Monday, March 06, 2006

Lasorda's Wild Start

Tom Lasorda (Allsport)
Courtesy of
May 5, 1955 / Ebbets Field
By Hogan Chen

One of the most famous -- but least heralded -- members of the World Champion 1955 Dodgers was a mediocre lefty who appeared in just four games. The addition of Sandy Koufax to the roster had ended his chances of making the starting rotation, and within three years his big-league career would be over. But in his first major-league start on this day in 1955, Tom Lasorda matched a National League record -- with three wild pitches in one inning.
A brash southpaw with a decent curveball, Lasorda was brimming with confidence when he was tried out for the club in 1954. "I don't intent to let anyone push me off this club," announced Lasorda in the spring, "regardless of the record he has." But the Dodgers were already well-stocked with twenty-game winner Carl Erskine, proven gamers Russ Meyer, Billy Loes, Clem Labine and emerging stars Koufax and Johnny Podres. Lasorda's first start didn't come until the following May.

He blew it. After taking the mound in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals, Lasorda walked leadoff batter Wally Moon and promptly threw a wild pitch to Bill Virdon. Shaken, he uncorked two more with Stan Musial at the plate to tie the National League record. Adding insult to injury, Moon took the opportunity to deliver a painful souvenir when the record-setting wild pitch rolled to the backstop, spiking Lasorda as the hurler covered home plate.

Despite the wounds to his leg and his psyche, Lasorda came back to strike out Musial and Rip Repulski and induced a groundout to end the inning, allowing only one run. But Dodgers manager Walter Alston had seen enough of Lasorda and pulled him out of the game. Lasorda's career as a starter with the Dodgers lasted one inning.

After his two forgettable seasons in Brooklyn, Lasorda bounced around the minor leagues and had one final major-league stint in Kansas City where he pitched in 18 games in 1956, starting 5 games and finishing 0-4. He had a career ERA of 6.52.

Shrugging off his ignominious debut, Lasorda gained fame in his second career with the Dodgers. After replacing his former manager in 1976, Lasorda led the club to seven division titles, four pennants, and two world championships -- a six-game victory over the Yankees in 1981 and a five-game upset over the Oakland Athletics in 1988.

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