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 two Tommy Lasorda moment of all time spotlights, one of Tommy’s most tremendous accomplishments. Tommy came out of retirement to be the manager of the 2000 U.S. summer Olympic Baseball team, that beat heavily favored Cuba, to win the gold medal. Tommy has said that he considers it his greatest achievement of all time. Tommy remains the only manager in Baseball history to win a World Series, and a gold medal.
What makes it even more amazing was that the U.S. was not favored to win the gold medal, or even place. The Cuban team had won the previous two gold medals, and were expected to be very difficult to beat again. The Japan and South Korean teams were to be competitive as well, as was the host country’s Australian team.
The U.S. had a roster which consisted mostly of fomer major leaguers, who at the time were in the beginning of their development. Most were still playing in the minor leagues. However most of the 24 players on the U.S. roster went on to enjoy careers in the major leagues. The notable names were starting pitchers Ben Sheets, Roy Oswalt, former World Series MVP catcher Pat Borders, and relievers Bobby Seay, Jon Rauch, and Ryan Franklin. Team USA had great pitching and defense, but lacked a power packed lineup. However they did have one thing that no other team had, Tommy Lasorda as manager.
In the Olympics, there are eight teams that reach the main tournament, via qualifiers. The eight teams play each other in a round robin style, and the top four teams reach the medal semi-final rounds, with the first and fourth place teams playing each other in one game, and the third and second place teams in the other. The winners play each other in the gold medal game, while the losers play for the Bronze.
In the preliminary round, the top four teams were the United States, Cuba, Japan, and South Korea. The U.S., and Cuba both tied for the best record, at 6-1. In the semi-final round, the U.S. played South Korea, and Japan played Cuba. While Cuba polished off Japan by a score of 3-0, the U.S. edged out South Korea 3-2 to advance to the Gold medal round, against Cuba. The game was close, but the U.S. pulled it out on a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning by former Dodger utility player Doug Mientkiewicz.
In the gold medal game, starter Ben Sheets over-powered the Cubans by pitching a three hit complete game shutout to beat Cuba and their ace Pedro Luis Lazo, and win the U.S. their first Olympic Baseball gold medal. Sheets was one of the best pitchers of the 2000 Olympics. He pitched 22 innings, only allowing 11 hits, one walk, and whiffing 11 batters.
Perhaps this is Tommy Lasorda’s crowning moment. There is no greater honor to be able to play for your country, and compete in the Olympics. To be able to hoist the gold medal for your country goes above and beyond any other competitions. Tommy Lasorda had the ultimate honor of managing and leading those players to a gold medal victory. But not just a gold medal victory, the first for the United States. This more than qualifies as the number two Tommy Lasorda moment of all time.
“The difference between the impossible and possible lies in a man’s determination.”