Tommy Lasorda is in his 62nd season in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, and it's his toughest yet.
"I never would have dreamed that I would see the Dodgers in bankruptcy," Lasorda said Saturday night. "I used to go around all over the world, and I would tell people how great the Dodgers organization was. It was the best organization in baseball in my mind, but since all this stuff started happening, you can't say that."
Lasorda, 83, is visiting Chattanooga this weekend for the third time in as many years. He addressed the crowd at AT&T Field before the Lookouts defeated Mobile 5-2 with a five-run fifth inning highlighted by Griff Erickson and Alfredo Silverio home runs.
The Dodgers' Class AA affiliates had Lasorda's admiration even before they improved to 14-9 for the second half of the season.
"I shouldn't even be saying this, but I would bet that if we played the Triple-A club that we could beat them right here," he said. "I like this ballclub a lot."
Lasorda was a left-handed pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954-55 but was enshrined in the Hall of Fame for his managerial success. He led Los Angeles to four World Series trips, winning titles in 1981 and '88.
The Dodgers haven't been to a World Series since and filed for bankruptcy last month after Major League Baseball nixed a television deal that had been negotiated by team owner Frank McCourt. Lasorda is in his sixth season as a special adviser to McCourt.
"For a lot of years, the goal of every team in the major leagues was to play like the Dodgers," he said. "They wanted to pattern themselves after the Dodgers, but I haven't heard that for a long time. When Al Campanis left us, that's when it began to go in a reverse direction. He knew more baseball, and when he left the motor went bad."
Campanis served as general manager of the Dodgers from 1968 to '87 before resigning after making remarks on ABC's "Nightline" that were widely viewed as racist.
Two of Lasorda's most recognized former players, first baseman Steve Garvey and pitcher Orel Hershiser, were in a group that considered purchasing the Dodgers. Garvey spoke out about the possibility and was fired earlier this month after 30 years in the organization, including 15 in the front office.
"I think Garvey made a big mistake in coming out and saying he wanted to buy the club when the owner was paying him a salary," Lasorda said. "You don't do that. If you see that it's available, then you can say you'd like to buy it, but you can't say you're going to buy something when it's not for sale and when the guy is paying your salary.
"Nobody knows what's going to happen. We hope and pray that it turns out all right and that we can get going and get back to where we once were."