Tommy Lasorda, only manager of World Series, Olympic champions, dies at 93


Tommy Lasorda, the only person to manage World Series and Olympic champion teams, has died at age 93.

Lasorda suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest at his home and died Thursday night. He was hospitalized in November and released from the hospital earlier this week, according to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Lasorda guided the only U.S. baseball team to win an Olympic title at the 2000 Sydney Games, three years after being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Lasorda is best known for leading the Dodgers to World Series crowns in 1981 and 1988 while at the helm for 21 seasons.

In 2000, USA Baseball tapped the then-72-year-old to manage a rag-tag Olympic team, the first to include professional players but none on Major League Baseball active rosters.

Bill Bavasi, then coming off a general manager stint with the Angels, was part of the group to choose the manager. At Sandy Alderson‘s direction during the selection process, Bavasi had lunch with Lasorda. He remembers the excitement emanating from the other end of the table.

“We had a lot of good [manager candidate] names, a bunch of them,” Bavasi said Friday. “Tommy’s of course was in there. He had been out of the loop for a couple of years, but he still had energy. … Sandy had the foresight to go with Tommy, and Tommy was the right guy at the right time.

“I don’t know anybody that makes a player believe in himself more than Tommy.”

Lasorda, four years removed from his last Dodgers season, said he wanted the job for three primary reasons: to serve his country, to bring a gold medal back to the U.S. — “where it belongs,” he said — and to make Americans familiar with Olympic baseball.

“I tried to tell people before I went over there, this is bigger than the World Series,” Lasorda said after the Olympics. “People thought I was wacky for saying things like that.”

MORE: Remembering the 2000 U.S. Olympic baseball team

The team drew obvious comparisons to the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that also took an unexpected gold. It had a largely unsung roster — excluding its oldest player, 37-year-old catcher Pat Borders, the 1992 World Series MVP — and defeated the tournament favorite, 1992 and 1996 Olympic champion Cuba, in the final.

“This may have been the biggest upset since David slew Goliath,” said Lasorda, who was in tears as his players received gold medals following Ben Sheets‘ shutout of the Cubans. “I really think it was a miracle.”

In what became a routine after each win, Lasorda would get on the team bus and holler, “How sweet it is, the fruits of victory.”

The team’s story was later chronicled in a book — “Miracle on Grass.” In 2019, it was announced that a film production company acquired the exclusive rights to the story.

First baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who hit a walk-off home run in the semifinals against South Korea, said the hardest part of the job for Lasorda was remembering the names of players who came from the minor leagues.

“Tommy just sat back and laughed with us,” Mientkiewicz said after the Sydney Games. “If we were going to be idiots, he’d let us be idiots. That’s what you needed when you’ve got this cast of characters we had.

“He might not have the most talented guys, but he’s going to get more out of that average guy than the other guy’s going to get out of his superstar.”

Baseball returns to the Olympic program this year for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Games. The U.S. has yet to qualify.

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Hilary Knight leads new-look U.S. women’s hockey roster for world championship

Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight headlines a U.S. women’s hockey roster for this month’s world championship that lacks some of the biggest names from last year’s Olympic silver-medal team. Changes have been made as the U.S. looks to end losing streaks to Canada, both overall and in major finals.

The full roster is here. Worlds start Wednesday in Brampton, Ontario, and run through the gold-medal game on April 16.

It was already known that the team would be without stalwart forwards Kendall Coyne Schofield, who plans to return to the national team after having her first child this summer, and Brianna Decker, who announced her retirement last month.

Notable cuts include the No. 1 goalies from the last two Olympics: Alex Cavallini, who returned from Christmas childbirth for the tryout camp this past week, and Maddie Rooney, the breakout of the 2018 Olympic champion team.

Cavallini, 31, was bidding to become the first player to make an Olympic or world team after childbirth since Jenny Potter, who played at the Olympics in 2002, 2006 and 2010 as a mom, plus at several world championships, including less than three months after childbirth in 2007.

Forward Hannah Brandt, who played on the top line at last year’s Olympics with Knight and Coyne Schofield, also didn’t make the team.

In all, 13 of the 25 players on the team are Olympians, including three-time Olympic medalists forward Amanda Kessel and defender Lee Stecklein.

The next generation includes forward Taylor Heise, 23, who led the 2022 World Championship with seven goals and was the 2022 NCAA Player of the Year at Minnesota.

The team includes two teens — 19-year-old defender Haley Winn and 18-year-old forward Tessa Janecke — who were also the only teens at last week’s 46-player tryout camp. Janecke, a Penn State freshman, is set to become the youngest U.S. forward to play at an Olympics or worlds since Brandt in 2012.

Abbey Levy, a 6-foot-1 goalie from Boston College, made her first world team, joining veterans Nicole Hensley and Aerin Frankel.

Last summer, Canada repeated as world champion by beating the U.S. in the final, six months after beating the U.S. in the Olympic final. Canada is on its longest global title streak since winning all five Olympic or world titles between 1999 and 2004.

Also at last summer’s worlds, the 33-year-old Knight broke the career world championship record for points (now up to 89). She also has the most goals in world championship history (53). Knight, already the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s hockey player in history, will become the second-oldest American to play at a worlds after Cammi Granato, who was 34 at her last worlds in 2005.

The Canadians are on a four-game win streak versus the Americans, capping a comeback in their recent seven-game rivalry series from down three games to none. Their 5-0 win in the decider in February was their largest margin of victory over the U.S. since 2005.

Last May, former AHL coach John Wroblewski was named U.S. head coach to succeed Joel Johnson, the Olympic coach.

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U.S. women’s rugby team qualifies for 2024 Paris Olympics as medal contender

Cheta Emba

The U.S. women’s rugby team qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics by clinching a top-four finish in this season’s World Series.

Since rugby was re-added to the Olympics in 2016, the U.S. men’s and women’s teams finished fifth, sixth, sixth and ninth at the Games.

The U.S. women are having their best season since 2018-19, finishing second or third in all five World Series stops so far and ranking behind only New Zealand and Australia, the winners of the first two Olympic women’s rugby sevens tournaments.

The U.S. also finished fourth at last September’s World Cup.

Three months after the Tokyo Games, Emilie Bydwell was announced as the new U.S. head coach, succeeding Olympic coach Chris Brown.

Soon after, Tokyo Olympic co-captain Abby Gustaitis was cut from the team.

Jaz Gray, who led the team in scoring last season and at the World Cup, missed the last three World Series stops after an injury.

The U.S. men are ranked ninth in this season’s World Series and will likely need to win either a North American Olympic qualifier this summer or a last-chance global qualifier in June 2024 to make it to Paris.

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