From his rough & tumble boyhood surroundings in Baltimore's Little Italy, hard by the waterfront, Thomas Ludwig John D'Alesandro Jr. fought his way toward the political big time. He never lost an election, became mayor of Baltimore, and was ready for greater things.
Last September, after a year of dogged effort and two rejections by the Ameri- can League, he won a big-time baseball franchise for his city. He looked forward to the day when he would welcome a major-league team back to Baltimore.
"We'll have a red carpet, "he said. "We'll strew orchids." But a whirlwind of mis fortune was shattering Tommy's dream.
At Home & Abroad. The year after Baltimore lost its last major-league ball club 52 years ago, Tommy was born in a crowded row house on President Street, the fourth of his mother's 13 children. To support them, Tomaso D'Alesandro, Tommy's father, swung a pick in a city rock quarry. Such work was not for junior. While still at night high school, he hung around the Third Ward Democratic headquarters, at election time rang door bells and passed handbills.
Precinct Worker Tommy learned his politics under Baltimore's Democratic Boss Willie Curran, but at 22, in defiance of the machine, he got elected to the Maryland house of delegates. After two terms, Tommy wangled an appointment in the Internal Revenue Bureau's New York office, and named his second son Franklin Delano Roosevelt D'Alesandro (afterwards known as "Roosey"). Back in Baltimore, Tommy served a term on the city council, then ran for Congress against the machine-backed incumbent. By a 58-vote margin, Tommy won.
In 1947, after eight years in Congress, Tommy ran for mayor of Baltimore. Again he bucked the Curran machine. When Tommy won hands down, friends expected him to move his wife Annunciata (Nancy) and their six children from the rugged Third Ward to a gentler neighborhood. But the D'Alesandros stayed put. Tommy said: "It's not where you live, it's how you live."
The new mayor fixed streets, built schools and parking garages, fought delinquency, won a second term, became Democratic National Committeeman. Last summer, representing the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Tommy and wife Nancy went to Europe, were welcomed by a dozen mayors.
Joy & Sorrow. The day of their return to Baltimore, they learned that son Roosey, along with 15 other youths, had been arrested on a charge of taking two girls, ages 13 and 11, on an all night joy ride and keeping them in a furnished flat for a week. He was acquitted of the rape charge, but out of the investigation of this case grew a perjury indictment against 21-year-old Roosey. But Tommy confidently announced his candidacy for governor ten months before the primary.
The whirlwind next struck at Tommy's parking garages and in a few gusts forced him to quit the gubernatorial race. A contractor named Dominic Piracci, who seemed to have a corner on the city's garage-building business, was convicted of fraud, conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Piracci and Tommy had long been friends, even before Piracci's daughter, Margie, married Tommy D'Alesandro III.