Tommy Lasorda – A Moment of a Lifetime

I expect that it was back in 1984, as my son Jamie was only eight years old at the time. My family and I were planning a long trip to visit my parents in Lecanto, Florida during the March Break from school. I am a retired school teacher but was still working at the time. I say a long trip because we lived and still live in Nova Scotia, Canada.

As a longtime Dodger fan, it was no coincidence that I knew the Dodgers would be in Vero Beach for spring training during our trip. I also knew that Vero Beach was a relatively short distance (about a three-hour drive) from my parents summer home in Lecanto, so the wheels were already in motion long before we left our home in Nova Scotia on this trip.

Holman Stadium was the spring training home of the Dodgers from 1948-2008. (Photo credit - Wally Gobetz)

Holman Stadium was the spring training home of the Dodgers from 1948-2008.
(Photo credit – Wally Gobetz)

A few days before our trip I decided to try something a little crazy; I decided to call Dodgertown hoping against hope that I might be able to speak with Tommy Lasorda on the phone. You can imagine my surprise when the operator put me through to his room and the next thing you know, Tommy Lasorda and I are having a phone conversation as if we were old friends.

After arriving in Tampa and then onto Lecanto, my Dad, Jamie and I decided to take a day trip to Vero Beach to check out spring training – Okay, I admit it, this was my plan all along. My Mom, my wife Elaine and my daughter Elanya didn’t want to come with us, so it was a “guys only” trip.

When we arrived at Dodgertown, we made our way over to Holman Stadium for the day’s game. While waiting for the game to start, Jamie and I wandered over behind the Dodger bench so he could take some pictures. I figured we were in a restricted area, probably reserved for player’s families. I looked back and saw an usher coming towards us, expecting to vacant the area very soon. As I turned back towards the field Tommy had finished his interview and was looking up into the stands. I said, “Tommy, I phoned you from Nova Scotia the other night.”

You can imagine my surprise when Tommy climbed over the rail and came to us, about eight rows up. He grabbed my hand and said enthusiastically, “I’m so glad you made it.” I asked if Jamie could take our picture. He replied “Yes, but wait a minute.” He went back down, sent Steve Sax to get a ball, and came back up to pose for the picture with both of our hands touching the ball. Unfortunately Jamie didn’t get that part in the photo but otherwise did a great job. Tommy waited patiently for an obviously nervous Jamie to take the picture, telling him “Take your time young man. You’re doing great.”

It doesn’t take much to create a moment that lasts a lifetime.
(Photo credit – Jamie Uhlman)

After taking the photo, Tommy dropped the ball into my hand. It took a while for me to figure out that he was giving me the ball. I finally said, “Would you sign the ball for me, please?” To this he said “I thought you would never ask.” He asked me what my name was and when I told him, he wrote: “To Harold – You and the Dodgers are both great. Tom Lasorda” on the ball. He shook my hand again and then Jamie’s, and then he thanked us. Can you imagine that? Tommy Lasorda thanked us. He then made his way back down to the field in preparation for the game.

I hope to get Tommy to sign his  rookie card for me at this year's spring training to go along with this ball that he signed for me the last time I went to spring training 29 years ago. (Photo credit - Harold Uhlman)

I hope to get Tommy to sign his rookie card for me at this year’s spring training to go along with this ball that he signed for me the last time I went to spring training 29 years ago in Vero Beach.
(Photo credit – Harold Uhlman)

So thankful and grateful was I that when we returned home to Nova Scotia, I sent Tommy a thank you letter addressed to Dodger Stadium. Included with the letter was a photograph of Jamie asleep in the back seat of the car still wearing his Dodger hat.

For a few brief moments Tommy Lasorda made us the most important people in his life.

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21 Responses to “Tommy Lasorda – A Moment of a Lifetime”

  1. Ron Cervenka says:

    That is a great story, Harold; probably one of the best Lasorda stories I have ever heard – at least one that he didn’t tell. :lol:

    I don’t think I ever would have had the courage to phone Tommy at Vero Beach. Were you surprised that they put you through to his room? And more so, that you actually spoke with him? What did you guys talk about? And what did your father have to say about all of this when you returned to your seats after yours and Jamie’s interaction with Tommy at Holman Stadium? There is undoubtedly so much more to this wonderful story.

    Anyway, this truly is a moment of a lifetime – for both you and Jamie. Thanks for sharing.

    • Bluenose Dodger says:

      I had to phone several days in a row. I did so at what I thought might be the time he would be in his room but not asleep – around 9:00 P.M EST. I phoned so often that the receptionist called me by name towards the end.

      I started by telling him how much I love the Dodgers. I knew he would like that. We talked mainly about coming to Vero – very briefly – and how to get autographs. Once again, he thanked me for the call.

      My Dad didn’t see it as a big deal. This is the same Dad that got the Willie Mays HR ball in old Jarry Park in Montreal. I only learned about it years later. I thought he was kidding when I asked about the ball but my Mom confirmed it. She would never kid me about anything baseball related. I am bringing that ball to CBR – part of my Dad – to try to get Matt to sign it. It is a Spalding with Warren Giles smudged signature. Willie must have smacked it there.

      I still don’t see how they hit that little round ball even as often as they do.

      By the way, if Tommy hadn’t given me a ball, I had nothing with me to sign. My cards, pictures, etc. were in a case with my dad. Jamie and I were on his photo mission not expecting an autograph possibility. How does the saying go: “You just never know who you might meet.”

  2. CRANBROOK MIKE says:

    Yep! No doubt about it Harold I look forward to hearing more about this one in Phoenix!! That is truly a gem! Thank you so much for sharing it.

  3. Truebluewill says:

    Harold, what a great story!!! That took a lot of guts for you to call him, I never would have thought of doing something like that. You should bring that ball with you and show it to Tommy and see if he remembers that incident. I would love to see the ball myself and hear more about your trip to Vero Beach.

  4. Evan Bladh says:

    And people wonder why we’re Dodger fans. It is P.R. like this that Tommy always understood. He’d treat fans special. He’d take the time to show he cared. He preached Dodger blue 24/7. I love this story Harold. Thanks for sharing.

  5. ebbetsfld says:

    Tommy is the ultimate Dodger promoter (and he doesn’t do too badly for Tommy either!) and this story is a great example of the man Tommy is. Years ago we took our kids down to Cincinnati and stayed in the Dodgers’ hotel. I took my son to breakfast in the hotel coffee shop hoping to get a glimpse of some of the players. Sure enough we did and Mark got autographs from Steve Yeager, Joe Ferguson and a few others. All of a sudden Tommy walked by and Mark blurted out, “Tommy, may I have your autograph, please?” Tommy replied, “Sure you can…if you call me Mr. Lasorda.” Mark, who was 10 at the time, said “I’m sorry, Mr. Lasorda may I please have your autograph?” Tommy gave him the autograph, Mark said, “Thank you, Mr. Lasorda”, and Tommy turned to me and said, “You’re raising the kid right!”
    Thanks for sharing, Harold.

  6. Ron Cervenka says:

    Harold – If you are willing to stand in line for an hour or so at spring training, I will gladly stand with you just to hear you and he reminisce your Vero Beach story (and take a few photos). I can absolutely positively guarantee you that Tommy will remember that encounter from 29 years ago.

    As an interesting side note, Lasorda NEVER signs an autograph “Tommy” – it is always “Tom” – and that’s a fact.

    Also – he very rarely (if ever) signs baseball bats. He was a pitcher, for Heaven’s sake. Haha!

  7. OldBrooklynFan says:

    One thing, Harold, I’m amazed at is, you calling Dodgertown to speak to Tommy Lasorda. How on earth did you find something to talk about? I mean it’s amazing that you actually planned to speak to him.
    I met Tommy on two occasions, once at Shea Stadium, with an inkless pen and once at Bamonte’s restaurant in Brooklyn, where I finaly got his autograph. I missed him in LA.
    Well I quess your an old pro at ST camps. This will be my first time and I regret never going to Vero Beach.

  8. KSparkuhl says:

    Harold!! I remember this story from your telling it to us several years ago. I just loved hearing it again! I remember seeing that photo of you and tommy but don’t ever remember seeing the photo of the ball. Those are indeed special!

    Are you planning to take a copy of the photo with you? That would be something to help jog Tommy’s memory… not that he’d need it, as 53 says, but it would be fun to see his reaction when he looked at it.

    BTW, 53… I think Joe’s “inkless pen” comment refers to the time Joe sat around hoping to get Tommy’s autograph and realized his pen had ran out of ink! It could only happen to YOU, Joe!! Make sure you bring a new pen to spring training… hopefully one with ink, and one that doesn’t bleed blue all over your face again!

  9. lindav says:

    Great story Harold. You’ll certainly have a chance to see him at ST if he’s well. He often sets up a table and signs for and hour or 2. Be sure to bring that photo.

  10. MFGRREP says:

    Harold, you are going to have a blast at ST13, especially on the back fields where all the minor leaguers go and where Tommy usually hangs out !!

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