Black History Month: Sweet Lou Johnson
Back in 2008, a friend from the InsidetheDodgers blog asked me if I knew if Sweet Lou Johnson had recovered his World Series Ring.
I’ll tell you all about the ring, but first let me give you a little history on Sweet Lou.
Sweet Lou Johnson was born September 22, 1935 in Lexington, Kentucky.
He played in the Negro Leagues in 1955 with the Indianapolis Clowns and The Kansas City Monarchs.
Sweet Lou was a journeyman outfielder, promoted from the Dodgers triple-A Spokane at the age of 30, only when Tommy Davis broke his ankle early in the 1965 season.
1965 Sweet Lou and Koufax.
- He hit the decisive home run in Game 7 of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins with Koufax on the mound.
- he collected the only hit in the 1-0 perfect game thrown by Dodger ace Sandy Koufax on September 9, 1965.
- He hit only 12 home runs that year–but that was enough to tie for the team lead!
He played three more seasons but never equaled the magic of 1965.
Losing and Recovering his World Series Ring.
Two years after he retired in 1969, desperate for a cocaine fix, Johnson gave his World Series ring to a Seattle drug dealer as collateral.
He drove across town for the money
When he returned two hours later, the drug dealer and the ring were gone.
One day in 1980, Johnson had two phone numbers written on a piece of paper. One belonged to Don Newcombe.
Johnson intended to dial the other number but, under the influence, mistakenly called Newcombe, who had kicked his own alcohol problems and was working for the Dodgers as a counselor.
Newcombe arranged for Johnson to attend, at the Dodgers’ expense, a treatment center. Johnson became clean on Nov. 9, 1980, and after he completed the program, Newcombe arranged for him a job in the organization.
For the past 30 years, Johnson has worked in community relations, speaking to schoolchildren about his experiences and acting as a goodwill ambassador for the team.
And he hasn’t slipped once.
Here is Sweet Lou working with kids from Sober College in Woodland Hills, CA.
“Don Newcombe told me, ‘If you ever take another drink, I’ll break your legs,’ and they ain’t broke yet,” Johnson said with a laugh. “What the Dodgers did was they put some pride back in my life.”
They also got his ring back. It was discovered in an unclaimed safety deposit box and was being auctioned on the Internet. Johnson didn’t have the $3,500 to buy it, so the Dodgers bought it for him.
The ring made Johnson complete again when it was returned in 2001, 30 years after he lost it, an act that further indebted Johnson to a Dodgers organization he credits for saving his life.
Sweet Lou: You are very dear to us Dodger Fans!
Ref: Daily News (los Angeles), Bill Plaschke of the LA Times.