42 Years Of Excellence

Steve ByerlyCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2010

Leaders are born and not made. Two such leaders are former Dodger managers Walt Alston and Tommy Lasorda. Both were longtime minor league players whose dreams fell just a little short of their big league aspirations. Walt striking out in his only at bat as a first baseman for the St Louis Cardinals in 1936 and Tommy wrapped two short seasons, for the Brooklyn Dodgers and one for the Kansas City A's, between 15 years of a successful minor league career. In fact, Tommy was the International Leagues MVP in 1958 with the Dodgers Montreal Royals.

Both men realized that baseball was in their blood and that to remain in the game they would have to do so in another capacity. Walt went into coaching, first as a minor league player-coach and then as a minor league manager. Tommy took a position as a scout for the Dodgers in 1961 and remained in that capacity for 4 seasons when he became the manager of the Pocatello Chiefs the Dodgers Rookie League club.

Alston was named manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers before the 1954 season, replacing Charlie Dressen, and Tommy followed Walt in 1976 after serving as his third base coach for three years. Both men took to managing the Dodgers like they were born to it. For those 42 consecutive years they blazed a path of winning baseball that will long be remembered by fans, of both the Dodgers and baseball, for generations to come.

Walter Emmons Alston managed the Dodgers to seven National League Pennants and four World Series Championships, (including the only World Championship the borough of Brooklyn was to ever savour). He won 2,040 National League games and had a remarkable 23 post season victories in an era when almost all of those wins were garnered in the World Series. Another legendary feat was his winning 7 All Star games for the National League in all seven of his All Star appearances. Walt had his number 24 retired by the Dodgers and was then inducted to Baseballs Hall of Fame in 1983 the year before his death.

Thomas Charles Lasorda managed the Los Angeles Dodgers to eight Western Division titles, four National League Pennants and two World Series Championships. He won 1,599 National League games and managed an astounding 61 post season games. His managing career was sadly cut short after he suffered a heart attack in June of 1996. Tommy did, however, come out of retirement to manage the United States Olympic team to a Gold Medal over the heavily favored Cuban team in 2000. Tommy had his number 2 retired by the Dodgers before his induction into Cooperstown.

Which was better? It really is anyone's call. Walt and Tommy were both incredible in their own way. Alston with his quiet tactical approach and Lasorda with his brash outspoken cheerleader persona. I'll just withhold my opinion for now with the knowledge that the Dodgers, as an organization, where so incredibly lucky to to have had them both.