Fullerton Museum Center’s ‘Picturing America’s Pastime’ exhibit ‘hits it out of the park’
To Laura Lasorda, the story of her father, Tommy Lasorda, is not just a story of baseball.
“What I like historically about my father is that his principles on the playing field apply to life. It is more than a game,” she said.
Tommy Lasorda, who died in 2021, was an iconic figure for the Dodgers, but he was also a family man who made his home in Fullerton. The Fullerton Museum Center is honoring him by including “Lasorda Legacy: A Tribute to Baseball & Dodgers Legend Tommy Lasorda” in its current exhibit, “Picturing America’s Pastime.”
Open through Dec. 31, “Picturing America’s Pastime” features 51 framed photographs from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in which Tommy Lasorda was inducted in 1997.
“Picturing America’s Pastime” includes work from photographers like Charles M. Conlon, Carl J. Horner, Arthur Rothstein, William C. Greene and Brad Mangin, while the adjacent Lasorda exhibit highlights the legend’s career as a player, coach and manager with artwork, photos and mementos from the Lasorda Family.
“The Fullerton Museum did an amazing job,” said Laura Lasorda. “Besides being all about baseball, I think it is all about history and the parallel between what went on in history the same time that these things were going on in baseball.”
Tommy Lasorda played with Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider, for example. He influenced players like Fernando Valenzuela and Chan Ho Park, who made their own impact on Major League Baseball. Besides leading the Dodgers to eight National League West division titles, four National League pennants and two World Series championships, he managed the U.S. national team at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
“It is special in different ways to everyone that views it,” Laura Lasorda said of the exhibit. “Everyone’s got a connection one way or the other.”
In addition to the exhibit, the Fullerton Museum Center and the city of Fullerton are partnering to host the second annual special commemorative celebration recognizing Tommy Lasorda on Thursday, Sept. 22. The outdoor street fair and celebration will include food and art vendors, a beer garden, pop-up art activities and a roundtable of baseball authors, including, Chris Epting, author of “Baseball in Orange County.” Epting has been working with the Lasorda family for about four years on an unnamed project.
“He was, along with Babe Ruth, the most important ambassador of the game. The Pope wanted to meet him,” said Epting. “Wherever he went he understood his role in spreading the game.”
Epting, like Laura Lasorda, also recognizes the Dodgers giant was a family man dedicated to his wife and children.
“They lived in Fullerton for almost 60 years, and they never left. Same house. Everything,” said Epting.
The Lasorda Legacy exhibit begins with images of Tommy Lasorda with his wife, Jo, and what Epting refers to as the story within the story.
“Tommy would be the first to tell you, ‘no Jo, no Tommy,’” Epting said.
Laura Lasorda said that despite baseball taking him around the world, his home was always where his family was.
“All of his travels, everyone he met — he always came back to my mother, and they were married for over 70 years,” she said. “It was an incredible love story.”
Epting also points out that there are many lesser known connections between Major League Baseball and Orange County to be discovered within the exhibit.
“The beauty of this exhibit is there are certain figures like Satchel Paige, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, true legends of the game who were actually in Fullerton at certain points,” said Epting. “There is a kind of untold local story.”
Other programming planned around the exhibit include a Baseball and Brews event with a screening of “A League of Their Own” in November.
Laura Lasorda said she is honored the city of Fullerton would commemorate her father this way. “I think [the exhibit] is something that everyone should see,” she said. “The museum did an incredible job.”
Epting agrees the museum has managed to capture the true love of the game.
“I am very thankful to the museum. It is a piece of the Hall of Fame coming to you, and that is a wonderful thing, with the Lasorda stuff as the cherry on top,” said Epting. “They really hit it out of the park, as they say.”
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