Tommy Lasorda’s death begins a conversation about his son

Tommy Lasorda’s death begins a conversation about his son

When Penelope Spiris learned that Tommy Lasorda had passed away on Thursday at the age of 93, she knew that many more people would be affected. Sad newsEspecially in Los Angeles. The city has always been her home, and it’s also where Lasorda became a baseball icon, leading the Dodgers to two World Championship titles during their Hall of Fame career.

But Spheeris’ mind quickly turned to another person in the Lasorda family who knew and missed him: his son, Tommy Jr. , Better known as Spunky, who was gay and died in 1991 at the age of 33 from complications from AIDS. cried.

“I always felt it had to be public that the father was such a wonderful gay son and everything was Tommy,” she said in a phone interview on Saturday. “He was a very unforgettable person.”

There is much to remember about Tommy Lasorda Sr.’s long life in the public eye: his life Huge figureHis sordid spirit, his success in leading teams, his Decorated professionAnd his charitable side and his intense love for evasive people. In recent days, others have also been discussing and learning about another part of Lasorda’s story – his relationship with his son – and what she said about the society and culture of baseball at the time.

“My son was not gay,” LaSorda told Peter Richmond, who has written about the duo’s complex relationship. GQ Magazine in 1992, In some of his few public comments about his son.

He continued, “Impossible,” with some insults. I read that on a piece of paper. I also read in that paper that a woman had given birth to a monkey as well. This is not the truth.

Lasorda was also disturbed by reports that his son was ill with AIDS. He told Richmond, “I don’t care what people … I know why my son died. I know what he died from. The doctor prepared a report on how he died. He died of pneumonia.”

at A modern suspension piece for the Los Angeles BladeKaren Ocamp, a former news editor for the publication, claimed that Lasorda once admitted on a charity event that his son was gay and that he had died of AIDS. The Lasorda family did not respond to a request from The New York Times for comment.

Spheeris, 75, was glad more people talked about Tommy Jr. Because the topic was much more silent at the time. She said that Tommy Junior didn’t want people to talk about his sexuality either, because he wanted to protect his father’s desires. She found this sad but said that Tommy Junior didn’t get upset with his dad because of it.

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Spheeris, the director who has made movies like “Wayne’s World” and “Suburbia,” got to know Tommy Jr. In Los Angeles in the 1980s. They met at a punk rock club.

She said, “I clearly remember the moment I saw him for the first time: He was sitting alone on the edge of a sofa and everyone there was like all punk and they were all dressed in black, but he was wearing a white suit.” “I know it sounds weird, but it had some kind of glow around it.”

They quickly became friends, hanging out in his West Hollywood apartment or nearby clubs. She described him as a kind, gentle, loving person with an impeccable sense of style. She said one of the reasons she bonded with him so much is that her brother, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1984, was gay, and several of his friends died of complications from AIDS because medical treatments were not as advanced as they are now.

Spheeris said that Tommy Jr and his father love each other. Tommy Junior will be excited to meet his dad for a meal or at Dodger Stadium, as he was sitting in dugouts before matches.

“He told me he likes to go because he can flirt with men,” she said with a laugh. “But he clearly couldn’t say that to his father.”

She later added, “I don’t want to be angry with Tommy Lasorda Sr. I don’t want to get angry at someone who just died and someone everyone loves. What I’m going to get angry with is the culture that allows this kind of thinking. That’s what I don’t like. Can you imagine? It was?” Such a struggle between the two is to try to maintain a balance between the father, the legacy and the job on the right track with a gay son in such an environment where people do not tolerate homosexuality. “

While his father was the manager of the Dodgers, Tommy Jr. befriended Glenn Burke, A player on the team, and who Burke’s relationship with his boss soured. Burke is the first player in Major League Baseball history to go out to team mates during his football career. It came out publicly in 1982.

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Al Campanis, Dodgers’ general manager at the time, offered Burke a financial reward if he got married – something he later said wasn’t a bribe but because the Dodgers encouraged family stability and maturity on their list. (Campanis was launched in 1987 Because of the racist comments he made about blacks in a TV interview.) Burke, who was Black, turned down the offer.

Burke traded at Oakland Athletics in May 1978, an unpopular move at Dodgers Club. Two of his Burke teammates, Davey Lopez and Dusty Baker, later said Burke was traded because he’s gay. In the 2010 documentary “Out: The Glenn Burke Story,” his former athletics teammate, Claudel Washington He said Director Billy Martin Burke introduced his new team with an anti-gay sedition.

Since then, a few players, referees and officials have come out. Most notable: Billy Bean, who became MLB’s first ambassador after his playing days. Still, in recent years, many players, such as Kevin Pillar, Lionel Escobar, and the broadcaster Brennemann garlic They had to apologize for using homophobic insults.

But baseball culture has evolved since the Lasorda days, said Dave Balloni, A former MLB ruling Who said he was expelled in 1988 for being gay. He appeared in public soon after and wrote a book, Behind the Mask: My Double Life in Baseball. He said attitudes in the sport are slowly starting to change as more people are out in public.

“I hope this has helped turn the tide and maybe baseball culture may improve,” Balloni said. “With young people playing in the game, and youth in management, the game will change as much as openness towards the LGBTQ community, and it will not be very difficult for parents who are part of baseball to accept their sons and daughters.”

Balloni, 69, said this in a telephone interview Friday evening, the day after Lasorda died of sudden cardiopulmonary arrest. Balloni considered Lasorda a friend and mourned the loss. He had fond memories of their time together during and after their days on the field; Lasorda came on Pallone’s radio show once and told him he shouldn’t have lost his governing job.

Despite this, Balloni said he never spoke to Lasorda about his release in 1990. He never spoke to Lasorda about his son after Tommy Jr.’s death. Balloni, who used to see Tommy Jr in games, didn’t feel it was his place to broach the topic.

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“There was no doubt that he had such difficulty,” Balloni said of Lasorda. “But on the other side of that coin, Tommy was a very generous person outside the baseball field. We had our differences on the field, but he was fair too. He was generous off the field. If he can help you with something, he will do it. So try to look. To the whole picture, especially when I was a gay man. Even though I knew in my heart what was going on, I also wanted to try, just as I do now, and look at the whole person. ”

Balloni said that although Lasorda’s public comments about his son were horrific, he attributed Lasorda’s position to the patriarchal culture and the generational gap and Catholic background, among other things, and “being Italian, like my father was Italian.” He added, “It is difficult to accept the son’s sexual orientation when the situation is not what you are used to.”

A family spokesperson said that when Tommy Jr. passed away, Lasorda, his wife, and their daughter were by his side Los Angeles Times at the time. Lasorda missed the team for three days. He later told GQ that he cried a lot about his son’s death but never cried about the team.

“I’ve had it for 33 years,” Lasorda told the magazine. Thirty-three years is better than nothing, right? If I could see God, and God told me, “I will give you a son for 33 years and take him away after 33 years, I would have said, ‘Give him to me.’”

Balloni said he believes Lasorda has channeled his grief into his philanthropic work, and has often been geared toward helping young people. In 1997 Lasorda and his wife donated $ 500,000 through the Thomas Lasorda Jr. Foundation. Memorial Foundation to maintain a public gymnasium in Yorba Linda, California, near where they live. Facility renamed Thomas Lasorda Jr. Field House.

Balloni, who has become a motivational speaker and gives presentations on diversity for companies, schools and teams, said he told the story of Lasorda in his conversations.

“The story is that you never close the doors to your family,” Balloni said. “You can’t close the doors, because you never know how it will hurt you. And that’s what happened to Tommy.”

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