Lasorda receives Bob Feller Act of Valor Award
Other honorees are Indians' Swisher and Naval officer
Tommy Lasorda, a Hall of Fame manager and one of the great ambassadors of baseball, on Wednesday received an award that is close to his heart. The man who professes to bleed Dodger Blue is one of three recipients of the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award.
The award, established in 2013, is being bestowed on three men who possess the values, integrity and dedication to serving the United States in a manner Feller displayed. Lasorda joins Indians first baseman Nick Swisher and Senior Chief Petty Officer Carl Thompson of the U.S. Navy.
"I'm so proud to be one of the honorees to have the award coming to me, especially for a guy I idolized," Lasorda said in a video interview with MLB.com. "I used to look up to him with so much respect."
Author Peter Fertig created the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award with the support of the U.S. Navy, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial, the Indians, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association and Mrs. Anne Feller. The annual award honors one member of baseball's Hall of Fame, one current Major League player and a U.S. Navy Petty Officer.
Lasorda served in the United States Army from 1945-47, putting his baseball career on hold.
In the service, Lasorda was stationed at Fort Meade, Md. To date, Lasorda has visited more than 40 U.S. military installations across the world and he took part in a 2009 USO Goodwill tour for troops in Iraq. This year, Lasorda participated in Navy general retirement ceremonies and in the swearing-in of over 1,500 new U.S. troops.
Visiting the troops is a source of pride for Lasorda.
"All I was wanting to do was to tell them how much I appreciate what they're doing for me and for our country," the iconic former Dodgers manager said. "When they put that uniform on, it's the uniform of the greatest country in the world, the land of opportunity."
Feller made his MLB debut with the Indians at age 17 in 1936, and his legendary career ended in 1956. The right-hander posted a 266-162 lifetime record with 279 complete games and 44 shutouts. If not for spending four years of military service during World War II, he likely would have been a 300-game winner.
An eight-time All-Star, Feller became the first pitcher to win 24 games in a season before turning 21. His list of accomplishments included no-hitters in 1940, 1946 and 1951.
Feller was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.
Feller passed away at age 92 in 2010.
"He was one of the greatest pitchers that ever walked out on the pitching mound," Lasorda said. "This guy was tremendous, and not only that, but a lot of people didn't know how much of a citizen he was. How proud he was to be an American.
"I enjoyed being with him. I always looked up to him with respect and admiration. The times I spent with him were very, very precious to me."
The word "valor" also holds special meaning to Lasorda.
"It's got a lot of power, the word valor," Lasorda said. "It means a lot. For me to be associated with that word makes me feel really, really good."