When the original Washington Senators decided to move to Minneapolis for the 1961 season, American League owners quickly added an expansion team to the nation's capital. The franchise kept the Senators moniker but had to hire a new staff, which included Ethel LaRue to work as a secretary in the
When the original Washington Senators decided to move to Minneapolis for the 1961 season, American League owners quickly added an expansion team to the nation's capital. The franchise kept the Senators moniker but had to hire a new staff, which included Ethel LaRue to work as a secretary in the scouting department.
"I was just a kid back then," she used to say about that time with the Senators.
She grew up in a hurry, creating a career in baseball that saw her spend more than 50 years working in the front offices for the Senators, moving to Texas when the franchise relocated to Arlington, as well as the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians.
She had plenty of stories to tell.
And she had many that she took with her when she died late Tuesday night after a lengthy illness, nearly 58 years after taking that first job with the Senators.
The folks she met in baseball became her family.
"She signed my first pro contract," said longtime baseball executive Joe Klein, who signed with the Senators as a first baseman in 1962 at the age of 20, and has been in the game ever since, currently serving as Commissioner of the independent Atlantic League.
"Ethel was invaluable. She knew the rules. She knew the players. And in the later years she knew the agents. People like Ethel are the heart and soul of a franchise."
Her love of the game was apparent by her staying power. With the Senators, Rangers and Mariners she was never associated with a team that went to the postseason and were probably better known for the financial troubles of the ownership groups she worked for.
And while she was with the Indians during the resurgence of the franchise that began in the mid 1990s, she first went to Cleveland when the team was in the estate of the late Steve O'Neill, but Klein was the general manager, and she trusted working for him.
It was those old ties that took her to Seattle as well, leaving the Rangers to join the Mariners when Dan O'Brien went from being the general manager in Texas to assuming the same position in Seattle.
LaRue would laugh at many of her experiences, like the winter in Texas when a woman showed up with a baby in arms, explaining it was the son of a Rangers player whom LaRue declined to identify, and laid the baby on LaRue's desk as she walked out of the office.
Former Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd was one of several executives from Baltimore who were hired by the Indians in 1988 to revitalize that franchise after Richard Jacobs purchased the team. He was initially the team's director of player development, and he is quick to credit LaRue with providing strong guidance.
"It wasn't just baseball," said O'Dowd, now a commentator with MLB Network. "She helped me grow as a person. She challenged me to be better in every phase of my life."
Of course she did.
It was, after all, the least she could do for a member of her baseball family.
Tracy Ringolsby is a national columnist for MLB.com.