January 9, 2021 – Hall of Fame MLB manager Tommy Lasorda, colorful as he was wide, was linked to Los Angeles mob figure Joe De Carlo, a former member of the old Mickey Cohen Gang of the 1940s and 50s. The friendship was revealed in a 1986 Sports Illustrated article on gambling in pro sports. Through the years, LaSorda has been seen dining and socializing with a number of mobsters and mob associates.
LaSorda died of a heart attack this week at age 93. He managed the L.A. Dodgers from 1976 until 1996, winning two World Series and becoming an icon of baseball in that era with his quippy, larger-than-life persona. He pitched in the Big Leagues for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Kansas City Athletics.
Mickey Cohen was the Jewish mob boss of California, making headlines for his war with the L.A. Italian mafia led by Jack Dragna. Cohen had non-Jewish soldiers in his gang, like Joe De Carlo, who became his “go-to man” for ladies of the night.
According to FBI records, De Carlo ran prostitution affairs for the L.A. mob up through the 1980s. He managed music acts (Sonny & Cher for a period of time) and strippers (famous topless dancers like Candy Barr and Tempest Storm) and co-owned Pips International in Beverly Hills with Playboy Magazine owner Hugh Hefner.
LaSorda, originally from Philadelphia, admitted to his friendship with De Carlo and notorious Hollywood mob attorney and fixer Sidney Korshak (d. 1996). FBI surveillance reports also show him breaking bread with the L.A. mob’s former Palm Springs capo Jimmy Caci (d. 2011) and New York mob transplants Dominic (Donnie Shacks) Montemarano of the Colombo crime family and Joe Isgro of the Gambino crime family, respectively representing their organizations on the west coast.
De Carlo’s FBI file asserts that he had access to the Dodgers’ clubhouse during the 1980s and was a frequent visitor to LaSorda’s office at Dodgers Stadium. LaSorda himself was never implicated in any wrongdoing.
De Carlo was present at and indicted in the gangland murder of Jack (The Enforcer) Whalen on December 2, 1959, but eventually had the charges against him dismissed. Whalen, a debt collector for the Dragna mob, was shot between the eyes by a Cohen lieutenant in the middle of Rondelli’s, an Italian restaurant in Sherman Oaks, as Whalen was physically attacking occupants at Cohen’s table over an unpaid gambling tab.
Cohen died of stomach cancer in 1976, long retired from his mob activity. In the final years of his life, Cohen reinvented himself as a celebrity tabloid personality and made the television talk-show rounds. De Carlo died in 2016 at 92 years old of natural causes.