Remembering Tommy Lasorda, a great friend of Cuba

Requiescat in pace Tommy Lasorda 1927 - 2021

Requiescat in pace Tommy Lasorda 1927 – 2021

Tommy Lasorda passed away on January 7, 2020 after suffering a heart attack at his home. He was an American professional baseball pitcher, coach, and a manager. Between 1976 and 1996 he was the manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and most Americans know him for this period of his life. It was his tenure as the manager of the LA Dodgers that placed him in the hall of fame. Due to his military service his career as a baseball player was put on hold. Signed to play in 1945, he spent 1945-1947 in the army and then played from 1947 to 1960.

Tommy Lasorda on the right with a Cuban teammate with Marianao

Tommy Lasorda on the right with a Cuban teammate with Marianao

Cubans had a long relationship during his period as a baseball player. Mr. Lasorda also got to know and grow to love Cuba. Many American baseball players would go to play in Cuba during the winters, and the future Dodgers manager pitched for Marianao and Almendares in the legendary Cuban League (that was racially integrated, unlike the U.S. at the time and played alongside black American baseball players, including Willie Mays ).


He was present for the coup against Carlos Prio by Fulgencio Batista in 1952, and Fidel Castro’s takeover in 1959. In a 2008 interview with Robert Cassidy of Newsday Mr. Lasorda described the events of that early morning on January 1, 1959:

“When Castro took over the city on the first of January, me, Art Fowler and Bob Allison came out of a New Year’s party with our wives, and it was 3:30 in the morning and I look up and three planes were flying over head,” said Lasorda. “I said ‘Geez who in the world is flying at this time at night?’ It was actually Batista and all his cabinet members. They were getting out of the country.”

Fidel Castro called for Mr. Lasorda and they met and talked baseball, but it did not take him long to see through the new dictator’s lies. In Tommy Lasorda: My Way, (2015) author Colin Gunderson quoted him on Castro.

“It was a sad situation for the country. When Castro came in, the people were celebrating because they thought he would be good for the country, and so did I. We had a general manager, Monchy de Arcos, and he told me that Castro was not a good man, that he was a communist. I thought when he took over that he would be a savior for the country. I found out I was wrong. I wanted to get out of there, but we continued playing baseball after the strike was over. It was a gorgeous country, until Castro took over.”

In the 2008 Newsday interview with Cassidy Mr. Lasorda put it more succinctly: “I saw a good country really torn apart.”

Tommy Lasorda’s tenure as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers ended in 1996, a month after he suffered a heart attack, but he would make history again in 2000 at the Olympics and Cuba would be involved.

Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda led Team USA to a shocking upset over Cuba, beating Havana’s team (4-0) capturing the only Olympic gold medal in USA baseball history on September 27, 2000 at the Sydney Olympics. This was a propaganda debacle for the Castro dictatorship, and was described as a “miracle on grass.”

We mourn the passing of this friend of Cuba who understood what was lost with the arrival of communism in 1959.

Requiescat in pace Tommy Lasorda