Q&A: Baseball legend Tommy Lasorda is Catholic to the core

Tommy Lasorda spoke to students and parents at Seton Catholic Preparatory March 8 in a bid to raise money for the school’s athletic program and booster club. (Courtesy Cindi Friedl)

Tommy Lasorda spoke to students and parents at Seton Catholic Preparatory March 8 in a bid to raise money for the school’s athletic program and booster club. (Courtesy Cindi Friedl)

Tommy Lasorda, the two-time World Series champion and two-time National League Manager of the Year, was in town to speak at Seton Catholic Preparatory in Chandler March 8 to benefit the school’s booster club and athletic program. The Catholic Sun’s Joyce Coronel spoke to the Major League Baseball player who led the Dodgers for 20 years and in 1997 was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

The Catholic Sun: Where did you grow up?

Tommy Lasorda: Norristown, Penn.

TCS: How did you learn to speak Spanish?

TL: If you can call it Spanish. It’s enough to converse with the players or whatever. I played in Puerto Rico in the wintertime and I played in Cuba and that’s how I learned Spanish.

TCS: Sandi Kofax wouldn’t play baseball on a Saturday because it violated his Jewish religion. How has being a Catholic impacted your career in the MLB?

TL: Well, I never had to do anything like that as far as being a Catholic was concerned … I didn’t have to do what he did, and I admire him for what he did.

TCS: What do you like about being Catholic?

TL: I like being a Catholic because of the faith. The faith is very true. I was taught by the sisters for my first eight years of school and they not only taught me religion, they taught me so many other facets of life.

TCS: Any Lenten traditions you observe?

TL: I used to, but you know what they say, when you’re 86 years old you don’t have to do it anymore.

TCS: I understand that you were exercising this afternoon. So at 86, you’re still trying to maintain that sense of being an athlete.

TL: That’s right. I try to maintain it and try to build my body up strong and my mind strong.

TCS: Any locker room Masses or on-the-road Masses you can call to mind?

TL: When I was the manager of the Dodgers for 20 years, I always had a priest come in to say Mass on Sunday morning for all the Catholics. Whoever was a Catholic came.

TCS: What does it take to be a good Catholic in the world of athletics today? It’s a pretty cutthroat world, isn’t it?

TL: Well, it is, but what Catholicism does for you, it teaches you to be open. It teaches you to be what you want to be. I was always proud to say I was a Catholic no matter where I was. I’d say, ‘I’m a Catholic and I mean it.’

TCS: Got any advice for Catholic athletes or for some of the baseball or softball players here in our diocese?

TL: I think if you have faith in God, then God will do a lot of things for you. Go to Mass and go to confession and confess your sins. That’s what it takes to be a good Catholic.

TCS: You and your wife have been married for more than 60 years.

TL: It’s 64 years.

TCS: Wow! I feel like a rookie here, because I’ve only been married 28 years.

TL: You are a rookie! But you have to pass 28 to get to 64.

TCS: That’s true. But I’m not even halfway there. I’m at like the bottom of the fourth. So what’s your best best advice mid-game to keep marriage strong?

TL: Well, I think that as a married couple, you have to have faith in each other. You have to have respect for each other and you have to have love for each other.

TCS: How did you meet your wife?

TL: I met her at her hometown in Greenville, S.C. It was tough because her mother told her, she said, ‘You’re going to have to get married in the Catholic Church.’ My wife said, ‘I don’t care. I want to marry him.’ And they were Baptists. So she had to give thought that the kids would grow up Catholic and they did.

TCS: You’ve lived 86 years and you’ve had your ups and downs. Is there anything about your Catholic faith that has strengthened you?

TL: A lot of times I called on God to help me. I tell Him I know He’s busy. He’s got a lot to think about. He’s got a lot of people to help. So if He could see and help me a little bit, I would appreciate it, but I don’t expect Him to do anything for me, because He’s got to do certain things that are more important than me.

TCS: Do you have any favorite Catholic memories?

TL: My favorite memory is what a sister told me in seventh grade. She said, ‘Thomas, a lot of them think you’re rowdy, think you’re a bad boy. But I don’t think you’re a bad boy. I think you’ve got a lot of good in you and someday you’re going to make people proud of you.’ That was Sr. Coeur Immaculate of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters. We corresponded for years until she passed away.

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