As the news of Tommy Lasorda’s passing spread across baseball on Friday, great stories of the venerable Dodgers icon were shared all throughout the day. From MLB dignitaries to cup-of-coffee big leaguers, Lasorda touched everyone who ever picked up a baseball. Or so it seemed.
In a memorial special, the team’s broadcast network SportsNet LA welcomed a wide range of Dodger legends to share a few stories of the iconic Hall of Fame manager. Of those, long-time fan favorite Andre Ethier joined the program where he delivered an impassioned retrospective worthy of a player who spent his entire 12-year career with the LA organization.
In his chat, the 38-year-old retired outfielder shared the tale of his first encounter with Lasorda nearly 15 years prior.
The first time I ever met this guy was in spring training 2006. Vero Beach. … I think it was my first or second night in camp … sitting at a table by myself and here comes Tommy walking in and he calls me out, tells me ‘come sit at my table’ and there was the first night of mini three, four-hour dinners spent at Vero Beach with Tommy in that campus and that’s how I was indoctrinated into Dodger baseball and getting to hear Dodger history through Tommy. I was not only researching it myself, but I knew I had the best ambassador there could be which was Tom Lasorda.
Andre Ethier did not grow up a Dodger fan. He wasn’t even drafted by the team. Instead, he came to the club by way of trade on December 13, 2005, and never wore a different uniform again. Then, he was a hot-headed 24-year-old left-handed batter and thrower. Quickly, he was introduced to another lefty hot-head named Tommy Lasorda in his first spring training at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida the following February.
With Tommy, you didn’t have a choice.
Full Interview on SportsNet LA
Andre Ethier reflects on the first time he met Tommy Lasorda, his stories and the Vero Beach spring training days. pic.twitter.com/DzXcAmhnwH
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) January 9, 2021
Deeper into the chat, captain Clutch came to almost an epiphany while discussing what Tommy meant to him and the organization.
I feel fortunate enough — and it’s sad to know that this next generation of Dodger players aren’t gonna get a chance to see Tommy Lasorda, the Billy DeLurys, the Vin Scullys sitting in the clubhouse after batting practicing. Coming in there at 5 o’clock and you see Tommy, Billy DeLury… Don Newcombe, Vin Scully sitting at a table eating dinner, talking about the game — a bridge from Brooklyn. A bridge from when the Dodgers first got here.
That’s the toughest part for me. As guys like him and Don start passing away, you’re starting to lose that bridge. But I know we’ll always have those stories and those times we had with them and I guess that Dodger blue blood that you always hear Tommy talk about is now passed through me and it’s up to us guys who’ve had a chance to be around guys like him and other great Dodgers to keep passing along to players like we got it from him.
Lasorda lived for spring training and loved to work with young Dodgers, even as his health deteriorated. In the spring of 2006, Tommy would have been really truly back and involved with the organization for the first time since being shoved to the side by the FOX ownership group in the late 90s and early 00s. Then labeled as the senior advisor to chairman Frank McCourt, Lasorda had no official job.
But, if you’re being honest with yourself, his job was to preach the good word of Dodger blue.
Now, as Ethier notes, Tommy is gone. And a link to Brooklyn gone with him. Vinny Scully is now five seasons into his retirement. Don Newcombe has passed on. Maury Wills has rarely been seen around the ballpark over the last handful of years as age caught up to the 88-year-old.
These are the names that carried on the great Dodger tradition and legacy to the new class.
On social media, you saw an outpouring of love from the Dodgers of that mid-2000’s era. Ethier was on TV. Matt Kemp shared some candid images of the two. Former first baseman James Loney reminisced about one of his all-time favorite Lasorda moments.
Andre is right. It is up to him and this younger core of retired Dodger legends to become the new spokesman for bleeding blue. A true blue tradition that became a symbol to the league — a prototype to build toward. The young players here now and coming soon need to understand what it truly means to be a Dodger. What bleeding blue is all about…
No one will ever love the Dodgers as much as Thomas Charles Lasorda did. But together, we all can try.