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CROWE'S NEST / JERRY CROWE

Flo Snyder shares her Dodgers memories

Snyder, the first person hired by the team after it moved from Brooklyn, has written a book about her experiences, "Lady in the Locker Room: Madcap Memoirs of the Early L.A. Dodgers."

October 05, 2009|JERRY CROWE

The wild goose chase started with a simple request from an apparently flustered Gil Hodges: Could the young woman please help him find the keys to the batter's box?

They'd been lost, he said.

That was all the recently hired newcomer needed to hear.

Eager to lend a hand but unschooled in the ways of baseball and naive to the childish pranks perpetrated by ballplayers, she ignored the heat and humidity in Vero Beach, Fla., and set off across Dodgertown in dogged pursuit of the missing keys.

Hodges sent her to Duke Snider, who suggested she try Pee Wee Reese, who pointed her toward Don Zimmer -- and on and on, her fruitless search continuing despite her blouse sticking to her back and droplets of sweat rolling down her cheeks.

Finally, her face beet red, not from the Florida sun but from embarrassment, she caught on to the charade.

She'd been punked, '50s style.

Flo Snyder still laughs at the 51-year-old memory. "That," she says, "tells you how much I knew about baseball."

The former Flo Thomasian was the first person hired by the Dodgers after they ditched Brooklyn for her hometown of Los Angeles. And while not well versed in the national pastime when she started, she knew funny stories when she heard them.

Or lived them.

Snyder, 83, has included many of her favorites in a lighthearted, engaging account of her 10 years with the club, "Lady in the Locker Room: Madcap Memoirs of the Early L.A. Dodgers."

The book's provocative title notwithstanding, Snyder actually spent little time in the clubhouse -- except for the time she memorably was duped into the players' lair only to be greeted by a major league mooning by an unidentified perpetrator.

Snyder, a Garfield High and USC graduate, was an assistant to the Dodgers' legendary publicist, Red Patterson.

And thrilled to be involved.

"The arrival of the Dodgers was so exciting," Snyder says from her home in Carmel. "At the Coliseum that first year, the ballplayers would peer out of the dugout and see all these movie stars in the front rows -- and the movie stars would be peering right back at them. They were in awe of each other."

Snyder was spellbound too -- even before Hodges, Snider, Reese and the rest of the Dodgers touched down.

"You could feel the vibration of major league baseball coming to Southern California," she says. "When Walter O'Malley announced he was bringing the Dodgers, the city of L.A. was just going wild with anticipation and I was caught up in that."

So she applied for the job and got it, even though she knew little about baseball and had never seen a professional game.

Later, Snyder traveled the world as director of tourism for the state of California, but she says the most enjoyable time in her life was the time she spent working for the Dodgers.

"Can you imagine a young, single girl -- and in those days, girls did not have exciting careers -- getting this memo from the traveling secretary telling me to be at the airport to board the Dodger plane because I was going to spring training?" she says. "I really think that was the most exciting moment of my life."

In those days, she says, players regularly socialized with front-office personnel. A family atmosphere was fostered.

"We all lived out in the Valley, so we were constantly at each other's houses," says Snyder, who counted several players and their wives among her closest friends. "There were parties and dinners. You know, we all sort of hung out with each other."

So Snyder knew all about it when the famously private Sandy Koufax was quietly dating a grammar school teacher named Marge Zizzi, a supposedly secret relationship.

Snyder writes that one of Zizzi's students, who'd one day been in the crowd at the airport welcoming home the Dodgers, later stood up in class to show off the autographs he'd collected.

Wrapping up his show-and-tell session, the youngster happily noted, " . . . and I saw Sandy Koufax kissing Miss Zizzi."

Snyder says she never dated any players, but notes that just working for the team improved her social standing.

"Suddenly," she says, "I could get any date I wanted because the guy that took me out knew he was going to get great seats to a Dodger game. In fact, one guy I really liked took me to dinner and then to the Coliseum. My seats were right behind home plate and he turns to me and says, 'Will you marry me?' "

Snyder declined but her association with the Dodgers continued to give her cachet long after she left the ballclub in 1968. Whenever she gave speeches on behalf of California tourism, she notes, someone would inquire about her former job.

"That one little line from my bio created such a stir," Snyder says. "I'd be ready to take questions about the tourism program and all anybody wanted to know about was the Dodgers."

That gave her the idea to share her experiences in a book.

"When I'd tell these stories," she says, "people would always laugh. It's a great feeling to think you made people laugh."

In "Lady in the Locker Room," she's done it again.

--

jerome.crowe@latimes.com

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