January 25, 2016

A Marine musters Lasorda out of the regiment in 1953

Jack Kemp

In case some readers didn't know, the St. Louis Browns were an American League team that later became the Baltimore Orioles. And Bill Veeck, an innovative owner of several teams, is in the Hall of Fame as an owner.

From Page 70 of Lasorda's book "I Live for This!"...

In fact, for about three hours, he was actually part of the St. Louis Browns' starting rotation. It was 1953, a couple of months after he had been sold to St. Louis. He was traveling east with the Browns after they finished spring training in San Bernadino, California. Just before the trip, Lasorda had been informed that he was in the opening day rotation. He was staring out at the desert and marveling at his good fortune when the train stopped in Phoenix and Bill Veeck, the Browns' owner, asked to see him.

"I knew it couldn't be good," Lasorda recalls. But I'm thinking, 'What are the gonna do, throw me off the train in the middle of nowhere?'"

In its way, it was just as bad. Veeck told Lasorda that because of the team's mounting debt, he couldn't afford the $50,000 it had cost to buy him. He was sending Lasorda back to the Dodgers. Just like that, Lasorda had been dropped from a big-league mound into a maddening purgatory and passed back and forth like a bruised piece of fruit. Everybody admired him, but nobody wanted him.


Now Mr. Veeck and his team had just completed spring training with Lasorda, so they had a chance to get to know Tommy's history around the time that WWII ended, very possibly from casual personal conversations. I cannot prove the following difference between Mr. Veeck's WWII service and Lasorda's service, listed below, figured in Veeck's decision to dump Lasorda instead of the $50,000 cost of acquiring the then young pitcher. It is anybody's guess as to why Veeck dropped him, but here is what Mr. Veeck did during the war.

From Wikipedia's page on Bill Veeck:


While a half-owner of the Brewers, Veeck served for nearly three years in the United States Marine Corps during World War II in an artillery unit. During this time a recoiling artillery piece crushed his leg, requiring amputation first of the foot, and shortly after of the leg above the knee. Over the course of his life he had 36 operations on the leg.[1] He had a series of wooden legs and, as an inveterate smoker, cut holes in them to use as an ashtray.


Mr. Veeck is also shown in Wikipedia recooperating from his war wounds in 1944. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Veeck#/media/File:Bill_Veeck_1944.jpg ;

That means Veeck entered the Marines early in World War II. And probably those 36 operations, whenever they happened, were a indelible reminder of what he sacrificed, significantly more than what Tommy Lasorda had sacrificed. Players have been traded off of teams for less reason than this.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 07:23 AM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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