the response.
“Sweet pea?” repeats Lasorda. “Bueno, muy caliente. Muchos gracias, Jesus.”
With a Sprite, please. No ice.

IMG_6619_-_Tommy_Lasorda_display_imageWarbling at times on two replaced knees, depending on a ticker that may pump Dodger blue blood into his veins but has been under surveillance for the last two decades, the 85-year-old Hall of Fame manager insists he’s under absolutely no restrictions on what he can eat these days.
Well, sorta, as only Lasorda can explain.
“I’m losing weight because, that’s what the doctor told me,” he says, tucking the white napkin into the front of his shirt and begins the process of spooning up as much of the murky green soup as he can get.
“He didn’t say how. He just said to cut down.”
“I was told to stay away from pasta and bread for two weeks.”
“Not eating pasta? That’ll kill me. Anything else, but why pasta?”
Soon would arrive a side of cottage cheese, a scoop of tuna and a bowl of fresh peaches. That which doesn’t kill you will supposedly make you stronger.
Lasorda needs the strength to keep up with a still-demanding schedule that could grind up someone much younger and less willing to travel.
He admits his life has been full of blessings, and plenty of cursing. During a break in his calendar, we fed Lasorda a bread-basket full of questions during a 3-hour-plus sitdown.
What follows from here are a lot of the crumbs:

Dodgers legend and Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda.(Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

Dodgers legend and Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda.(Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

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