By Josh Barr
Tommy Lasorda, the only person to manage Olympic and World Series champions, passed away on January 7. He was 93.
Lasorda was perhaps best known for guiding the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series titles during his 21-year tenure. He retired from the Dodgers in 1996 and the following year was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The charismatic Lasorda was 73 years old when he managed the U.S. Olympic baseball team at Sydney 2000. It was the first Olympic Games to include professional players, though the roster did not include any active major leaguers and Lasorda admittedly was unfamiliar with his roster.
“We aren’t going 6,000 miles to lose,” Lasorda said before the team traveled to Australia.
Doug Mientkiewicz hit a walkoff home run in the semifinals to beat South Korea, 3-2, then pitcher Ben Sheets shut out two-time defending champion Cuba in the final, 4-0. Lasorda cried when the U.S. players received their gold medals – a triumph that was labeled Miracle on Grass and remains the only time the U.S. Olympic baseball team has won gold.
“This may have been the biggest upset since David slew Goliath,” Lasorda said. “I really think it was a miracle.”
Baseball was removed from the Olympic program following Beijing 2008 but returns this summer at Tokyo.