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Tommy Lasorda: The Immigrant's Son Who Bleeds Dodger Blue

Editor's Note: This marks the 50th column in Jeremy Rosenberg's Arrival Story series. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium.

Each week, Rosenberg (@losjeremy) asks, "How did you - or your family before you - end up living in Los Angeles?"

This week, he hears from Los Angeles Dodgers legend, National Baseball Hall of Fame member, and Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation board member, Tommy Lasorda:

Tommy Lasorda and Dodger players use hula-hoops. Photo from the Herald-Examiner Collection. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

"When I quit playing baseball in 1960, Al Campanis offered me a scouting job, which I accepted.

"I did that for two years, for which I covered Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, Virginia and West Virginia. And then Al Campanis called me and suggested he'd like to bring me out to California and work for him here, rather than be in Pennsylvania, so far away.

"So I told him I'd talk to me wife. I did and she said, 'Okay, we'll move wherever you want to go.' I told her, 'You know, let's go out and see what it's like. If we don't like it, we can always come back. We've got a house.'

"I'd always felt, 'Out of sight, out of mind.' But if we moved out here at least they'll see what I can do and what my capabilities are. So we come out and never went back. Since 1963 we've been living here.

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Tommy Lasorda in conversation with umpire Lee Meyer in May, 1986. Photo by Leo Jarzomb. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

"I love it here. I found out it was great here. I was able to start not only scouting but then I became a manager in the rookie leagues in Ogden and Pocatello. Then I managed in AAA for Spokane and Albuquerque. And that's what I wanted. And, of course, I finally got to be a coach on the Dodgers team and then I became the manager for twenty years.

"I think the first time I came to Los Angeles was 1957. I played in the Pacific Coast League for the Angels. We used to play at the ballpark right out there by the Coliseum. Wrigley Field, they called it.

Tommy Lasorda throws batting practice in 1987. Photo by Leo Jarzomb, from the Herald-Examiner Collection. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

"I came out of spring training in 1957 and I was traded from the New York Yankees organization. I was playing in Denver for their AAA team, and they had traded me out here to Los Angeles.

"One thing that concerned me was, I'd come out of the hotel and my eyes would start burning. I said, 'Wow, what is this?' They said it was the smog.

"But then when I moved out here for good, my eyes never burned like that. So evidently there must have been a change in the climate. [See this 'Laws That Shaped LA' post.]

"My father arrived in the United States from Abruzzo, Italy and came through Ellis Island. He came here because his brothers were here and he couldn't get any work over there.

"He started working here on the railroad and getting different jobs. And then he began to work for Bethlehem Steel, which had a quarry over in Norristown, Pennsylvania. That's what he did for years.

"That's why they honored me at Ellis Island. They had the name of the ship that my father came on and the date he arrived here and the reason he gave why he came here.

"My four brothers came from Pennsylvania up to Ellis Island and we had a great time. Getting that award, that honor, was just great, because it was about my father.

Tommy Lasorda with Frank Sinatra, on Opening Day in 1981. Photo by Rob Brown, from the Herald-Examiner Collection. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

"In Sydney, I represented America in the Olympics. [See this 'Laws That Shaped LA' post] That was one of my greatest accomplishments and I was so proud of it. When I saw them put the medals around my team, I was proud.

"Coaches don't get medals in the Olympics. I got my medal when I watched them put the medals around my players. I got my medal when they raised the American flag. I got my medal when they played our national anthem.

"I cried because I knew I had done something for my country."

-Tommy Lasorda
(as told to and edited by Jeremy Rosenberg)

Tommy Lasorda, manager of the World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, rides down Broadway on October 31, 1981 with then-Mayor Tom Bradley and then-Dodgers executive Al Campanis. Photo by Rob Brown, from the Herald-Examiner Collection. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

Health Update:

Arrival Stories spoke with Lasorda about a month after he was reported to have suffered a mild heart attack. We asked him how he was doing? Lasorda's fast and strong reply: "I feel good, thank you."

Top Photo:

Tommy Lasorda slides in front of an on-field crowd. Photo from the Herald-Examiner Collection. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

Have A Story To Share?

Do you or someone you know have a great Los Angeles Arrival Story to share? If so, then email Jeremy Rosenberg via: arrivalstory AT gmail DOT com. Follow him at @losjeremy

About the Author

Jeremy Rosenberg is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, and consultant whose work has appeared in various books, magazines, newspapers, and online.
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