‘We’re going to miss him dearly:’ Tommy Lasorda’s presence felt as Los Angeles Dodgers continue hot start

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LOS ANGELES — Everywhere you looked Saturday evening, there was Tommy Lasorda at Dodger Stadium.

He was in the stands with legions of fans wearing Lasorda jerseys.

He was on the videoboard giving speeches, yelling at umpires, with tributes from Los Angeles Dodgers greats telling their favorite Lasorda stories.

There was Lasorda on the videoboard singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,’’ from a spring-training gathering.

The Dodgers spent the game honoring Lasorda, their Hall of Fame manager who died three months ago at the age of 93, and made sure he was pounding his chest with pride from high above with a 9-5 victory against the Washington Nationals.

“What they did before the game with Tommy,’’ Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “it kind of continues to bring him to life, remembering him, the good times. …Definitely, tonight’s game was certainly special.’’

The Dodgers, 7-2, who have the best record in baseball, may have Lasorda on their mind all season, knowing he’ll always be a part of them.

“We’re going to miss him dearly,’’ said Dodgers All-Star third baseman Justin Turner, who had two doubles and is hitting .412 this season, “but we’re never going to forget Tommy Lasorda.’’

Really, how could you?

“Tommy did it his way,’’ said Bobby Valentine, whose close relationship began with Lasorda while playing in the minor leagues, “in living and dying.’’

Valentine, in an interview Saturday with USA TODAY Sports from his Stamford, Connecticut, home, emotionally talked about the final evening he spent with Lasorda.

It was the night of Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas, and they were watching the final ballgame of Lasorda’s life.

Lasorda, knowing the end was near, wanted to see the Dodgers one last time, trying to win their first World Series since Lasorda still was manager in 1988.

Lasorda kept pushing to watch the World Series in its entirety, but couldn’t get clearance from his doctors or family. Finally, with the help of close friend Warren Lichenstein and Valentine, they came up with a plan.

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Lasorda would fly on Lichenstein’s private plane from Los Angeles with a private doctor by his side. Everyone in Lasorda’s company would be required to undergo COVID-19 testing. He would stay in a secluded hotel room. And no fan could get within 200 feet of Lasorda at Globe Life Field.

“It was quite the chore,’’ Valentine said, “trying to figure out how to handle everything and make sure Tommy was going to be safe with the COVID concerns.’’

Lasorda, in a wheelchair, was picked up from the hotel, taken to the game, and ushered into a private suite with no more than nine people permitted. Eric Karros and Rick Honeycutt, two of Lasorda’s former players, were by his side.

He stayed seated the entire game, alone in his thoughts, as the Dodgers inched closer and closer to the title.

“He wasn’t totally in the game,’’ Valentine said. “There were all kinds of comments made to Tommy, he kind of picked up on half of them. In the ninth, we told Tommy, ‘It’s about to happen. It’s about to happen.’ He started to laser-focus on the game those final outs. And when the final out came, he just put his hands over his head, smiled, and nodded.

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