Tommy Lasorda was having a conversation with someone when I entered his massive office at Dodger Stadium.
I’m pretty sure I asked him a question, but honestly can’t recall.
I do remember Lasorda and his guest chuckling, probably wondering who in the heck was this rather green reporter they had never seen.
I was in Santa Monica visiting my sister and a friend from UCLA when the Pittsburgh Pirates were playing the Dodgers.
St. Joseph graduate Doug Drabek was pitching for the Pirates and I was able to get a credential thanks to a reporter from the Long Beach paper, who I had met during my trips to the Astrodome in Houston when the Dodgers were in town.
Drabek was the winning pitcher and was surprised to see a familiar face after the game.
I’ll never forget sitting in the press box at Dodger Stadium writing my story.
As far as I was concerned, this was the ultimate, what I had wanted to do since becoming a reporter.
I became a Dodgers fan while I was at UCLA. There was no way not to after listening to Vin Scully and going to games with my cousin.
Lasorda, who died Friday at the age of 93, was a larger than life figure.
I mean when a guy talks about “Blue Heaven” and says he bleeds “Dodger Blue,” it would be easy to dismiss him as some kind of a clown.
But Lasorda was sincere in his love for the Dodgers, not to mention a damn good manager.
He had a 1,599-1,439 record, won World Series titles in 1981 and 1988, four National League pennants and eight division titles while serving as Dodgers manager from 1977 to 1996.
He was elected as a manager to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1997. He guided the U.S. to a baseball gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
To say Lasorda was a colorful figure would be a massive understatement.
All you have to do is watch a clip of Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series to see Lasorda bound out of the dugout and jump around like a cartoon character.
Those around baseball knew Lasorda was no choir boy. At some point, I came into possession of a cassette tape of Lasorda’s visit to the mound during the 1977 World Series with Columbus native Doug Rau, who pitched at Texas A&M, which to put mildly is lit.
If you want to listen to Lasorda and Rau, you can search it online, but if cursing offends you, don’t bother.
Lasorda’s passion for the game and the Dodgers was unmatched.
I am saddened by his passing, but happy that he lived such a full life and finally got to see the 2020 Dodgers win another World Series title.
The Dodgers had planned to have Lasorda throw out the first pitch when God-willing, next season opens.
Instead, he can watch the game with the Big Dodger in the Sky.