Thursday, December 3, 2009

Card #14, Lerrin LaGrow!

It is now time for card #14 featuring big right-handed pitcher Lerrin LaGrow. I don’t know how to verify such things, but this is the only person named Lerrin that I can recall ever playing baseball… This card is one of those that I really need to upgrade; it’s creased down the middle and was probably traded back and forth many times before I finally ended up with it. LaGrow was 28 years old and in his 7th big league season in 1977. He had just come to the Chicago White Sox that spring in a pitcher for pitcher trade with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Sox got Lagrow and the Cards got Clay Carroll. Lagrow had spent the first 5 years of his big league career as a starter with the Detroit Tigers, but in ’77 he moved into the bullpen full-time and won the job as White Sox closer. This was arguably the best season he had in his 10 year career. He won 7 games coming out of the bullpen which was 1 less victory than the personal best he had set in 1974 when he won 8 for the Tigers. It took Lagrow 11 complete games to win 8, he lost 19 that year. When Bob Lemon decided to put him in the ‘pen full time and use him as their closer, it turned out to be a very wise decision. LaGrow had the finest season of his 10 year career in 1977, he was 7-3 with a 2.46 ERA in ’77; he appeared in 66 games, finishing 49 of them. He pitched 98 innings and earned 25 saves finishing in the top five in the AL in games, saves and games finished.
After the Sox LaGrow spent ’79 with the Dodgers and had a pretty good year (5-1, 3/41 ERA) and then signed with the Phillies in 1980. After going 0-2 in 25 appearances the Phillies cut him in July and that ended his 10 year career. He finished with a 34-55 record, a 4.11 ERA in 309 games-he completed 19 of those games and saved 54 of them (250th All Time). LaGrow runs a very successful real estate based business in his home state of Arizona and has had no association with baseball since his retirement in 1980. Now, let’s get into…

The Nitty Gritty
Full Name: Lerrin Harris LaGrow
Position: relief pitcher
Age-Now and Then: 61, was 28 in ’77.
Team’s 1977 Record: 90-72, 3rd in AL West
Topps Rookie Card: 1971 Topps, Card #39, with Gene Lamont.
Number of Topps Base Cards: 8
Playball! Triple
1977 Stats Line: 7-3 with 2.45 ERA. 25 saves.
Awards in 1977: The White Sox closer job
Distinguishing Feature: Ripped plastic sleeves.
Similar Modern Player: Bobby Jenks.
What I said about this card then: There are no kids in my class named Lerrin.
What I think about this card now: Man, I wish the Sox still held spring training in Sarasota AND how did this card get creased this badly?
Back of the card memorable moment: Was Tigers top right-handed reliever of 1973 campaign.
Back of the card “fun fact”: Lerrin ranked among the league’s top relievers last season. The condition is BAD. Soft corners and big crease down the middle. Definitely needs an upgrade!
Grooviness factor: What is groovier than his name, it rolls off the tongue-Lerrin LaGrow…I am pretty sure he is the only Lerrin to ever reach the big leagues that is GROOVY!
Wow! Factor: Was on the Phillies in 1980 but was given his release in July BEFORE they went on to win the World Series… He had 3 saves for the Phillies that year.
What’s weird about this card: Jerseys with collars are bizarre to me, so are the poses that photographers get players to strike.
Career Accolades: His 54 saves is 250th of All Time
Best Season: 1977 when he was 7-3 with 25 saves-3rd in the AL. Nitty Gritty Fun Facts: LaGrow’s most famous pitch during his career came in the playoffs in 1972. It wasn’t a big strikeout or the last out of an inning. It was game 2 of the ALCS, LaGrow was pitching for Detroit and they were facing Oakland. LL came on in the 6th inning in relief. He was the 4th Tigers pitcher of the night and they were down 5-0. In the 6th inning he retired the A’s 7-8-9 hitters in order, but when he started the 7th inning, chaos ensued. Bert Campaneris, the A’s leadoff batter and shortstop led off the 7th inning. Campaneris had a hit in each of his 3 prior at-bats and he had scored twice. The first pitch that LaGrow threw hit Bert Campaneris in the ankle. BC flung his bat at LaGrow on the mound. It was a pretty serious fling, but LL ducked and it went over his head. Of course this led to a benches clearing melee and (of course) Tigers manager Billy Martin flipped out and had to be restrained from going after Campaneris. LaGrow and Campaneris were both suspended from the remainder of the ALCS, Campaneris was replaced by Del Maxvill and the A’s went on to beat the Tigers in 5 games. Campaneris returned for the World Series, but his hot bat was cooled and he batted only .179, but he did win his 1st of 3 World Series rings. LaGrow would never return to the postseason, but he did remain a Tiger and became a starter for them in ’74 and ’75. I for one think it would have been interesting to see BC and LL go at it one on one. LaGrow was 6'5" and weighed about 220 giving him 75 pounds and 7 inches on the smaller shortstop. Campaneris may have been a lot smaller, but he was pissed and I think I would have put my money on Bert. I played in a charity softball game with BC about 10 years ago when he was around 60 years old. He played all 7 innings at shortstop and played the game like it was the World Series, they guy was INTENSE!
Where are they now? He sells real estate in Arizona.
That’s it for card #13. Funny names, collared jerseys and playoff stories oh my. On deck is (duh) card #15 of Tony Perez, then of the Montreal Expos. Thanks for reading, 31 years LATER!

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