Tom Lasorda went from the White House to the penthouse Wednesday.
The Dodger manager learned he had been selected National League Manager of the Year by a 24-member committee of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America after attending a White House reception at which the Dodgers were honored by President Reagan for winning the World Series.
Lasorda learned of the award while flying back to Los Angeles. Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully used the plane’s public address system to inform Lasorda and fellow passengers of the honor after a writer traveling with the team called former New York sportswriter Jack Lang, who tabulates the votes as national secretary of the writers’ association.
In a later conversation with Lang, who released his statements to the Associated Press, Lasorda alluded to the memorable day and called it “one of the greatest I’ve ever had.”
He also said that winning the award for a second time was more satisfying than when he first won it in 1983 “because of the circumstances. We didn’t have the greatest talent. No one gave us a chance.”
Establishing a hallmark for overachieving, the undermanned Dodgers went from 73-89 in 1987 to 94-67 in 1988, not counting 8 wins against the New York Mets and Oakland Athletics in the postseason. Lasorda has a career record of 1,022-874 and ranks third behind Sparky Anderson and Whitey Herzog on the active win list.
“No matter what success a manager has, he owes it to the players,” Lasorda said. “This was a team of destiny. They believed when nobody else did. If someone out there is looking for inspiration, they only have to look at what this team did. It was a great accomplishment, the greatest.”
Lasorda has led the Dodgers to 6 division titles, 4 pennants and 2 World Series championships in his 12 years at the helm. He received 101 points in balloting by 2 writers from each National League city, had 19 first-place votes and was named on 23 of 24 ballots.
Jim Leyland of Pittsburgh was second with 50 points after leading the Pirates to an 85-75 record and second place in the East behind the Mets.
Davey Johnson, who led the Mets to a league-leading 100-60 record and their second Eastern Division title in 3 years, was third with 38 points.
Jack McKeon, who took over the San Diego Padres from Larry Bowa on May 28, was fourth with 27 points. The Padres were 67-48 under McKeon and had the second-best record in the league over the final four months of the season.
Lasorda’s award could herald a Dodger sweep of the top postseason honors.
Orel Hershiser is expected to win the Cy Young Award, and Fred Claire is favored for the Executive of the Year award. Kirk Gibson has a shot at the Most Valuable Player award, and Tim Belcher could win the Rookie of the Year award.
Of Lasorda’s award, Claire said no one was more deserving. He and the Dodgers had already honored Lasorda in another way, extending his contract through 1990 in early July.