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Sadly, Lasorda hangs up his Dodger blues

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

Monday, 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.

Lasorda, 68, said he had been cleared by his doctors to manage again, five weeks after 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," the most famous son of Norristown, Pa., 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."

In Los Angeles, Lasorda's resignation carries the shock of an earthquake. While other teams seem to change managers almost yearly, change has come 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." He was flamboyant and well-connected, once persuading Frank Sinatra to show up at his mother's Norristown doorstep to sing Happy Birthday to her.

Lasorda's wife of 46 years, Jo, said her husband had been thinking a lot about his mortality, his job and his granddaughter since he was hospitalized.

"When this happens, you stop and think about a lot of things," Jo Lasorda said. "He kept saying, "I've proven myself.'

"

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

Though he struck out Stan Musial in his first start as a Dodgers pitcher, Lasorda wound up his career with an 0-4 record in 26 major-league appearances.

Until Lasorda stepped down Monday, 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 Yankees to sweep the next four, and in 1988, when he led an improbable upset of the mighty Oakland A's.

Tommy talk

"On Monday morning I called and told (owner Peter O'Malley) that I felt that even though the doctors had given me a clean bill of health, that for me to get into uniform again, as excitable as I am, I cannot go down there and not be the way I've always been." _ Lasorda.

"His biggest contribution is enthusiasm, for the whole organization _ whether it's young players, old players, fans, city, pride, enthusiasm." _ Peter O'Malley, Dodgers owner.

"You cannot say Dodgers without thinking of Tommy." _ Fred Claire, team vice president.

"I just thank God that it was a small kind of wake-up call for him and wasn't anything major. Now he can recover from this and rehabilitate, which he has done. And from all indications, he's going to live a very long life after this, and that's great." _ Mike Piazza, Dodgers catcher.

"It's not a baseball issue or some sporting issue. What it is is a life issue." _ Eric Karros, Dodgers first baseman.

"I was at the 1963 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees, and I was sitting with the scouts up behind home plate. I was up so high I could give the guy in the blimp a high-five. And I said to my wife, "You want to know something, Jo. One day I'm going to be in that dugout managing the Dodgers to a World Series.' And 14 years later I managed the Dodgers to a World Series." _ Lasorda.

"Tommy is the heart and soul of the Dodgers. His loyalty to the organization knows no bounds. And now that he has some time, Tommy can brush up on his singing _ I'm always looking for a good opening act." _ Frank Sinatra, longtime friend.

"Dodger Stadium was his address, but every stadium was his home." _ Lasorda, on what his tombstone should say.

Lasorda retires

Tom Lasorda is retiring, due to health problems, after nearly two decades managing the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers have had only two managers since 1954 +

+ Bill Russell has been interim manager during Lasorda's absence this season.

New York Yankees Managers since Lasorda started with the Dodgers in 1976:

Billy Martin 1975-78; 1979; 1983; 1985; 1988

Bob Lemon 1978-79; 1981-82

Dick Hoswer 1980

Gene Michael 1981, 1982

Clyde King 1982

Yogi Berra 1984-85 (also in 1964)

Lou Pinella 1986-87, 1988

Dallas Green 1989

Bucky Dent 1989-90

Stump Merrill 1990-91

Buck Showalter 1992-95

Joe Torre present

Most wins by managers

1. Connie Mack 3,731

2. John McGraw 2,784

3. Bucky Harris 2,157

4. Sparky Anderson 2,134

5. Joe McCarthy 2,125

6. Walter Alston 2,040

7. Leo Durocher 2,008

8. Casey Stengel 1,905

9. Gene Mauch 1,902

10. Bill McKechnie 1,896

11. Ralph Houk 1,619

12. Fred Clarke 1,602

13. Tom Lasorda 1,599

The Lasorda years

Managerial record of Tommy Lasorda, who announced his retirement from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday:

REGULAR SEASON

Year, Team W L Pct. Pos

1976, Los Angeles 2 2 .500 2

'77, Los Angeles 98 64 .605 1

'78, Los Angeles 95 67 .586 1

'79, Los Angeles 79 83 .488 3

'80, Los Angeles 92 71 .564 2

'81, LA-1st half-x 36 21 .632 1

'81, LA-2nd half 27 26 .509 4

'82, Los Angeles 88 74 .543 2

'83, Los Angeles 91 71 .562 1

'84, Los Angeles 79 83 .488 4

'85, Los Angeles 95 67 .586 1

'86, Los Angeles 73 89 .451 5

'87, Los Angeles 73 89 .451 4

'88, Los Angeles-x 94 67 .584 1

'89, Los Angeles 77 83 .481 4

'90, Los Angeles 86 76 .531 2

'91, Los Angeles 93 69 .574 2

'92, Los Angeles 63 99 .389 6

'93, Los Angeles 81 81 .500 4

'94, Los Angeles 58 56 .509 1

'95, Los Angeles 78 66 .542 1

'96, Los Angeles 41 35 .539 _

Totals 1599 1439 .526

DIVISION SERIES

Year, Opp W L Pct

'81, Houston 3 2 .600

'95, Cincinnati 0 3 .000

Totals 3 5 .375

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Year, Opp W L Pct

'77, Philadelphia 3 1 .750

'78, Philadelphia 3 1 .750

'81, Montreal 3 2 .600

'83, Philadelphia 1 3 .250

'85, St. Louis 2 4 .333

'88, New York 4 3 .571

Totals 16 14 .533

WORLD SERIES

Year, Opp W L Pct

'77, New York 2 4 .333

'78, New York 2 4 .333

'81, New York-x 4 2 .667

'88, Oakland-x 4 1 .800

Totals 12 11 .522

x _ won World Series.

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