Bruce Bochy spent the final five seasons of his playing career with the Padres, so he was pretty familiar with Tommy Lasorda by the time he became a manager himself. But Bochy didn't really meet Lasorda face to face until 1995, when he was the first-year manager taking the lineup card out against a legend who was entering his third decade in charge of the Dodgers.
"He goes, 'Young man, I want to wish you the best of luck. You know you're going to get your ass kicked today? But I want to wish you the best of luck,'" Bochy recalled Friday, smiling.
Bochy and Lasorda only managed against each other for two seasons, and they were never in opposing dugouts for a Giants-Dodgers game, but they got to know each other well, and on Friday, a few hours after Lasorda passed away at the age of 93, Bochy remembered the former Dodgers manager as a man who was full of charisma, energy and passion for the game of baseball. He also revealed that -- for as much as Lasorda enjoyed playing the heel in front of Giants fans -- he displayed a softer side when the Giants turned it around under Bochy.
The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and Bochy soon received a nice congratulatory letter from Lasorda. The same happened in 2012, and again in 2014. Bochy said he received a note from Lasorda each time he won the NL West, too.
"As much as we had fun getting on each other, he really was a good man, and he did little things like that," Bochy said.
Bochy said he "thought the world of Tommy," who was helpful as Bochy was breaking into the managing ranks. Of course, things were a bit different when Bochy went from San Diego to San Francisco. There wasn't anyone who enjoyed the rivalry as much as Lasorda, who would soak in the boos every time he visited Candlestick Park. At the Winter Meetings in 2006, Lasorda had a little fun with the new Giants manager. In a packed hotel lobby, he spotted Bochy.
"He starts screaming and I didn't know who it was at first. When Tommy lets it go there's a lot of cuss words going on. He's putting every adjective in front of Bochy that you've ever heard. 'You no-good blank blank blank!'" Bochy said. "He's screaming it out and he goes, 'I used to talk to you, I'll never talk to you again since you signed with the Giants.' This went on for about five minutes and all of the people in the lobby think we're about to fight or something. But that was Tommy."
Lasorda was loud and over the top at all times, but as Bochy watched him manage from the other side, he saw something else.
"He was one of the first guys in that era to really embrace his players. He loved them, he always spoke so highly of them," Bochy said. "(Back then) it was more of the manager had to keep his distance, he was the guy that ran everything but he could drop the hammer. Tommy wasn't like that so much. He was a hugger. I'm not saying I'm a hugger, but it's just the relationships he built that I really looked at from the other side and admired.
"I think he reaped benefits from it. I think the players did enjoy playing with him and I think they knew that he had their back. That's something that I wanted to create when I managed."