Tommy Lasorda was on a mission: to proselytize and preach the sport of baseball and bring laughs to as many City of Hope patients as possible.
Swooping into rooms on City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital’s pediatrics floor, the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager shared his love of the great American pastime with enthusiasm.
Los Angeles Dodgers players and staff cheered City of Hope patients in February as part of ThinkCure, the Dodgers' official charity, which supports cancer research at City of Hope and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. (Photos by Thomas Brown and Vanessa Preziose)View photos >>
“Did you say you were a football fan?” Lasorda asked patient Michael Suhl, as he autographed a Dodger-blue baseball cap for him. Suhl put the cap on and grinned.
“See,” Lasorda said, pointing, “you put on the Dodgers hat and you feel better.”
Suhl was among the many patients entertained by Lasorda and other Dodgers players and staff who visited City of Hope on Feb. 3. Part of their annual caravan before spring training, the Dodgers toured to support ThinkCure, the organization’s official charity benefiting cancer research at City of Hope and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.
Current players included Brad Ausmus, Blake DeWitt, Andre Ethier and Hiroki Kuroda, who personally has donated to ThinkCure. They were accompanied by Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, pitching phenom-turnedbroadcaster Fernando Valenzuela, fellow broadcaster Charlie Steiner, base-stealing legend Rudy Law and former batting champion Tommy Davis.
The visitors handed out caps, magazines and other gifts. But it was the booming former manager who often commanded patients’ attention.
“Hey, don’t roll by me without saying hi,” Lasorda quipped at 19-year-old college student Greg McDonald, who was in a wheelchair and preparing for discharge. “Do you know who I am?”
McDonald scrunched his nose in thought, until — with some help from his dad — he said Lasorda’s name. Lasorda then teased him about girls and talked to him about school before finally inviting McDonald to a game. “When the season starts, we’ll get you down to the stadium,” he said. “But don’t bring your girlfriends.”
In moments, Ethier and Lasorda entered another room. “I heard a bad rumor going around this hospital that you’re an Angels fan,” Ethier said jokingly to 16-year-old M’Lynn Bardwell. Her father, Steve, a Dodgers fan, played along and wondered aloud about her team choice.
Lasorda shook his head. “Who’s visiting you today? The Dodgers. We want you to feel better,” he said, eliciting a stubborn smile from the teenager.
And then there was Suhl, 27, a Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers fan from Riverside, Calif., who called the visit “really cool.” Lasorda needled him until Suhl pledged his support to the Dodgers. “All right,” Lasorda said. “Now make sure you get better and get out of the hospital fast.”