Doug Krikorian / Viewpoint

The Memorable Life Of Tommy Lasorda: From World Series Titles To Slim-Fast Diets To Obscenity-Laced Jim Healy Tapes To Pitching To Jack Clark To A Sacred Legacy Of Laughter And Success On The Ball Yards Of America

Mr. Krikorian, an award winning journalist and author of two books, earned multiple awards in his 22 years of writing for the Long Beach Press-Telegram and 22 years for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. He is happily retired.

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(Jan 11, 2021, 6:30 p.m.) -- As I read and listened to the mortuary tributes flowing forth from the media since last Thursday on Tommy Lasorda, I thought to myself what more could be said about a boisterous, magnetizing, charming, wise-cracking, flamboyant even spellbinding gentleman who became among the most famous managers in baseball history.

It was pointed out often that he was the supreme ambassador of his sport, the greatest since Casey Stengel, that his much-ballyhooed Ultra Slim-Fast diet in 1989 in which he lost 35 pounds boosted the company's sales by 30 percent and became for a time a cultural phenomenon, that he gained widespread notoriety for those post-game eruptions on Dave Kingman and Kurt Bevacqua that became nightly staples of the old Jim Healy radio show, that he was America's most prolific dining guest, that he was pals with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Don Rickles, Dean Martin, etc., and that, most of all, he was an extraordinary manager who won four pennants and two World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers and led an unheralded USA baseball team to an implausible gold medal victory over the powerful Cubans in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

And of course it was pointed out he always was kind with the sporting public---never refusing autographs and routinely engaging fawning strangers in banter -- and was always generous with his time to old friends which certainly was the case that July afternoon in 2006 when he showed up in Long Beach to give a memorable speech at Phil Trani's at the retirement luncheon party of the Press Telegram's esteemed sports editor Jim McCormack, or the time he showed up at the same restaurant at my wedding reception in September of 1997.

I suspect because I was a sports columnist who occasionally wrote prose Mr. Lasorda took volatile exception to that at times our relationship was strained -- he even refused to speak to me during one three-year period -- but for most of the 47 years I knew him he was congenial towards me and I always found him to be a barrel of laughs.

Indeed, I once wrote a satirical piece in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner chronicling a thrilling July 26, 1986 evening at Caesars Palace in which I trailed Mr. Lasorda, the then Dodger PR director Steve Brener, sportscaster Larry Kahn, and four other guys whose names I don't recall around the premises, as we all ate together and then walked together to the old Caesars Pavilion to watch Mike Tyson destroy Joe Frazier's kid, Marvin Frazier, in one round and then all went out together to have dessert afterwards.

We went everywhere with Mr. Lasorda that joyful night, and the headline on my story a couple days later read "How It Feels To Be A Part Of Tom Lasorda's Entourage."

(From L to R): Frank Sinatra, Los Angeles Herald Examiner sportswriters Jack Disney, Allan Malamud, Pam King, Doug Krikorian and Tommy Lasorda.

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Tommy, of course, savored the article, but wasn't exactly thrilled nine months earlier in my post NLCS Game 6 assessment in the Her-X when I eviscerated him for his allowing the Dodgers' erratic reliever, Tom Niedenfuer, to pitch to the St. Louis Cardinals' slugger Jack Clark, whose two-out, three-run homer in the ninth inning gave the Cardinals a 7-5 win and the NL pennant.

Doug Krikorian interviews a solemn Tommy Lasorda in his Dodger Stadium office after St. Louis Cardinals’ Jack Clark hit dramatic two-out, three-run homer off Dodgers' Tom Niedenfeur in Game 6 of the NLCS to give Cardinals 7-5 win and the National League pennant on Oct. 16, 1985.

"Why did Tommy Lasorda leave Tom Niedenfuer on the mound to face the dangerous Jack Clark with runners at second and third and first base open with Niedenfuer struggling in the series and already having blown Game 5 by yielding a game-winning home run to the light-hitting Ozzie Smith?" I wondered. "Why, oh way? The rookie left-handed hitting Andy Van Slyke was up next, and Lasorda had the veteran lefthander, Jerry Reuss, warming up in the bullpen. The Cardinal manager, Whitey Herzog, had only one right-handed hitter as a pinch-hitter on the bench, a utility player named Brian Harper, who had only 55 plate appearances with the Cardinals this season and with eight RBIs and no home runs. Brian Harper or Jack Clark? Please!"

Mr. Lasorda never in those days stayed mad at me for long, but that would change in the summer of 1998 when I quoted him in my column making a derogatory comment at his managerial successor with the Dodgers, Bill Russell.

He would claim his quotes were off-the-record, but I recall asking him if he cared if I used them -- and he gave me a loud okay.

The story, alas, caused an uproar -- I later heard the then Dodger owner, Peter O'Malley, bawled out Mr. Lasorda -- and he refused to speak to me until I came across him and his close friend, the Rod Dedeaux, the old USC baseball coach, walking in mid-town New York during a break in the Yankees-Arizona Diamondback World Series in October in 2001.

"Tell Tommy I still love him," I said in jest. "Please, Rod, tell Tommy to start talking to me again. Rod turned to Tommy and said, 'How could you not talk to Doug?' he said. 'Start talking to him again!'"

Mr. Lasorda smiled, extended his right hand, and the feud was over, albeit I always regretted it because Mr. Lasorda's friendship meant more to me than an article I actually deemed quite innocuous when I wrote it in the wake of the countless others I had done on him across the years.

And, oh, do I have so many joyful memories of all the occasions I was around this bundle of inexhaustible energy, especially in his photo-bedecked office where he held court with countless celebrities, politicians and guys with mysterious pasts.

I'll never forget how I'd have him call up old friends of mine from my hometown of Fowler, and some he'd even engage in lengthy conversations, to their shock and amazement.

He even assisted me on the romantic front, as in the 1980s he phoned a few lady friends of mine from his office who were upset with me for I'm sure valid reasons and was even able to patch up matters with at least two with his hysterically humorous prattle, at least temporarily. I certainly never would have enlisted Walter Alston's aide on such things.

I can't tell you how many occasions I dined with Mr. Lasorda with my pals Allan Malamud and Larry Kahn at LA restaurants like Little Joe's and Paul's Kitchen and Long Beach restaurants like Papa's and Phil Trani's.

I'll never forget being in his office for an interview on an off-day during the 1981 World Series between the Dodgers and the New York Yankees.

The Dodgers were down 0-2, and I asked Mr. Lasorda about a story written under the nom de plume The Nose in the New York Daily News critical of his animated deportment.

He then proceeded to go on a lengthy, obscenity-strewn rant in which, among other things, he kept repeating, "Who in the (expletive deleted) is The Nose? If want to jump around and show emotion, that's my business. Who's The Nose to tell me how the (expletive deleted) I should act?"

The crowd of reporters around him was laughing hysterically at what would become another fabled Jim Healy sound bite and Mr. Lasorda's upbeat persona despite the Dodgers' ominous state seemed to rub off on his players as they'd go out and win the next four games to capture the world championship.

They'd win it across five games against the mighty Oakland A's in the 1988 Kurt Gibson-Orel Hershiser World Series in which Tommy Lasorda dredged the most out of a roster not exactly brimming with All-Star performers.

He was an exceptional manager whose players often fretted under his driving, tough-minded approach, but his accomplishments on the ball yards have his plaque hanging in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

There was no one I ever met in sports quite like him, a person who left a permanent imprint on your memory with his many acts of jocosity.

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Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.

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