Lerrin LaGrow 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 4, 2017


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Lerrin LaGrow will always be known in baseball for two things, one might not be true and the other was done TO him.

Did he throw at Bert Campaneris on purpose in the 1972 ALCS?

And yes, Bert Campaneris threw a bat at HIM.

LaGrow was a product of the Arizona State University baseball system when the Tigers drafted him in 1969, a year after winning the World Series. After success in Montgomery in AA, he bounced between AAA Toledo and Detroit during the 1970, 972 and 1973 season.

In 1972, he had success in Billy Martin’s bullpen during his 16 appearances. Twice during his two months with the parent team he logged 3 inning relief appearances. He didn’t get chances to close out many games, but he added valuable depth as the Tigers outlasted the Red Sox to win the AL East.

LaGrow was rewarded with a spot on the playoff roster.

He came in to pitch in the 7th inning of Game 2. The Tigers lost a heart breaker in extra innings in Game 1 and were trailing in Game 2 with the chance of falling behind 2-0 in the best of 5 series.

Bert Campaneris was the bane of Billy Martin’s existence, getting hit after hit and using his speed to score. He got 3 hits, stole a pair and scored twice in Game 2 when LaGrow faced him.

The pitch went right at his ankle, potentially injuring him and threatening his speed game. Campaneris was sure that it was intentional to knock him out of the game. Before taking his base, he glowered at LaGrow and no doubt enraged at Billy Martin for ordering it.

Instead of walking to first, he flung the bat at LaGrow, who ducked it before it caused serious harm. All hell broke loose with players emptying onto the field and Billy Martin needed to be restrained from killing Campaneris.

Martin and LaGrow denied repeatedly it was intentional. A grand total of no human beings on the planet believed them. Martin loved the intimidation game and LaGrow was a young kid probably wanting to earn his spot in the minds of his teammates.

Campaneris and LaGrow were both suspended for the remainder of the series. The Tigers would be eliminated and LaGrow never did play in the post season again.

In the end, he would play pitch in 10 big league seasons. After mixed results as a starter with the Tigers he moved back to the bullpen when he bounced from St. Louis to the White Sox. He saved 25 games for the 1977 White Sox, good for 3rd in the AL for the year. He picked up 16 saves the next year, 6th in the league.

As he was picking up those saves, he posed for this Topps Card, one of my favorite obviously and awkwardly staged pics. He is standing by a batting cage and clearly not really pitching. Meanwhile he looks good with the open collars of the White Sox of the time.

Between 1979 and 1980, he moved from the White Sox and Dodgers, finishing his big league career with a Phillies team that would go on to win the World Series but was released in mid season.

Like anyone who pitched for a decade in the majors, Lerrin LaGrow no doubt has a lot of stories to tell.

But the main one people want to hear was not when he threw a ball towards a batter, but when a batter threw a bat at him.

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