ST. LOUIS, Mo–The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers were baseball rivals in the 1980s. That didn’t stop St. Louis from embracing Tommy Lasorda. The longtime Dodgers’ manager passed away late Thursday night at the age of 93.
“He was an ambassador for St. Louis; he was an ambassador the game of baseball,” said St. Louis restaurateur Anthony Gitto. “He was just a tremendous guy.”
Gitto’s grandfather formed a friendship with Lasorda soon after the Hall of Fame manager visited the downtown restaurant. The Gitto’s location in The Hill neighborhood even built a dining area known as the Lasorda Room when it expanded in 1989.
“He would come in to visit and have dinner here,” said Gitto. “He would go up and down the block to houses and sign baseballs and hand out autographs.”
Former bar owner Joe Torrisi said Lasorda walked into his bar one night and eventually agreed to appear for a beer promotion that drew a crowd of hundreds.
“He was genuine, sincere and pretty special,” said Torrisi. Lasorda sent him a hand-written thank you note and an autographed photo. Years later when their paths crossed Lasorda didn’t hesitate to put his arm around Torrisi and say hello.
“That all came from the heart,” said Torrisi.