WITH BROWNS IN THE RED, LASORDA TURNED DODGER BLUE
• Rick Hummel, The Post-Dispatch
• St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) • March 23, 2003
If it weren't for Bill Veeck's cash-flow problems 50 years ago, Tommy Lasorda might never have bled Dodger Blue but instead might have shed Browns brown, as unappealing as that sounds.
Before spring training in 1953, the last year the Browns existed, the Brooklyn Dodgers sold Lasorda, a 25-year-old, lefthanded pitcher, to the St. Louis Browns for $50,000.
The curveballing Lasorda was to be the fourth wheel on a staff that featured future New York Yankees Don Larsen and Bob Turley and veteran Gene Bearden.
Lasorda said thank you very much but when the train arrived in Arizona, "who's waiting for us but Bill Veeck (the Browns') owner. We go to our rooms, we change in the hotel and we're going to play the game and I get a call from (manager) Marty Marion who says, 'Come up to my room. I want to talk to you.'"
But also waiting for Lasorda in Marion's room was Veeck. The controversial, financially taxed owner told Lasorda he had been promised $2 million to move to Baltimore but that the New York Yankees had blocked the move at that point.
Veeck went on to tell Lasorda that he had no money and, in fact, owed $250,000. He hadn't paid the $50,000 for Lasorda or the $70,000 for shortstop Billy Hunter to the Dodgers, among other debts. "I've got to turn you back," said Veeck.
Lasorda said: "He didn't have to call me in and explain all that to me. But he liked me."
So, Lasorda returned to Vero Beach, Fla., and resumed bleeding Dodger Blue. "Charlie Gitto is the only person in captivity who has a picture of me in a St. Louis Browns uniform," Lasorda said of the popular St. Louis restaurant owner.
But, what if . . . ?
What if Lasorda had stayed with the Browns, who eventually were sold and moved to Baltimore the next year? Would he have become a famous Oriole and gone on to manage that team instead of fellow Hall of Famer Earl Weaver?
"Maybe he would have never come there," said Lasorda of the Beaumont High product.
"Imagine pitching in St. Louis . . . that would have been great," said Lasorda, who then ticked off the names of his teammates, even if they were so ever so briefly. "Roy Sievers. Don Lenhardt. You talk about some great guys. Dick Kokos. Clint Courtney. Babe Martin.
"Then there was Satchel Paige. Satchel Paige taught me not to worry."
Lasorda, 76, has just returned from viewing the Dodgers' baseball academy in Japan. He has spent considerable time in Japan in recent years helping to raise the quality of play.
"They call me the emperor," Lasorda said, proudly.