Lasorda retires as Dodgers manager 20-year tenure ends

Russell to stay on to end of season, at least

July 30, 1996|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

LOS ANGELES -- He began his managerial career as a pitcher who had never won a game in the major leagues. Two decades later, Tom Lasorda had made himself the living symbol of one of sports' most storied franchises.

But yesterday, a baseball era ended when Lasorda announced he was stepping down, for health reasons, as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers after 20 years.

He will be succeeded by his friend and protege, Bill Russell, who will remain until the end of the season, at least.

Lasorda, 68, said he had been cleared by his doctors to manage again, five weeks after suffering the mild heart attack that forced him to leave the club June 24. He also said Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley had left the door open for his return, saying: "That uniform is waiting for you."

However, Lasorda said he owed it to his family to step down now, because he didn't think he could change his high-volume, high-energy style of managing in order to keep his doctors happy.

"I felt like, even though the doctors gave me a clean bill of health, for me to put on a uniform again, as excitable as I am, I could not go down there and not be the way I've always been," he told a nationally televised news conference. "And I decided it was best for me and best for the organization for me to step down."

Lasorda wiped away tears and struggled to control the emotion in his voice as he addressed a crowd of reporters and well-wishers in the Stadium Club at Dodger Stadium.

"I love to manage," he said. "But other things are more important. I have a little granddaughter I'd like to be around when she goes to school. I want to spend time with my daughter and son-in-law . . . my wife. I felt it was best to step down."

In Los Angeles, Lasorda's resignation carries the shock of an earthquake. While other teams seem to change managers on almost a yearly basis, change has come only once a generation to the Dodgers. Lasorda is only the second Dodgers manager since the team moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn in 1958.

He personified the team, proclaiming that his blood was "Dodger blue."

"It has been an honor and a privilege to be manager of the Dodgers," Lasorda said. "I'm giving it up because I'm more concerned about my family than anything else."

Lasorda will remain with the Dodgers as a vice president, with unspecified duties. He said he will do whatever O'Malley asks him.

"I love the organization I've been with for 47 years," Lasorda said. "I'm hoping maybe 50 years from now, I'll die a Dodger."

In this century, only three men have managed one team for more years than Lasorda: Connie Mack, who led the Philadelphia A's for 50 years; John McGraw, who managed the New York Giants for 31 seasons; and Walter Alston, Lasorda's predecessor with the Dodgers, who spent 23 years in the dugout.

Only 11 men in history managed more games than Lasorda's 3,040. Only 12 won more games than the 1,599 he won.

And until Lasorda stepped down yesterday, no current manager or coach in any of the four major pro sports had remained at the helm longer than he had.

He finished first eight times. He went to the World Series four times. He won the Series twice -- in 1981, when the Dodgers came back from losing the first two games to the New York Yankees to sweep the next four, and in 1988, when he led an improbable upset of the mighty Oakland A's.

Lasorda's record

Yr. .. ..Team .. .... .. .W .. ..L .. ..Pct. .. ..Pos

1976 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. ..2 .. ..2.. . .500 .. .. ..2

1977 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .98 .. .64.. . .605 .. .. ..1

1978 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .95 .. .67.. . .586 .. .. ..1

1979 .. ..L.A. .. ... ...79 .. .83.. . .488 .. .. ..3

1980 . ...L.A. .. ... ...92 .. .71.. . .564 .. .. ..2

1981 .. ..L.A.-1st-x .. .36 .. .21.. . .632 .. .. ..1

.. .. .. .L.A.-2nd .. ...27 .. .26.. . .509 .. .. ..4

1982 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .88 .. .74.. . .543 .. .. ..2

1983 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .91 .. .71.. . .562 .. .. ..1

1984 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .79 .. .83.. . .488 .. .. ..4

1985 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .95 .. .67.. . .586 .. .. ..1

1986 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .73 .. .89.. . .451 .. .. ..5

1987 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .73 .. .89.. . .451 .. .. ..4

1988 .. ..L.A.-x .. .. ..94 .. .67.. . .584 .. .. ..1

1989 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .77 .. .83.. . .481 .. .. ..4

1990 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .86 .. .76.. . .531 .. .. ..2

1991 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .93 .. .69.. . .574 .. .. ..2

1992 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .63 .. .99.. . .389 .. .. ..6

1993 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .81 .. .81.. . .500 .. .. ..4

1994 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .58 .. .56.. . .509 .. .. ..1

1995 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .78 .. .66.. . .542 .. .. ..1

1996 .. ..L.A. .. .. .. .41 .. .35.. . .539 .. .. .--

Totals .. .. .. .. .. ..1599 ..1439... .526

x-Won World Series

Pub Date: 7/30/96

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