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.
On this picture: From left) King Tut with a huge mitt, manager Oscar Charleston and Connie Morgan.
Connie was born October 17, 1935 in Philadelphia. She died in 1996.
In addition to Baseball, Connie played basketball for a well known city-wide team, the Rockettes.
Morgan initiated the signing herself with the Indianapolis Clowns. When she read a newspaper article about women playing for the Clowns, she wrote Syd Pollack directly and asked for a try-out. When the Clowns went to Baltimore in 1954 to play an exhibition game with the Orioles, Pollack invited her to come down and show what she could do.
Pollack was impressed with Morgan’s ability and signed the nineteen year-old to a two year-contract.
The 5’4″ 135 pounds second baseman hit around .300 sharing second base duties with Ray Neil and batting third in the line-up.
Clown’s manager Oscar Charleston called her “one of the most sensational” female players he had ever seen.
The highlight of Connie Morgan’s careeer came on July 12, 1954 when she returned to her home town for a game with the Kansas City Monarchs in Phladelphia’s Connie Mack Stadium.
She was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
I had fun reading about all the three women that played alongside the men in the Negro League.
Is still two more days till Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training for the Dodgers. The wait has been long, especially reading that alot of teams already reported. Hurry boys! We are starving for some news!
Here is another way to help Haiti
The link is also on the right side.
Since 2005, Soles4Souls has given away over 5.5 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes (currently donating one pair every 9 seconds.) Last year alone, Americans discarded more than 300 million pairs of shoes. (eco side note: When these shoes break down in our landfills, the toxic glue that holds the shoes together can leak into our water supply and atmosphere.) Imagine if those shoes went to 300 million people in need of them. Start donating to Soles4Souls today kids, CLICK HERE, to find out a drop off location or HERE to learn how to start your own (company, school, community) shoe drive.
Where I work we have done the Souls4Souls and donated the shoes to a local school. This time we are doing the drive again to benefit Haiti but if you want to donate your slightly used shoes, click above where it says HERE and enter your zipcode.
She played for the Indianapolis Clowns from 1953 to 1955 and had a 33-8 W-L record.
Here is a cover of a children’s book titled: “A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie “Peanut Johnson by Michelle Y. Green. Grades 4-6.
Despise the hardship, there were memorable highlights for Johnson. The great LEROY SATCHEL PAIGE helped her perfect the curveball. Don’t squeeze the ball so tight, Paige told her. and let it break to the outside.
According to Johnson her most unforgettable moment came in a game between the Clowns and the Kansas City Monarchs. Facing off against third baseman Hank Bayliss with a runner on first, Johnson threw a called strike. the second ball was high and outside. Johnson’s third ball was another strike. According to Johnson, Bayliss then called out to her on the mound with a voice so loud, the crowd could hear him. “YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A PEANUT”, he alledgedly yelled. Johnson reared back and threw a third strike–gaining a strike out and a nickname at the same time!
After her baseball career ended, she was a nurse for 30 years, and also coached youth baseball. When she retired from nursing, she was the manager of a Negro Leagues memorabilia shop. She was also a guest lecturer at a Library of Congress symposium in October 2009.
Here is Mamie as a young girl and in uniform in 2007.
ref: African American Lives. Michelle Green’s book.
Three Women played with the men in the Negro League. They were:
TONI STONE, and accomplished athlete from Minneapolis, who was contracted to play second base in 1953 and took over for Hank Aaron when Aaron left the Indianapolis Clowns for the majors.
MAMIE “PEANUTS” JOHNSON, a right-hander pitcher from Washington D.C., was the second female signed. she was a pitcher for the Clowns.
CONNIE MORGAN, from Philadelphia, became the third woman to be signed to a Negro Leagues contracts when Toni Stone was traded in 1954 to the Kansas City Monarchs.
Her married name was Marceni Lyle Stone Alberga. Alberga, a man 40 years her senior, like her parents was not in favor of Stone playing professional baseball. “He would have stopped me if he could,” Stone later said. “But he couldn’t.”
Stone was quite proud of the fact that the male players were out to get her. She would show off the scars on her left wrist and remember the time she had been spiked by a runner trying to take out the woman standing on second base. ‘He was out,’ she recalled.
When Pollack, the owner of The Clowns asked her to play in a skirt, she refused! She also would not consent to play in shorts and made it clear that she would dress in the same uniforms as her male teammates did.
The highlight of Stone’s career came during her first season with the Clowns when she got a single off legendary pitcher Satchel Paige during an exhibition game in Omaha. Stone was almost as surprised as Paige. The clean single over second base was “the happiest moment of my life,” she said.
She was delighted in 1985 to be inducted into the Women’s Sports Foundation International Sports Hall fo Fame.
Toni Stone died of heart failure at age 75, in Alameda California. A baseball field in her hometown of St. Paul was dedicated in her memory in 1997.
We salute you Toni Stone!
next: Mamie “Peanuts” Johnson.
p.s. I am having fun learning about these female baseball players!
SIx days ’till Pitchers and Catchers report for the Dodgers!
ref: African American National Biography, MLB.com