Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cuban Sports Hall of Fame honors Dodgers' Tommy Lasorda

That's 16 Halls of Fame and counting.

Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, now a special assistant with the team, was inducted Sunday into the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Miami, Fla.

"I am very proud to be inducted into the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame," said Lasorda in a statement released by the Dodgers. "I loved my time in Cuba and am very fond of the Cuban people. They are very passionate about their baseball and I was so proud to be a part of it."

Lasorda often has expressed how much he enjoyed playing in Cuba -- for Marianao (right) and Almendares from 1950-52 and 1958-60 -- and he's among the most popular American players in Cuban Winter League history.

As a young lefty in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, Lasorda's best season in Cuba came during the 1958-59 season (left) when he went 8-3 with a 1.89 ERA as Almendares won the pennant by eight games and went on to win the Caribbean World Series.

"He had a curve ball that dropped straight down," my father once told me.

In his 1986 book, Artful Dodger, co-authored with David Fisher, Lasorda devoted an entire chapter to his playing days in Latin America, especially Cuba.

  • On fiery Cuban baseball icon Adolfo Luque, Lasorda's manager in his first season in Cuba: "Luque was the worst human being I have ever known. ... I argued with him practically every day."

  • On being in Havana, for not one, but two coups: "I was in Cuba in 1952 when (Fulgencio) Batista overthrew (Carlos) Prio, and I was there in 1959 when (Fidel) Castro overthrew Batista. ... On New Year's Eve, 1959, (Lasorda's wife) Jo and I, the Art Fowlers and the Bob Allisons were leaving a party at about 3 a.m. when three large planes few low overhead. I wondered who would be flying that late at night. It turned out to have been Batista and his cabinet fleeing the country."

  • On an argument with umpire Amado Maestri after Maestri called three consecutive pitches balls that Lasorda thought were strikes: "That was it. I walked halfway to the plate and really let him have it. ... Maestri listened, then slowly walked about 10 feet in front of home plate and started unbuttoning the jacket he was wearing over his chest protector. 'Lasorda,' he said, the only word I ever head him speak in English. Of course, it was all he needed to say. He pulled open his jacket to show me the biggest pistol I have ever seen, tucked into his belt. That convinced me. 'Maestri,' I shouted, 'you are the greatest umpire I have ever seen in my life.'"

The list Halls of Fame where Lasorda is enshrined also includes the Brooklyn Baseball Hall of Fame, Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame, Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

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