He has won eight division titles, two World Series and an Olympic gold medal, but former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda isn’t all about baseball.
The 75-year-old Baseball Hall of Famer entertained a crowd of approximately 80 people at a Morse College Master’s Tea Tuesday evening. Rather than reflecting on the game he has devoted his life to, Lasorda spent more time telling jokes and inspirational anecdotes.
Lasorda was delayed in his journey to New Haven, leaving a packed living room buzzing with anticipation for half an hour. Despite the delay, the audience greeted Lasorda with a warm round of applause when he finally arrived.
Morse College Master Frank Keil introduced Lasorda as “one of the most successful managers in baseball history” before playing a short tape of Lasorda’s career highlights. The video, which was accompanied by Frank Sinatra songs, showed clips of Lasorda doing everything from throwing his arms up in celebration to shedding tears in despair.
As Keil was preparing to play the tape, Lasorda told his first joke of the night. Lasorda said that after telling his wife he was going to give another talk, she replied that he loved the Dodgers and baseball more than her.
“Yeah,” Lasorda replied. “But I love you more than football and basketball.”
Lasorda, who two weeks ago was a Grand Marshall in New York City’s Columbus Day parade, reeled off a number of Italian jokes before explaining his reason for speaking at Yale.
“I feel like I can deliver a message,” Lasorda said.
Lasorda said there are three things people learn by — conversation, observation, and participation. He added that there are three kinds of people — the kind that makes things happen, the kind that watches things happen, and the kind that wonders what happened. He told students to be of the kind of person that makes things happen.
“The price of success can only come through the avenue of hard work,” Lasorda said. “You got to believe in yourself.”
Lasorda told the story of a cadet he met when speaking at the Air Force Academy. The cadet was told he would never fly because of an injury, but Lasorda told him to believe in himself and God, not what doctors had told him. Years later, the cadet became the youngest major in the United States Air Force, having shot down three enemy planes in Bosnia.
“You got to believe in yourself,” Lasorda repeated.
Lasorda also gave a personal example of how determination pays its dividends. As a third-string pitcher on his high school team in Norristown, Pa., Lasorda amused his coach by saying he was going to pitch in the major leagues one day. When Lasorda was pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers in a game at Philadelphia years later, his high school coach was in attendance. Lasorda walked over to his ex-coach, pointed to the word running across his uniform and said, “Dodgers. Believe it.”
After concluding his speech, Lasorda fielded a variety of questions from students.
On scouting talent, Lasorda said he looks for a good fastball, character, and a player’s potential. And on last week’s World Series, Lasorda said he was pleased with the quality of play.
“[The San Francisco Giants and the Anaheim Angels] play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Doug Shimokawa ’04, a pitcher on the Yale baseball team, said he was impressed with Lasorda’s talk.
“He’s a great speaker just as he’s a great manager and great figure in baseball,” Shimokawa said.