It simply appeared as a July 29, 1983 transaction: Phillies purchase contract of RHP Larry Andersen from Seattle Mariners. Larry and Philly turned out to be a perfect match.
Andersen was property of the Mariners but on loan to the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League, the a Phillies farm team. His stats: 52 appearances, 22 saves, 2.05 ERA. It was the third time the 25-year-old pitched in Portland where he was born.
A certain generation of Phillies fans know him as one of the team’s broadcasters, something he’s been doing since 1998. That came after pitching here for six years. He made Philadelphia his home. His respect and popularity are reflected in the fact he is known to everyone by his initials, LA.
Who is “LA”? The best answer appears in the foreword he wrote for my book, “The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 years of Phillies Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits.” The edited version:
“You are not good enough.” Those were the words that Rene Lachemann (Seattle manager) spoke to me in 1982. To some that may sound like a baseball death sentence, especially because it was the worst team in baseball, but for me it led to MY Baseball Heaven. The most fun I ever had in baseball were my six years with the Phils, although it seemed more like 60.
We all have faces and places and they all change over time, but for some the facial changes are not always for the better. I was a cute little baby, well maybe not little, but cute, nonetheless. At least that’s what all my ancient friends and relatives said at the time. As we grow our faces constantly change, and in my case was not necessarily for the better. This was truly evidenced by my lack of girlfriends in school. I did eventually lose my baby fat, and because of that, combined with my witty, outgoing personality, I was positive that I would overcome the facial change and be surrounded by girls everywhere. Obviously along the way I miss calculated, and at that time I decided to change course. I was going to be consumed from that point on with nothing more than making sure I had fun in whatever endeavor I followed. The motto for the rest of my life became “You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever.”
I loved playing sports and certainly had fun doing it. Although I loved football and basketball, my true love was being on a dirt hill 60’ 6″ from a competitor holding a wooden stick and trying to make me look bad… I didn’t need help with that!
After just turning 18 and graduating from high school, yes, I actually did, I was chosen by the Cleveland Indians in the seventh round of the 1971 draft. I was stunned that two other pitchers in the state of Washington were picked ahead of me, one in the fourth round and the other in the fifth. That all became a moot point when the Indians threw $10,000 my way to sign with them and spurn a football/baseball scholarship to attend the University of Oregon. It was an easy decision at the time, as Oregon didn’t offer a major in practical jokes.
Most baseball players travel the whole country from small towns to large cities. For me, that was certainly the case, but I also had the experience of spending six winters of my early career in foreign lands, including four in Puerto Rico and two in Venezuela. The language barrier was somewhat of a challenge. However, I learned early how to use bodily gestures to translate my wants and needs. Apparently, I wasn’t very good at that either as was proven one winter while playing for the LaGuira Tiburones. When I moved into my condominium, I noticed the toilet was clogged, so I marched down to the “supermercado”, the supermarket as we know it, to pick up some Draino. Using gestures that obviously only I understood, I was sent home with what I later realized was toilet cleanser.
So, I lived in six different cities in major-league baseball covering 17 years, 12 cities in the mino
r-league’s spanning 9 1/2 seasons as well as the two foreign lands over six winters. An iPhone with GPS would certainly have come in handy, but in a day when my baseball cards were still printed in black-and-white, the technology available was restricted to paper maps that can NEVER be folded back up the way they were when purchased. I felt like I should have been working for a moving company as much as my “home” changed.
I was traded, released, loaned out, sent down, optioned out and purchased, as well as becoming a
gent six times. Was I that bad? Or was I that good? Either way I felt like I got less respect than Rodney Dangerfield. When you figure the buses, the flights, apartments, hotels and motels, small locker rooms including trailers, fast food restaurants and dive bars due to our $5.000 a day meal money allowance, then maybe, just maybe, you can now see that my face could have been in just about any place.
One of the more trying times in my life was when I got traded to Boston for potential Hall of Famer Jef
f Bagwell. To this day I would still feel safer with some tighter security when I travel to Boston. However, I also believe that even throwing just 22 innings for the Red Sox, after the trade, it was an integral part of us making the playoffs that year. So, is it really the worst trade Boston ever made? You may want to check with “The Babe” although that’s not possible, but you get the idea.
As I stated earlier, my baseball heaven was in Philadelphia. At age 30, I was one of the younger players on the ’83 “Wheeze Kids.” But, what a thrill. Imagine walking into a clubhouse and seeing no less than four future Hall of Famer’s, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez, as well as Pete Rose, Garry Maddox, Tug McGraw and the “Sarge,” Gary Matthews. Talk about baseball heaven!
Yet by far the greatest thrill of my baseball career began in the spring of ’93 when I not only walked in, but fit in, with that band of misfits. We truly were a bunch of rejects and that was definitely the main thing we had in common. We loved to party but loved to play baseball even more. On one spring-training bus trip, after Dutch (Darren Daulton) had just signed a new and very lucrative contract, Krukker (John Kruk) said to Dutch “Why don’t you build a big mansion, and we can hang out, party and then play baseball” to which “Inky” (Pete Incaviglia) replied without hesitation, “If you build it, we will come.” Everyone busted up, but that was genuinely how we felt, about baseball and each other. We were gruff, scrappy and played our ass off, both on and off the field. That is why this city loved us so much. Blue-collar baby, that is exactly what we represented. I doubt there’ll ever be another team quite like that one.
When we clinched the pennant that year in Pittsburgh, we were joined in the trainer’s room by Harry the K, Harry Kalas, the father figure to some and the grandfather figure to others. He was one of us, part of our close-knit family and we loved him. Especially when he led us on his rendition of “High Hopes.” When “H of K” passed, I remember trying to choke back tears, to no avail as I did my best to answer questions outside the clubhouse in Washington, DC. I also remember similar scenarios every time I hung a slider. So sad.
I can’t say I was in my prime during that ’93 season but being around that group of guys certainly made me feel like it. Wearing masks, wigs, cone heads, pinching sunflower seeds on my face, putting in fake teeth as well as Mitchypoo (Mitch Williams) spraying instant hair on my head and on and on. Immaturity at its best, but we did what we had to do, just to get through a grueling 162 games schedule with some sanity.
Although I’m not exactly an astute historian, I do have a memory and cannot figure out why I’m not at least mentioned in the chapter of Unbreakable Records. Consider this, 699 major league games and only one start. Or, my five career hits giving me a lifetime .364 career average, better than even Tony Gwynn. I just make the numbers work for me, for example 11 years in the National League and hits in four of those years. 4 for 11, do the math. And all that with bruised knees from shaking against each other every time I stepped in the box. Or how about the most seasons with one at bat or less? Ineptitude at its best. I often used philosophy to help me get over my nervousness which leads me to one final question… Why are they singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” when they’re already there?