Major League Managers with 27 World Series Titles connected to Puerto Rico’s Winter League (Part VI)

Sandy Koufax, Jim Landis and Tom Lasorda when the played with Caguas in 1956-57.

Nineteen Major League managers who once played or managed in the Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) or barnstormed in Puerto Rico led their big league teams to a combined 27 World Series crowns,  from José Méndez, who led the 1924 Kansas City Monarchs to the first Negro World Series (aka 1924 Colored World Series) title, to Bruce Bochy, who managed the San Francisco Giants to 2010, 2012, and 2014 titles, plus the 2023 Texas Rangers to their first World Series title. Part V highlighted Sparky Anderson, who won three World Series and experienced success as PRWL skipper. Part VI covers Tom Lasorda (1981 and 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers). Lasorda is the only one of the 19 Major League managers who led his teams to a Caribbean Series crown (Licey Tigers-1973) and an Olympic Gold Medal (Team USA-2000). He was on Almendares’ 1959 Caribbean Series championship team as a pitcher.

Tom Lasorda

Lasorda (September 22, 1927-January 7, 2021) was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, northwest of Philadelphia. He primarily pitched in high school and signed with the Phillies. At age 17, he pitched for the Concord Weavers, in the Class D North Carolina State League.   A positive model, a decade later, for Lasorda was Ralph Houk, manager of the Denver Bears in Lasorda’s tenure there in 1956. After a disastrous first outing for the Bears, possibly because his curveball failed to break in Denver’s thin air, Houk treated Lasorda with kindness and encouragement. “Ralph taught me that if you treat players like human beings, they will try to play like Superman,” Lasorda recalled, per Stowell. Lasorda used this “template” throughout his managing career.

Lasorda Converses with the Author: Vero Beach, Florida, March 1992

Lasorda listened to the author’s interview with John Candelaria, Dodgers LHP, in spring training 1992. Candelaria also pitched in the PRWL, in the mid-and-late 1970s, with the Bayamón Cowboys. Lasorda enjoyed hearing that Candelaria was a star basketball forward for the Quebradillas Pirates in the early 1970s in Puerto Rico’s Superior Basketball League before signing his pro baseball contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates in mid-August 1972, Roberto Clemente’s last National League (NL) season.

“I just learned something new about my lefty,” exclaimed Lasorda. “So, he was a 6’7” star forward in Puerto Rico.” Lasorda then shared some of his Winter League recollections. Lasorda recalled his 11-inning CG loss to Santurce in the 1955-56 league finals. “Steve Ridzik won that [1-0] game,” said Lasorda. The Crabbers had [Roberto] Clemente, [Orlando] Cepeda, Bob Thurman…”

Lasorda traveled to Panamá for the February 1956 Caribbean Series. He relieved in two games for Caguas without a decision. Caguas finished 3-3, tied with host Chesterfield Smokers, and behind the champion 5-1 Cienfuegos Elephants from Cuba. Valencia Industrialists from Venezuela, at 1-5. Lasorda smiled when the author alerted him that Willie Mays, with Santurce, hit his first 1954-55 PRWL homer off him. Lasorda also struck out Mays in Puerto Rico and was Clemente’s teammate with Santurce (1953-54) and Caguas (1956-57). “With Caguas, we had [Vic] Power, [Félix] Mantilla, Luke Easter, Wes Covington, [Sandy] Koufax—some tremendous ballplayers.”

Lasorda beamed when the author mentioned his pitching (8-3 W-L, 1.89 ERA) for the 1958-59 Almendares Scorpions, Cuba’s Winter League, “Orlando Peña [15-5] and Art Fowler [9-6] were terrific for us,” recalled Lasorda. “Mike Cuéllar [5-7] and myself gave our staff two lefty starters. We picked up Camilo Pascual for the [February 1959] Caribbean Series in Caracas. Cuéllar and I pitched out of the bullpen; we won it over Venezuela (Oriente, 4-2 W-L), Puerto Rico (Santurce, 3-3 W-L) and Panamá (Azucareros, 0-6 W-L).”

His managing experience with Escogido (1970-71) and Licey (1972-76 seasons) in the Dominican Winter League (LIDOM) produced a combined 153-136 in the regular season. Licey won the February 1973 Caribbean Series, hosted by Caracas, with a Dodgers connection—Steve Garvey, Manny Mota, Bobby Valentine, and Steve Yeager. “That was a great ballclub and a good experience for me,” said Lasorda. “I  enjoyed working with Licey owner Monchín Pichardo.” Lasorda’s 1973-74 Licey team sported a 37-21 record and made it to the February 1974 Caribbean Series in Hermosillo, Mexico, finishing tied for second behind the Caguas Criollos.

Ron Cey, Santurce’s 3B, 1972-73 season, and in the February 1973 Caribbean Series, remembered this about Lasorda and that [1973] Caribbean Series. “Tom Lasorda would talk to me the whole game while I played third base. He was coaching [Licey] from the third base coaching box, telling jokes and trying to distract me the entire game. We had a good laugh.”

Kevin Kennedy—who managed in the Dodgers minor-league system from 1984-1991—managed Santurce, from 1986-89. He recalled that Lasorda and Peter O’Malley, Dodgers executive, visited Puerto Rico, and attended Santurce games. (Dodgers sent prospects such as Mike Sharperson and John Wetteland to the Crabbers.) Dave Wallace, from the Dodgers, served as Santurce’s pitching coach.

Here are a few of Lasorda’s PRWL highlights, as a pitcher.

  • January 4, 1953—pitching for the Mayagüez Indians, he threw two complete games (CG), winning the opener, 3-1; and losing the nightcap, 2-1 in 10 innings. Those 19 innings he pitched the same afternoon and evening are impossible to equal or surpass.
  • February 1, 1953—in Mayagüez’s Isidoro García Stadium, he bested Caguas twice, winning the afternoon contest, 5-4; then, relieving in the fifth inning of the night game, with the score tied, 2-2. The Indians prevailed, 4-2, with Lasorda the victor.
  • Another memorable achievement occurred November 16-17, 1954, with Mayagüez. He pitched three games in 24 hours and 45 minutes. On November 16, he threw a nine-inning CG win over Caguas, with the 7-3 victory ending at 10:15 p.m. The next day (November 17) featured Lasorda’s five innings in a continuation of a suspended game dating to November 11, 1954. Lasorda was the losing pitcher in a 7-6 defeat. The regularly scheduled game on November 17 started at 8:50 p.m., one hour and five minutes after completion of the suspended game. And Lasorda hurled a CG win by a 6-1 score. That contest ended at 11 p.m. Thus, Lasorda pitched two CGs (nine innings apiece) and five innings in relief in one full day, plus 45 minutes! That translates to 23 innings!

Lasorda was the first PRWL ex-player to be a winning manager in an AL-NL World Series with the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers. (Quincy Trouppe now is the first ex-PRWL player (and manager) to win a World Series since he led the Cleveland Buckeyes to the 1945 Negro League World Series title after playing for the 1941-42 Guayama Witches and 1944-45 San Juan Senators.) Lasorda sported a 28-29 career W-L record with Mayagüez (1952-53, 1954-55, part of 1955-56); Santurce Crabbers (1953-54); Caguas Criollos (part of 1955-56 and 1956-57) and the Ponce Lions (briefly, 1959-60). He was inducted in Cooperstown in 1997. Tables I and II have his pitching and managing records.

Table I: Tom Lasorda Professional Pitching Record

Majors (3)0-4.00058.137566.48
Minors (14)136-104.5672167110611583.63
Cuban Winter League (4)16-13.5522471141723.53
PRWL (6)#28-29.491381248953.35
Caribbean Series (2)0-0.0007.24512.91

#Incomplete data for 1952-53 (innings, earned runs, BB) and 1954-55 (BB).

Sources: Baseball Reference, Jorge Colón Delgado, and Jorge S. Figueredo.

Table II: Tom Lasorda Managing Record                                                                     

NL: LA Dodgers (LAD)1976-19961599-1439.5261977, 1978, 1981, and 1988 NL Pennants.
NLCS, NLDS, Playoffs1977-78, 1981, 1983, 1988, 199519-19.500Defeated Houston and Montreal in 1981. Upset the favored New York Mets in seven games, 1988.
World Series1977-78, 1981, 198812-11.523Bested NYY in 1981; Oakland in 1988.
AL-NL All-Star Games1978, 1979, 1982, 19893-1.750Steve Garvey was MVP, in the 1978 Game.
Minors—Pocatello, Ogden, Spokane, Albuquerque, and Instructional League1965-1972 plus LAD Instructional524-412.560Spokane Indians (94-52) won the PCL crown. Albuquerque Dukes (92-56) won the 1972 PCL title.
Minors Post-Season1970, 19727-1.875Swept Hawaii Islanders in 1970 and topped Eugene Emeralds, three wins, in the 1972 playoffs.
LIDOM: Escogido Lions and Licey Tigers1970-71; 1972-76.153-136.529Licey won the 1972-73 and 1973-74 LIDOM titles.
LIDOM Post-seasons1971, 1973, 1974, 1976.20-17.5415-2 W-L records: 1973 and 1974 LIDOM finals
Caribbean Series1973, 1974.7-5.583Licey (4-2 W-L) won 1973 event.
Olympics—Team USA20008-1.889Defeated Cuba, 4-0, for the Gold.
Totals 2352-2042.535See above.

  Sources: Baseball Reference, Winter Ball data, Sports Illustrated, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Some 1981 Dodgers Connection to Winter Ball

The 1981 World Series, won by Los Angeles over the Yankees in six games, gave Lasorda much happiness after losing the 1977 and 1978 Fall Classics to the Bronx Bombers. Many of Lasorda’s 1981 regulars, bench players, and pitchers benefitted from playing winter ball between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s.

  • Tri-MVP catcher Steve Yeager played for Licey, LIDOM, and helped the Tigers win the 1973 Caribbean Series with a .450 BA and .750 SLG in six games.
  • Reserve catcher Mike Scioscia also played for Licey, 1979-1981, and was on their 1980 Caribbean Series champions—he had a .313 BA in that 1980 event.
  • First baseman Steve Garvey played third base for Licey, 1972-74, and participated in the 1973 and 1974 Caribbean Series (.269 BA).
  • Second baseman Davey Lopes reinforced Caracas in the 1972-73 regular season, helping them win their league crown.
  • Tri-MVP third baseman Ron Cey, aka “El Pinguino,” (The Penguin), had a .298 BA, seven homers, and 43 RBIs for Frank Robinson’s 1972-73 Santurce Crabbers.
  • Left-fielder Dusty Baker played for 1971-72 Santurce (.273 BA, four homers, 20 RBIs), and 1974-75 La Guaira Sharks-LVBP (.223 BA, five homers, 30 RBIS).
  • Center-fielder Ken Landreaux, LIDOM 1980-81 batting champ (.394 BA) for Águilas Cibaeñas (AC). He posted a .347 BA in two LIDOM seasons.
  • Tri-MVP right-fielder Pedro Guerrero. Played 12 LIDOM seasons with a career .290/.366/.431 slash line and .797 OPS. Had a .382/.448/.549 slash line and .997 OPS in 1981-82, the winter after playing in the 1981 World Series.
  • Pinch-hitter Jay Johnstone recorded a PRWL career BA of .305 with 24 homers and 118 RBIs in three seasons. He was a 2x Caribbean Series champion with Caguas (1974) and Bayamón (1975).
  • Pinch-hitter Reggie Smith played CF for the 1966-67 San Juan Senators, slugging 11 homers; and driving in 35, with a .257 BA, under skipper Wilfredo Calviño.
  • LHP Fernando Valenzuela pitched in Mexico’s Pacific (Winter) League and three Caribbean Series (1982, 1993, and 2001). Some of Fernando’s quotes and statistics will be included in the author’s 2024 book on the history of the Caribbean Series.
  • RHP Burt Hooton pitched for 1974-75 Licey under Lasorda. Hooton was 5-3, with a 2.39 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.
  • RHP Dave Stewart pitched for the Hermosillo Orange Growers in the 1980 Caribbean Series.
  • Lefty reliever Steve Howe was in four games for the 1984-85 Licey Tigers—a team that also won the 1985 Caribbean Series.

Lasorda, a firm believer in the importance of winter ball, recalled that Willie Mays was—briefly—his 1950-51 Almendares Scorpions teammate but couldn’t play due to an injury. “I became fluent in Spanish due to my [winter] seasons in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico,” stated Lasorda. “Winter ball was special to me.”


Lasorda was Roberto Clemente’s teammate with the 1954 Montreal Royals post-1953-54 PRWL season. Both wore Santurce Crabbers flannels. Lasorda had fond memories of Roberto and Pedrín Zorrilla, Crabbers owner, who extended his hospitality to Lasorda throughout 1953-54, including visits to Zorrilla’s beach house. In the first half of that season, Lasorda was Don Zimmer’s teammate with the 1954-55 Mayagüez Indios, when the Brooklyn Dodgers sent some prospects there.


With gratitude to John Candelaria, Ron Cey, Kevin Kennedy, Tom Lasorda, and Don Zimmer,  Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo placements.

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