Saturday, September 23, 2006

Lasorda Revealed As Secret BALCO Grand Jury Source

Thursday a federal judge ordered San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada to jail, pending appeal, for refusing to reveal their source for leaked grand jury testimony in the BALCO case. The testimony provided a portion of the material used by the reporters in a series of articles in the Chronicle, as well as the best-selling book Game of Shadows. Williams and Fainaru-Wada insist that they will continue to honor the confidentiality of their information provider, even facing the threat of prison time. However, Jack’s Sports Humor has learned the identity of the secret source: former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.

Game of Shadows and the Chronicle articles implicated numerous high-profile athletes as users of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. 2000 American League MVP Jason Giambi and longtime NFL bad boy Bill Romanowski were among many stars linked to BALCO’s steroid distribution. However, San Francisco Giants superstar Barry Bonds was undeniably the face of the scandal. And the gigantic head.

The involvement of Bonds appears to be the primary reason for Lasorda to leak details of the grand jury testimony. Famously bleeding Dodger blue, Tommy makes no secret of his animosity toward the hated Giants. As the face of the Giants since 1993, Barry has often been a thorn in the side of his southern California rivals. Most notably, in 2001 he broke Mark McGwire’s single-season home run record against the Dodgers, smacking three round-trippers on the final weekend to wind up with 73. Also, Bonds reportedly made anonymous phone calls to the Los Angeles front office, imploring them to grant long-term, big-money contracts to Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort.

Lasorda also had issues with others implicated in the BALCO investigation. Gary Sheffield repeatedly blasted Tommy’s beloved Dodger organization before being traded from L.A. to Atlanta in 2002. Benito Santiago greatly contributed to Cincinnati’s three-game sweep over the Dodgers in the 1995 National League Division Series – Lasorda’s final playoff appearance as a manager. Santiago also dared to be a rare non-Dodger to win National League Rookie of the Year, as a San Diego Padre in 1987. Track star Marion Jones won five medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, upstaging the surprising U.S. baseball gold medalists managed by Lasorda. The manager reportedly fumed, “She only supports the USA when it stands for Uncontrollable Steroid Abuse!”

Beyond personal grudges, Lasorda had another motivation in disclosing the grand jury testimony. For years, he was a spokesman for Slim-Fast. However, BALCO promoted the benefits of bulking up in the quest for athletic greatness. “All those years I told people how great it was to lose weight. Then these guys become huge, put up ridiculous stats, and make millions of dollars,” he noted. “I looked like an idiot!”

The question many legal experts will ask is how Tommy gained access to the confidential information. Apparently, he was able to enter the courtroom by posing as a court reporter. It seems strange that the judge did not expel him from the courtroom, particularly since Lasorda apparently recorded the grand jury testimony while wearing a Dodgers uniform. Also, the transcript of the testimony ended with the sentence “Reggie Jackson totally interfered with that double play in ’78!”

Williams and Fainaru-Wada have drawn comparisons to The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose Watergate investigation was chronicled in All the President’s Men. Woodward and Bernstein’s historic work is often cited in emphasizing the importance of anonymous sources for reporters. Their most celebrated information provider was known solely as Deep Throat for over 30 years until Mark Felt’s 2005 admission to being the mystery man. In a similar vein, the unknown source for Williams and Fainaru-Wada was simply referred to as Deep-Dish Lasagna.

The Chronicle reporters have received strong support from other journalists in their insistence on preserving the confidentiality of their source. They are absolutely correct in not telling us that it was Lasorda. Likewise, I pledge to fiercely protect the identity of my source for this article. Phillie Phanatic, your secret is safe with me.