Tommy Lasorda was already famous and a sought-after TV guest and banquet speaker when his mother suffered a stroke. He sat at her bedside and talked about her life with Tommy's father, about Tommy's four brothers, and about how proud he was of her and how he hoped she was proud of him. Later, when Tommy's brother Joe was alone with her, she asked, "How much does Tommy get for making a speech?" "Twenty-five hundred dollars," Joe said, shaking his head. "Give him the whole twenty-five hundred," Mrs. Lasorda told Joe. "He just made the best speech I ever heard."
You can read that speech and a hundred more like it for $15.95. That's the price of Lasorda's new book, The Artful Dodger (Arbor House), written by Lasorda with David Fisher. The basic speech sets forth four key Lasorda beliefs: Baseball is the best game in the world; the Dodgers are the best sports franchise in the world; the U.S. is the greatest country in the world; Tommy Lasorda is the luckiest guy in the world because of his attachments to all three of the above. You want to argue with him?
Everyone knew Lasorda would write a book one day—Tommy will talk to anyone, and does. (At home, he usually lets his wife, Jo, answer the phone, on the theory that it might be someone he doesn't want to talk to. In 35 years of married life, though, he has never failed to talk to a caller.) But Lasorda's book is about baseball, not about all his celebrity pals. He doesn't meet Sinatra until page 181, and Rickles doesn't get a call until page 189. At the end, he does tell some Hollywood stories, and they seem to confirm, as SI senior writer Ron Fimrite chronicled in these pages last year, that Lasorda is just about the biggest celebrity of all in Starstruckland. But the meat of the book is baseball, irresistible stories well told, inside stories you never heard and will surely repeat. And there's a moral: It is possible to treat ballplayers like people—even to hug them once in a while—and win with them. Tommy tells how one man does it.