Thursday, September 13, 2012

#433 - Lerrin LaGrow

Here is Lerrin LaGrow on a sunny day in Detroit. Up until this point in his career Lerrin’s most high profile career moment was when he was nearly on the receiving end of Bert Campaneris’ bat launch during the ’72 AL playoffs. I’ve attached an article with excellent photos here to explain that one. When he came to spring training in ’73 it was with the expectation by many that he’d be the main man in the pen but an early injury – he was hurt shagging flies – and general ineffectiveness put the kibosh on that and he ended up spending a bunch of time back in Triple A where he reversed his record but actually recorded a higher ERA than he did up top. Lerrin would eventually become a bullpen ace, but it wasn’t for the Tigers.

Lerrin LaGrow was all Arizona in his early years and after a pretty good high school career in hoops and baseball he went to Arizona State. His sophomore year of ’68 he went 5-0 and his junior year he was 14-1 with a 0.90 ERA in a season that included 29 straight scoreless innings and a CWS title. He was drafted that year by Detroit and had a pretty rough go at it the rest of the summer in Double A, nearly reversing his college record, but with a decent ERA. In ’70 he turned things around at that level with an excellent year that got him his first look up top. ’71 was all Triple A in a messy season where he averaged about a hit, a run, a walk, and a strikeout an inning, pretty much all in relief. In ’72 back in the rotation he settled down a bunch and this time when he got called up he put in a nice stretch run, recording a couple saves and excellent control. That got him his work in the playoffs that year and his day of infamy.

In ’74 Detroit was fading fast and LaGrow was put in the rotation. It was a tough time to be a Tiger pitcher and the next two seasons he went a combined 15-33 with a 4.54 ERA in that role. At the tail end of spring training in ’76 Lerrin was sold to St. Louis and for them he spent the bulk of the year in Triple A Tulsa, going 6-10 with a 4.14 ERA in the rotation. His numbers during his short time in St. Louis were very comparable to his Detroit one in ’72 and after the season he went to the White Sox for Clay Carroll. For Chicago it was all upstairs and all relief in his best year: 7-3 with a 2.46 ERA and 25 saves as the bullpen ace of The Southside Hitmen. In ’78 he recorded 16 saves but his ERA bounced up almost two runs and after a terrible start to the ’79 season he was sold that May to the Dodgers. For LA he finished nicely, going 5-1 with a 3.41 ERA and four saves the rest of the way. In another nod to bad timing, though, it was the first year LA missed the playoffs in three seasons. To continue that theme in ’80 Lerrin signed as a free agent with the Phillies but after some mediocre numbers was released that summer as they went all the way as Series champs. That finished his career with a 34-55 record with a 4.11 ERA, 19 complete games, and 54 saves. In that playoff series he gave up zero runs in his inning of work.

LaGrow continued his education at ASU from which I am pretty sure he graduated in the early Seventies (he was definitely still attending in early ’72). He continued to reside in Arizona during his playing career and ran a couple businesses through the early Eighties that he later sold. Those sales set the tone for his current business Ler’rin Enterprises which brokers the sale of local businesses in Arizona.

Also on that ’69 ASU team were Larry Gura and Lenny Randle, both of whom were instrumental in the CWS victory.

In music on this date in 1974 Stevie Wonder begins his first concert tour since his August 1973 car accident. He is supporting his “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” album and kicks things off at Nassau Coliseum.

This hook-up is much quicker than I’d have thought:

1. LaGrow and Steve Stone ’77 to ’78 White Sox;
2. Stone and Chris Arnold ’71 to ’72 Giants.

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