Monday, January 16, 2012

#313 - Barry Lersch

Barry Lersch gets a double card post by virtue of having the first Traded card in over 40 posts. Barry looks pensive on what appears to be a brisk day at Shea. The grass is awfully long so he should have been pretty happy if he was pitching that day since he was a ground ball type of guy. There are some fellow Phillies on the field behind him but I cannot make them out. Barry's '73 season was sort of a downer. His starts were reduced to near zero and most of his pen work was in middle relief. He got a good number of innings for a reliever back then and his control was still quite good but his ERA was his highest in a full season until then. And he got traded just when the Phillies were starting to get pretty good. Regarding that, his Traded card is pretty benign although we do get to see his number 34 on his cap. That card might also be at Shea. Wherever it was it looks nasty out judging by the small patch of sky. Barry never played for the Braves. He would go to Triple A and then get sent to St. Louis. The worst part about the trade for him - but pretty funny for the rest of us - is discussed below.

Barry Lersch was born and raised in Denver where he played baseball and was a local diving champ. He then went to Mesa College, a local two-year school, and led them to the JuCo World Series in '64, making the all-tournament team. That summer he was signed by the Phillies. He was busy trying out for the Olympics diving team so he didn't get going in pro ball until the next year when he had a nice start in Single A: 9-9 with a 2.85 ERA and over a strikeout an inning. He took a step back at the same level in '66 and then served in the military for most of '67 before he returned to go 6-1 with a 1.69 ERA in nine starts. Again he had over a K an inning and in '68 he moved up to Triple A. At that level he had two very good seasons: 11-8 with a 2.84 ERA in '68 and 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA in '69. The latter year he also got some early and late looks up top in Philadelphia.

In 1970 Lersch made the Phillies roster and after some good work early in the pen he was put in the rotation where he continued to perform well, putting up the best ERA of any starter. In '71 he was in the rotation the full year but his record fell to 5-14 as his ERA moved above league average. That meant a lot more pen time in '72 when his numbers improved and in '73 when they didn't. With this trade he went to the Braves where he was sent to Triple A where he had a pretty good year, going 14-8 with a 3.10 ERA. With less than a month left in the season he was sold to the Cards for whom he had a disastrous one-inning outing. After the season he was released and in '75 he signed with Cleveland's Triple A Oklahoma City franchise for whom he went 6-2 out of the pen but with a fat ERA. Barry's card from that year shows a guy that looks substantially older than here so the time in between must have been tough. After the season he hung them up and returned to Colorado. He finished with a record of 18-32 with a 3.82 ERA, nine complete games, a shutout, and six saves. In the minors he went 58-42 with a 3.39 ERA.

It has been tough to pin down what Lersch did professionally after baseball. It is less tough to find what he did recreationally: he played baseball, first in an over-50 league and then in an over-60 league back in the Aurora area. It was there that he passed away in 2009 of a heart attack at age 65.

Barry had some nice minor league seasons and is regarded warmly on sites that mention his passing. He also played winter ball in Venezuela where in '71 he had a 1.71 ERA. On the web are some photos of him during his diving days, but I didn't want to sign on to the site to import them.

This is an optimistic Traded card write-up but lets get to the nitty gritty of the deal. The Braves were after pitching in the winter of '73 and had a fondness for a Phillie pitcher named Randy Lerch. It was he they meant to acquire, not Barry. When Barry showed up at camp the coaches asked him why he was fooling around with a left-handed mitt (Randy was a lefty), he was a little confused. When he told them he was a righty, the Braves coaches realized they were handed the wrong guy. Steinbrenner would have tarred and feathered whoever did that deal.

Catching up on music news, in '73 there were two big concerts in early January. On the 13th at the Rainbow Theatre in London Pete Townshend arranged an all-star tribute to Eric Clapton who was in self-imposed exile while trying to get out from under his heroin addiction. He appeared for the show but then disappeared again. On the 14th Elvis did a show that was televised to an estimated one billion people. The show raised a bunch of money for a Hawaiian cancer fund - it was beamed by satellite from there. In '74 on the 12th Steve Miller took over number one in the States for the first time with "The Joker." The song also went gold that day. I remember skiing to it all the time at Great Gorge when I was a kid. Every now and then the Playboy bunnies from the nearby club would hit the slopes. See how interesting the non-baseball stuff can be?

Barry and Deron were teammates so this one's easy:

1. Lersch and Deron Johnson '69 to '73 Phillies.

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