ST. MARYS, Ontario -- Tommy Lasorda used to be so miserable
after a road loss that he would trudge back on foot to the hotel
from the stadium.
But the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager was all smiles after
being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Lasorda, who spent parts of nine seasons as a successful
left-handed pitcher with the Montreal Royals in the Brooklyn
Dodgers organization, went into the hall along with Intercounty
Baseball League star Ron Stead, Alberta-based administrator Ron
Hayter and New Brunswick native Larry McLean, a 6-foot-5 catcher
who played more than 800 games in the major leagues.
"I had to be here -- as a manager, you succeed because of the
contributions of your players -- but I am being honored for what I
did on the mound," Lasorda said. "As I was packing at home, my
wife asked me where I was going now and when I told her, she said,
`You love baseball more than you love me.' I told her, `Yeah, but I
love you more than football and basketball."'
Known best for managing two World Series winners in Los Angeles
and still a loyal 57-year employee of the club, the 78-year-old
Lasorda showed no sign of the long-term stress that eats away at
baseball skippers while recalling the trials of leading a team
without a devastating closer like Eric Gagne, whose 84 straight
saves record he likens to Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.
"If you won 102 games a year -- and that's a lot of wins -- you
were still the most miserable person on Earth for the 60 days you
lost," Lasorda said. "One time in Atlanta, we rallied in the top
of the ninth to take a lead, then blew it with three pitchers
making a total of $8 million. I started walking back to the hotel
and a guy driving an ambulance stopped and said, `Tommy, you
shouldn't be walking alone in this neighborhood.' I told him to get
lost but he would just drive up a block ahead and wait for me.
"Finally, I just got in and he dropped me off in front of the
hotel. There in the lobby was one of the pitchers who had blown the
game. He saw me get out of the ambulance and started crying and
hugging me because he thought his performance that day had sent me
to the hospital."
Lasorda was given his Hall of Fame jacket by former Montreal
manager Jim Fanning, who remarked how lean his old nemesis looked
after years of being pitchman for weight-loss product SlimFast.
"I could lose more weight but I don't want to," Lasorda said.
"It would make my nose look too big."