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Fullerton Celebrates Tommy Lasorda Day

Timeless

Baseball has a rhythm that mimics life, and that rhythm reverberates without the need for an arbitrary or artificial conclusion. Time does not ‘run out’ just as the intensity peaks, the entire crowd on its feet, cheering and screaming, the players on the top steps or leaning against the rails in both dugouts. One side wants at least one more run, the other one more strike, the final out—victory. The team on defense controls the ball, you can steal a base but you must come home to score that run. In order to get a ticket to heaven, you must love the Dodgers.

“Baseball is like driving; it’s the one who gets home safely that counts.”

Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker with Laura Lasorda proclaim September 22 Tommy Lasorda Day.

Tommy, you may no longer be seen dropping your wife Jo off at Salon Bernardo to get her hair done, driving or jogging on Orangethorpe, at the car wash or grocery store, in restaurants, or heading up Brookhurst on your way to Dodger Stadium, but you were here, there, and everywhere on what would have been your 94th Birthday. Jo sadly passed just a few days before your day, but beyond a doubt, her presence was felt as well.  A moment of silence in her name was very touching, as daughter Laura and all that were affected by her loss gave their respects.  Jo was Yin to his Yang and was very much a reason he was able to accomplish so much. Rest in peace Mrs. Lasorda.

Tommy and Jo Lasorda.

You Gotta Believe

But why such a fuss over a guy and the sport he loved? Isn’t baseball just a kid’s game? Wasn’t Tommy Lasorda just a man? If you spent the day chasing his legacy as many of us did, it was obvious that he was not just another local sports guy. He was a stalwart presence, even to those who are not big baseball fans, even to those who do not bleed Dodger Blue or even follow sports at all. For 70 plus years while he lived here in Fullerton, Tommy moved the young and not so young, the famous and the just plain folks, and certainly, he moved his players. Managers don’t pitch, hit, or throw the ball but they can make their teams winners, and Tommy did that again and again, making hard decisions and standing by them even when things did not go as planned.

“Listen, if you start worrying about the people in the stands, before long you are up in the stands with them.”

His Tree

One of the first indications that this would be a beginning and not an end was when a crowd gathered around a small olive tree being planted at the east end of City Hall. Over time, it would stand tall and strong. Decades later, someone would read the plaque and find out why the now magnificent tree was there. The Mayor of Tollo Italy was on hand because that’s where Tommy’s Dad was born, and Tollo was being declared an official Sister City. We all moved across the street to Amerige Park for more ceremonies and for the fortunate ones, brief encounters with a few luminaries. There were many highlights. One of the most riveting was the performance of our National Anthem by Hannah Rhymes, a 10-year-old Beechwood 5th grader and daughter of Kim and Glen Rhymes who own Brownstone Café in Villa del Sol. Goosebumps.

Hannah Rhymes sings the national anthem.

Drew Drysdale, Mickey Hatcher, and Felipe Ruiz.

Former Dodgers catcher Mike Scoscia (center).

Former Dodger Eric Karros.

By now you certainly heard details about the many different events that took place, including a live radio broadcast and fundraiser dinner at Angelo’s and Vinci’s, one of his favorite restaurants of course, a screening of “Italian/American Baseball Families,” and some exciting baseball games in his honor. Knowing that, here we will explore the actual baseball side of the day.

“There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.”

Baseball

One would have to be completely immersed in the game of baseball to spend an entire lifetime involved as a player, scout, coach, manager and more. That focus and dedication resulted in the highest levels of success and the ultimate honor—induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Of all the events that he would have appreciated on Tommy Lasorda Day, I have a feeling he would have been extremely touched by the games at Fullerton Sports Complex for a Golden Hill Little League game and later, at Amerige Field for a Sunny Hills/Fullerton High School game.

Golden Hills Little League Dodger Blues team.

Golden Hills Little League Lasorda Whites team.

At the Sports Complex, the kids were more than excited, proudly wearing the uniforms you see above. They were well aware of why they were there, and all the parents were just as excited as the players. What a treat to see the looks on their faces as they lined up for photos. Celebrities for the day. A friendlier crowd could not exist anywhere else, and we know why.

“The difference between the possible and the impossible lies in a person’s determination.”

Fullerton High School baseball team played Sunny Hills High School at Amerige Park.

Sunny Hills High School baseball team.

One More Tribute

On the way home, spotted in the Fullerton Police Department Clock Tower, Dodger Blue lights, fitting touch as a great day in Fullerton reached the bottom of the 9th.

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