LOS ANGELES -- Even before the Dodgers could present Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda a division title for his 90th birthday Friday night, the club held an on-field pregame ceremony to mark the occasion, with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred among attending dignitaries."Tommy is a great Dodger, a great Hall of
LOS ANGELES -- Even before the Dodgers could present Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda a division title for his 90th birthday Friday night, the club held an on-field pregame ceremony to mark the occasion, with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred among attending dignitaries.
"Tommy is a great Dodger, a great Hall of Famer and a great American," said Manfred, who praised Lasorda for his service to the game, including being ambassador for the World Baseball Classic.
"Tommy played a key role in making the tournament what it is today," said Manfred.
Fred Claire, former Dodgers general manager and Lasorda's boss, pointed out the timing of Lasorda's birthday and the current status of the team.
"Tommy's always had a flair for the dramatic," said Claire. "So, is it any surprise that on this night there would be a sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium, for a game against the Giants, with a chance to clinch a fifth consecutive division title? When Tommy managed the rookie club in Ogden, he had a sign on the wall: 'Love baseball, hate the Giants.'"
• Let's wish a happy 90th to Tommy Lasorda
Preceding the ceremony, the Dodgers showed a lengthy segment of an interview of Lasorda by former team broadcaster Ross Porter, documenting Lasorda's path through the Minor Leagues and into the manager's office at Dodger Stadium, as well as lighter moments, such as Lasorda's guest appearance singing on the television show "Hee Haw."
Retired Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully narrated video of Lasorda's life. "Happy birthday to the most loyal Dodger we've ever known," Scully said of Lasorda, who has worked for the club for 68 years.
Orel Hershiser, a Cy Young winner for Lasorda in 1988 and currently on the broadcast team, hosted the event and related how Lasorda taught young Dodgers how to win and never give up.
Lasorda was escorted to his chair on the infield by current Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who gave Lasorda a kiss on the cheek before walking back to the dugout.
Hershiser introduced some of his former players encircling Lasorda on the infield: Fernando Valenzuela, Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Eric Karros, Rick Monday, Steve Yeager, Manny Mota, Mickey Hatcher, Ken Landreaux, Jerry Royster, Derrel Thomas, Kevin Gross and Juan Castro.
Spanish broadcaster Jaime Jarrin reeled off a lengthy list of Latin stars that played for Lasorda, including Valenzuela, Pedro Guerrero and Ramon Martinez.
"The Hispanic community worships and loves you very much," said Jarrin.
The ceremony concluded with the entire Dodgers team joining Drew Drysdale, daughter of the late Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale, singing "Happy Birthday" to Lasorda.
Then, Lasorda gave the go-ahead for the game to begin:
"You're the greatest fans in the world," said Lasorda. "We owe you a championship. And it's time for baseball. Let's go."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.