Schenectady Blue Jays
who Made the Major Leagues

From Baseball's
Canadian-American League
by David Pietrusza
Schenectady’s most famous alumnus was future Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda.

“I was there nearly a month,� wrote Lasorda in his autobiography, “before my family
knew where I was. I couldn’t even pronounce Schenectady, much less spell it, so I wrote
my family that I was ten miles outside Albany. They thought that was the name of the town, Ten
Miles Outside Albany. Only later did I realize that they weren’t too sure where Albany was

In 1948 young Lasorda was a nearly svelte Phillies farmhand who could throw hard but couldnâ
€™t quite get the horsehide over the plate, walking 153 in 198 innings. He had a pile of trouble
in other departments as well.

Lasorda, for example, had a few problems with unsavory local characters. During the off-
season he took a job managing one of Schenectady’s largest bowling alleys. He soon quit
when he learned it was a front for a bookie joint in the basement.

In Gloversville late in the season, Lasorda was approached in a local pool hail, and offered
$100 to throw a game. “Get outta here before I kill you,� he growled.

Staked to a six-run first inning lead, Tommy promptly blew it and was showering by the second
frame. On the way out his benefactor whispered to him: “You should have taken the money.â
€� Tommy went after him with a vengeance.

He could pitch when he was in the strike zone, however. Against Amsterdam on May 31,
1948, he fanned 25 in 15 innings (he also walked 12 and hit 1, while winning 6-5). It was a hell
of a game. Lasorda fanned outfielder George Morehouse six times in seven plate appearances.
In every inning from the second through the ninth, Tommy got the final out with a “K.� In
one stretch he punched out six in a row. Yet Lasorda almost lost in the 12th as he allowed two
runs, but his teammates promptly tied the score. In the 15th, Tommy singled in the winning run.

You’d think that would be enough heroics for a season, but the lefthander (you just knew
he’d be lefthanded, didn’t you?) struck out 15 and 13 in his next two starts. The 25
whiffs were a league mark, shattering the nine-inning standard of 22 set in 1942 by Glovers
southpaw Earl Jones
against Rome.

“Tommy,â€� reminisces Guy Barbieri, “was cocky. I mean when he out there, donâ
€™t talk to him about anything. He wanted to strike them out. He wanted to strike out every
one of them, and he’d come in and he’d say, ‘Why that so-and-so, I’ll get him
next time!’ And he was tough, and his ambition he’d say was, ‘I’ll make the
Majors some day.’

“Tommy would fight at the drop of a hat. He wouldn’t take any guff from anybody. If
there was ball players fighting, he’d be the first one in the scuffle. He’d be the first one
in anything.�

“He used to coach third base when he wasn’t pitching,� recalls Eber Davis, then a
young Glovers fan, “and when he would shout you could hear him all over the park, with
that raucous voice of his. My mother couldn’t stand him. She must be rolling over in her
grave thinking of him with the Dodgers.�

“Tommy was a real dummy when he was here,â€� contends fellow hurler Charley Baker. â
€œHe didn’t know enough to come out of the rain, but he sure knows now. He was a
good pitcher. He had a curve ball that would drop right off the table, but he was ‘smart’
and a wise guy. One of those types. He and [pitcher] Duke Markell teamed up together, and,
boy, they were something else! Nobody liked them.

“In fact, probably the biggest story about him was that he missed the bus going to Quebec,
and so he went ahead and got a yellow cab and told him to charge it to McNearney and rode it
all the way to Quebec, and McNearney almost died when he got the bill, you know. He was
cheap anyway. It was more money than Lasorda’s monthly pay, I guess. IMcNearney]
almost died. He didn’t go for that at all. Should have stayed home I guess. ...

“Tommy was flamboyant, cocky and aggravating. You name it.�

Lasorda’s combativeness stemmed in part from edginess and insecurity, as his 9-12 mark
wasn’t a world beater. Yet he did pitch well against Ed Head’s Three Rivers Royals,
and Head recommended to the Dodgers that they take a chance on Lasorda. They drafted him
for $4,000.

“I was thrilled,� says Lasorda, “it was one thing not to be good enough to play for the
sixth-place Philadelphia Phillies, it was far more exciting not to be good enough to play for the
Dodgers... I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had just married the Dodgers for life.�

Besides Lasorda the Blue Jays also sent up hurlers
Barney Schultz (future Nankai Hawks and
St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach),
Steve Ridzik (the youngest Blue Jay ever and the first to
go to the majors),
Harry “Duke� Markell, Angelo LiPetri and Lynn Lovenguth,
Bobby Micelotta, and catcher Carl Sawatski.

The Paris-born Markell pitched three no-hitters in the minors. He set the all-time Can-Am
strikeout mark of 280 in 1948, and later became a policeman, pounding a beat in the romantic
Bronx. He hurled two one-hitters, and against Rome in August fanned 21 but was also capable
of walking eight or ten per game.

“Markell was the same way [as Lasorda],� adds Charlie Baker. “I remember one
night when ILee] Riley’d run out of pitchers. Everybody had pitched their arms off, and a
few of them were hurt or something, and he asked for volunteers, and Markell says ‘Well,
you want to win tonight, Skipper, let the Duke pitch.’ So he put him in. It was against
Oneonta. Jeez. They rocked him terrible. Something like 16 to nothing. He kept looking at the
dugout. Riley would go back and have another cigarette. ‘You wanted to pitch, you got it!â

“He was a heck of a pitcher. He had all kinds of talent.�

Sawatski, an outfielder for the Jays, became president of the Texas League but that didn’t
stop the Phillies organization from cutting him loose in 1946.
McNearney Stadium, Schenectady, New York