In this new series, we will be celebrating the life and times of Tommy Lasorda. The man we consider as the most passionate Dodger ever. This series of articles are a tribute to our site namesake, and a celebration of all things Tommy Lasorda, as we declare this week, Tommy Lasorda Appreciation week. From the immortal question, to his rivalry with the nose, to his legendary run as manager, these are our top ten Tommy moments of all time. We honor the man the myth the legend, Tommy Lasorda.
The number nine Tommy moment of all time, takes us back to his playing days. We go all the way back to 1948, when Tommy was still a young pitcher trying to break into the major leagues. Tommy Lasorda began his professional pitching career as an undrafted left handed free agent, signing with the Philadelphia Phillies farm system in 1945. He began playing with the Concord Weavers, before missing most of 1946, and 1947 after a long stint serving in the U.S. army.
After his tour in the Army was finished, Lasorda returned to Baseball in 1948, signing with the Schenectady Blue Jays of the Canadian-American league. The game on May 31, of 1948 stands out in my mind as one of the greatest pitching performances in minor league Baseball history. Of course, Lasorda was not known for his pitching prowess, and became more known for his managing skills. Still, many people might not know that Lasorda was a pretty good pitcher back in those days.
That game, Lasorda was playing the Amsterdam Rugmakers. What made that game amazing, was Lasorda pitched all 15 innings, and whiffed 25 batters, which broke a then league record, previously held by Gloversville’s Earl Jones’ 22 whiffs set back in 1942 in a game against Rome. Amazingly, not only did Lasorda pitch all 15 innings and whiff 25 batters, but he also allowed 12 walks, and a hit batter, and knocked in the game winning run with a single in the 15th inning for good measure. Talk about helping out your own cause right? His final pitching line saw him allow ten hits, 12 walks, whiff 25 and hit one batter, in a 15 inning win.
Tommy’s opposing pitcher, Fred Prior also went 15 innings, allowing ten hits, walking six, and whiffing five batters. Amsterdam had broken a 3-3 tie, by scoring two runs in the twelfth inning. But the Blue Jays rallied back with two more runs, coming from two home runs. One was an inside the park home run by Larry Rush, and the other a good old fashioned regular outside the park home run by Ernie Woods that tied the score at 5-5. Tommy eventually won the game single handed 6-5 for Schenectady with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 15th inning.
Lasorda only had a cup of coffee in the majors. He pitched in four games for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, and then pitched in four more games for the Dodgers in 1955 (their world championship season, although Lasorda did not pitch in the World Series that season), before pitching one season and 18 games for the Kansas City Athletics in 1956. Tommy was eventually traded to the Yankees system in 1956, before being sold back to the Dodgers in 1957. Lasorda also played for Cuba, Panama, and won the minor league pitcher of the year in 1958, when he was playing for the Montreal Royals of the International League. Lasorda won five minor league championships while playing with Montreal. The Dodgers released Tommy as a player on July 9, 1960. Tommy would eventually be inducted into the Canadian Baseball hall of fame.
Can you believe that though? Lasorda’s pitching career may have been somewhat short lived, but his legacy still lasts forever. Can you imagine both starting pitchers of a major league game pitching 15 innings, and one whiffing 25 and driving in the winning run? There were no pitch counts back in those days. Lasorda quipped on his blog that he probably threw 300 pitches in that game. The game was much different back in those days. In case you were wondering, Tommy only had one career Major League base hit. It was a single for Kansas City back in 1956. All total Tommy was 1 for 13 as a MLB hitter that year. That was the only hit of his major league career.