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ON TOMMY LASORDA'S 80TH BIRTHDAY, WE NAME THE 10 HIGHLIGHTS (AND LOWLIGHTS) OF HIS L.A. CAREER.

Byline: - Kevin Modesti

October 1977: Tom Lasorda's rookie season as Dodgers manager is a wild success, capped with an L.A.-record 10-game margin in the division race, a National League pennant and a major-league attendance record. Lasorda's enthusiasm in service to the Big Dodger in the Sky, and young stars he'd led in the minors, pump new energy into the club. He wins pennants in three of his first five years.

May 14, 1978: After the Cubs' Dave Kingman beats the Dodgers with three home runs, Lasorda begins a response to a reporter's question with, "What's my opinion of Kingman's performance? What the (bleep) do you think is my opinion of it?" The ensuing rant is preserved on the most famous of the Lasorda underground tapes.

May 1984: Lasorda chews out a struggling Orel Hershiser and exhorts the young right-hander to "be a bulldog out there." What Hershiser calls The Sermon on the Mound, and others remember as the Bulldog Speech, lands mild-mannered Orel the unlikely nickname Bulldog and is credited with turning him into a Cy Young Award winner.

Oct. 16, 1985: Leading the Cardinals 5-4 in the ninth inning of game 6 of the NL championship series, Lasorda gambles by opting not to have Tom Niedenfuer walk Jack Clark intentionally with men on second and third. Clark's first-pitch home run wins the pennant and hands ammunition to those who say Lasorda's strength is not tactics but motivation.

June 28, 1986: During a pregame chat with reporters in the visiting manager's office in Houston, Lasorda sets some kind of major-league record by consuming 112 oysters (the writers earnestly keep count) sent over in gallon jars by a local restaurant. He then is kind enough to continue the briefing from an adjoining bathroom.

October, 1988: Lasorda pushes all the right buttons this time as the Dodgers of Hershiser and Kirk Gibson upset the Mets and A's to win their second World Series of the Tommy Era. At the victory parade, Lasorda, left, dances on the steps of City Hall but draws criticism for a speech making fun of the managers of the Dodgers' division rivals.

'80s and '90s: Lasorda parlays his larger-than-life personality and waistline into off-the-field opportunites as a restauranteur, spaghetti- sauce entrepreneur and pitchman for Slim Fast diet shakes. The restaurant and sauce brand go belly-up, and Lasorda gains back the 50 pounds he'd lost on Slim Fast.

Aug. 3, 1997: Lasorda (at right with Phil Niekro) is inducted into the Hall of Fame and, in a surprisingly brief speech in Cooperstown, says he feels as if he's been living a dream. His plaque begins: "One of baseball's most endearing personalities and a great ambassador for his sport. Managed Dodgers with an impenetrable passion, claiming to 'bleed Dodger blue."'

September 2000: Lasorda comes out of retirement to manage Team USA at the Summer Olympics in Sydney and leads it to a gold medal. "It's bigger than the World Series, it's better than the All-Star Game." declares Lasorda (at right, with Rod Dedeaux). "This is for the United States of America, the land of opportunity! ... I cried when I saw that American flag being raised."

Spring 2007: After years of seeking influence in a variety of Dodgers front-office positions, Lasorda says his current role as "special advisor" to Dodgers owner Frank McCourt makes him feel respected and listened-to again as he nears his 80th birthday. "I have the ability to help," he says. "I don't want to see that waste away."

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4 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) no caption (Tommy Lasorda)

(2 -- color) Tommy Lasorda

(3 -- color) Tommy Lasorda with Phil Niekro

(4 -- color) Tommy Lasorda with Rod Dedeaux
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 22, 2007
Words:612
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