Black History Month: Sweet Lou Johnson

 

 

Lou Johnson pubtsn101665.jpgSweet Lou still has that infectious smile.  He is an integral part to the Dodger Community Relation department. 
 

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.
Thumbnail image for lou_johnson6.jpg

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!

 

 

Thumbnail image for DFW 274 Sweet Lou Johnson 2008.jpg

Ref:  Daily News (los Angeles), Bill Plaschke of the LA Times.

 

 

29 Comments

Hey Emma! Great story on Sweet Lou! On your previous thread, love the billboards! :)

Dear Emma, I knew it you were going to end the black history month posts with Sweet Lou Johnson ! .Doesn’t he have a great smile ?

Amazing after all that time he got the ring back. Great story!

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

Hey CP!
Sweet Lou is everybody’s friend! Always walking around with a friendly smile. I can see why his teamates just loved to be around him.
.
Hey Bluedog!
You know me! yep! I thought it was perfect to ended with Sweet Lou and Sandy Koufax event tomorrow night! I bet Sweet Lou will be there to see his friend Sandy.
.
Thanks Jen! Yes, is amazing that he was able to recover the ring after all that time.

I’m so glad that story had a happy ending! Really amazing that he got the ring back – and his sobriety, of course.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Seems like Sweet Lou is a nice guy, with a big smile!
http://adriangonzalez23.mlblogs.com

Great story on Sweet Lou! He always says hello whenever I see him.

I have a couple of photos with him posted on my Facebook page.

Almost “time for Dodger Baseball”!

I re-edited my post, sorry for forgetting Eithier.
http://adriangonzalez23.mlblogs.com

Jane,
So true! The most important is him getting his sobriety. I think the kids with alcohol and drug problems listen mor to guys like Sweet Lou, Maury and Newk that have gone thru it.
.
John,
He always has a smile for everyone at the stadium.
.
Hey Dodgerlodger!
I have not seen you since I ran into you at the stadium! So good to read you here! I’ll go try to find you on facebook! Are you going to the Sandy Koufax event tomorrow? I am going by myself but there are many friends that will be there.

Woohoo! John!
thank you so much for including Andre Ethier in your thread! I’ll just ignore the last one you included ;-)

Amazing that they recovered his ring…Interwebs to the rescue! Great story!
–Jonestein
http://jonestein.mlblogs.com

Thanks Joestein,
Hey! I love what you brought to the Yard-party! Woohoo! party just got better!

Cool story… thanks for sharing! BTW, what is Sandy doing helping the METS organization!?!? Blasphemy!
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/
http://mtrredstatebluestate.com

Thit is an amazing story. A little intervention has gone a tremendously long way in Sweet Lou’s life. While being able to stay on the straight and narrow with help from the Dodgers, getting his ring back is just fantastic. It proves good things still happen.
http://thebrooklyntrolleyblogger.mlblogs.com/

Jeff!
Is my pleasure to share the story! Hey! I am OK with Sandy showing up at the Mets camp. The owner and him have been friends since their school days and he lives so close to the Mets camp. Just wish the Dodgers were still in Vero Beach since that is where Sandy lives. He used to use the Vero Beach facility to exercise and see his friends and help the pitchers also.
.
Yes Mike! Good things can happen. We just got to have faith and determination and like you said a little intervertion.

Emma , Have fun at the Torre and Koufax event !

Oh Emma, ? queres saber donde jugaron los Dodgers antes de Ebbets Field? I think you missed it by seconds when you went to the school yard earlier today. ; )
mike

Good for Lou! Glad Newcombe helped keep him on the straight-and-narrow. Glad they found Lou’s WS ring, and that the Dodgers got it back for him! Thanks, Emma! :)

Bluedog!
What an incredible night with Sandy!
WE LOVE YOU SANDY!
.
Mike!
Si, me lo perdi! Pero voy para alla en un momento. See you there!
.
You are so welcome Greg! I talked to Lou at the Koufax event but he was so busy posing for pictures, signing outgraphs and talking with friends. But I did tell him about my thread here. He put his hands together and bowed. When the season starts and he has more time I’d like to talk to him about his playing days in the minor league. He told me “Yeah, I played for Buck O’Neil.”

Wow, Emma, great story! A lot of players had drug problems, but it’s a shame that he lost his World Series ring over it. It’s great that he was able to overcome his problems, and that he’s helping to prevent kids from going down the same path that he did. I truly admire him for that.
Elizabeth
http://redsoxgirl46.mlblogs.com

Emma, thanks again for such a great article about the Sweet Lou ! The man is a true gentleman, and is so great with kids. When you talk with him, he makes it feels like you’ve been friends forever!
At last nights event, they mentioned his name more then a few times, but I didn’t see him. Was he up front? I must have kept missing him, if they showed him on the big screen. The charity event was AMAZING by the way, and I’m sure you will agree.
Can’t wait for your blog documenting your night there as well.

Go Blue!

Rob

bluecrewfan08@yahoo.com

Elizabeth,
He makes anyone that approach him feel so welcome. But yes, I love his work in the community. In the picture he is at the Sober College talking with kids with similar problems.
.
Rob!
I should have texted you! Thanks! Had fun paying tribute to Black History month and I knew I wanted to finish with Sweet Lou just prior to Sandy Koufax’s event. Sweet Lou was sitting in the front row of the left side looking at the stage. I was in the middle letter J. That was just such a great event! A night I will never forget! Are you going to Dodger STadium? I will head that way so my thread will be done when I come back! I can’t wait to read yours!

Emma,
Yes I’m going today. But just for the 2nd game. Were you in Mezz or Loge? Either way we couldn’t have been far part! What a great night anyways.

Rob

Rob,
We will be there for the 2nd game too. I was in the Mezz. You can see me in my blue at the beginning when the cameras are showing the audience and toward the end I am holding my Dodger bag. Both times I am aplauding. I am still in awe of the night!

Well no time to post my thread on Sandy Koufax. It will have to wait until I come from Dodger Stadium for the game between USC and UCLA!
Fight ON Trojans!

Uh oh……we’ll be on opposite sides of the stadium then! Go BRUINS!

Rob

Rob,
I ended up having trouble with my car so is at the mechanic. Oh well, it was not meant to be. I will be at Camelback on Friday though! I can’t wait!
.
Ok, Kaiser, I’ll check it once I finish with my Koufax post.

Kaiser!
That is awesome! Thanks you so much for sharing this! I only had a chance to check it out now!

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