Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Card #52: Larry Andersen

Who Can It Be Now?
Larry Eugene Andersen was born on May 6, 1953, in Portland, Oregon.  He attended high school at Interlake High School in Bellevue, Washington.  That high school has produced two major league baseball players, both of which played exactly 17 seasons -- Andersen and John Olerud.

Andersen was drafted in the 7th round of the 1971 June Amateur draft directly out of high school, and signed a couple of weeks later.  He worked his way up through the Indians farm system and reached the majors for a September call-up in 1975.  He stalled out in the Indians system at Triple-A, so, after only 21 appearances over three odd-numbered seasons, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 1979 season for John Burden and Larry Littlejohn in a trade that might not have even made the agate type in Andersen's local newspaper.  

He never made the big leagues with the Pirates in 1980.  After the 1980 season ended, Andersen was sent to the Mariners as the player-to-be-named-later in a trade that was consummated initially on April 1, 1980, with the Mariners for Odell Jones.  So, let's recap briefly -- at the beginning of 1981, Andersen was almost 28 years old and had pitched a grand total of 36-2/3 innings with a 5.40 ERA in the major leagues.

Despite all that, Andersen pitched in the major leagues for another fourteen seasons after that time.  1981 was a good year for him, as he had a low ERA and a 3-3 record with 5 saves. His 1982 season was as terrible as his 1981 season was good -- a 5.99 ERA, 100 hits and 16 homeruns allowed in 79-2/3 innings.  Andersen joked later that the only reason his ERA was under 6 was because he "got a double-play ball in Toronto" and that got his ERA down to 5.99.  As a result, he ended up with the Phillies Triple-A club, then found himself called up to the major leagues for the eventual National League champions.  

Whatever it was about that 1983 season, Andersen rode it for the rest of his career.  He started striking out more batters, and he never again gave up more than 5 homers in any one season.  

He stayed with the Phillies until they cut him midway through May in 1986.  He signed a couple of days later, and once again found himself on a division-winning team with the Houston Astros.  In Houston, he had one of his two best seasons as a major leaguer -- perhaps even his best season -- at the age of 36 in 1989.  He had a 4-4 record, recorded 3 saves, struck out 85 in 87-2/3 innings, walked only 24, and had a 1.54 ERA -- and it was a deserved ERA, since his FIP was 1.94.  

The other year that might have been his best was the very next year -- 1990.  That year, he split 65 appearances between Houston and Boston finishing with a 1.79 ERA in 95-2/3 innings, striking out 93 in the process.  He went to the American League Championship Series that year, where the Red Sox lost to Oakland.

After those two seasons -- what, wait...you want me to mention how he ended up in Boston? Okay. In what many people believe was the worst trade in the last twenty-five years and to some Bosox fans actually rates near the sale of Babe Ruth in December of 1919, Andersen was sent by Houston to Boston in exchange for minor-league third-baseman Jeff Bagwell.  To be fair to the Red Sox, they did have a 32-year-old future Hall of Famer in Wade Boggs at third base already.  To pick on the Red Sox, they did have a 24-year-old scrub in Carlos Quintana at first base (along with a cast of millions backing him up that included Billy Jo Robidoux, Bill Buckner, and Phil Plantier, among others).

With that bit of ignominy past us, Andersen finished his career out by pitching two seasons with the San Diego Padres before finishing with two final seasons in Philadelphia.  He was a member of the Phillies team that beat the Braves but lost to the Blue Jays in the 1992 World Series, though his contribution was strictly limited to being a punching bag in both -- with a 15.43 ERA against the Braves (2-1/3 innings, 4 earned runs, 1 HR allowed) and a 12.27 ERA against the Blue Jays (3-2/3 innings, 5 earned runs, 3 HRs allowed).  

Andersen retired after the 1994 strike-shortened season.

Trivial Pursuit
Andersen still holds the Phillies record for most consecutive scoreless innings by a relief pitcher with 32-2/3 innings.  Overall, he is third in Phillies history behind Grover Cleveland Alexander's 41 straight scoreless innings in 1911 and Cliff Lee's 34 straight scoreless innings in 2011.

This Is Radio Clash
Ever since 1998, Larry Andersen has worked as the Philadelphia Phillies color analyst for their radio broadcasts.  He was offered a similar position with the Astros in 1997, according to his Phillies biography, but he opted instead to be the Triple-A pitching coach for the Phillies.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
Andersen was a nobody for a long, long time.  Only once he established himself as a very good middle reliever did we start getting stories about what a funny guy Larry Andersen was.  A May 1, 1989 story from Sports Illustrated is titled "Now Some Comic Relief" and has some of Andersen's random thoughts.  

When I was writing this, I started to wonder whether Andersen was making these jokes up himself, or whether he was stealing material from noted observational humorist and deadpan comedian Steven Wright.  I thought a little quiz might be fun.  Identify whether the following observations were Andersen or Wright.

1.  If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.

2.  Roses are red, Violets are blue, I'm a Schizophrenic, and so am I.

3.  Why does sour cream have an expiration date?

4.  If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?

5.  We're still in the driver's seat.  We just lost our map.

6.  The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.

7.  My theory of evolution is that Darwin was adopted.

8.  I used to work in a fire hydrant factor.  You couldn't park anywhere near the place.

9.  Was Robin Hood's mother known as Mother Hood?

10.  Why do we drive on the parkway and park on the driveway?

In another random piece of information about Larry Andersen, he's on his fourth marriage now.  Apparently, Pat Burrell got absolutely bombed at the wedding.  Also, from that link, there is a footnote about the fact that apparently even baseball broadcasters might have "road meat."

And on that note, I'll step away from the microphone...and I'll let you know who said what in the comments tomorrow.


  1. Are you telling me you didn't know about the Larry Littlejohn trade? I know the Darwin thing is Wright, but other than that I'm not sure. I got a good laugh after I Googled Wright quotes.

  2. Not really fair to call Carlos Quintana a scrub. He was a very promising first baseman in 1991 and 1992 until his body got really beat up in a car accident.

    1. Yeah, you're right about that, Bo. I just remember my Red Sox-fan friends at the time hating the trade because Bagwell was a local New England boy (from Connecticut) who had hit the crap out of the ball at Double-A and then immediately outperformed Quintana when given the opportunity in the majors in 1991. And, I'd forgotten about Quintana's car wreck too.

  3. In case you were wondering, here are the answers:

    Numbers 1, 4, 6, 7, and 8 are Steven Wright lines.
    Numbers 2, 3, 5, 9, and 10 are Larry Andersen lines.

    The Road Meat allusion is all mine.