Today’s Random Player That Sticks Out To Me In My Research Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Larry Yount. Yount was a fifth round pick of the Houston Astros in 1968. After posting a 3.68 ERA in 558 minor league innings he got to make his major league debut in September of 1971.
The exact date was September 15, 1971. The game was against the Atlanta Braves on a Wednesday in the Astrodome. It wasn’t in the thick of a pennant race (the Braves were just 75-74, 8 ½ games out coming in, the Astros were 73-75, 10 games out), and the crowd reflected that (6,513 fans “packed” the place), but this was still fun. And here’s why . . .
Two days earlier, Joe Niekro took the hill against the Orioles for the Tigers and couldn’t get out of the first inning. His brother Phil started that Wednesday game for the Braves and had a complete game win and an RBI single. Hank Aaron hit his 44th homerun of the season. Hank’s brother Tommie came into the game in the ninth as a defensive replacement. And that brings us to Larry Yount. This was Yount’s major league debut. He was coming on in the ninth with the ‘Stros trailing 4-1. He was warming up in the bullpen but started feeling pain. It wasn’t nerves or just tightness, either. His elbow was killing him. He went to the mound and tried to warm up – how do you pass up your chance at the big leagues? – but to no avail. He couldn’t pitch. He was pulled for Jim Ray. He never reached the big leagues again. His career stat line is one that would make Mark Titus proud:
Now for the twisted bit of fate. September 16, 1971, was the 16th birthday of Larry’s little brother Robin. Twenty-one months later Robin would be the third overall pick for the Milwaukee Brewers. He would go on to play 2,856 games in the majors, win the AL MVP as a shortstop (1982) and a centerfielder (1989), lead the Brewers to their only pennant to date (1982), rack up 3,142 hits (one more than Tony Gwynn), and would become the first player to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Milwaukee Brewer (and the hat has the cool logo with the mitt and baseball forming the letters “M” and “b”).
Think about the seven guys mentioned (eight in a moment). Hank Aaron hit 755 homeruns, had over 2,200 RBI; his brother Tommie had 13 homers and 94 RBI. Phil Niekro had 318 wins, 3,342 strikeouts, and a 3.35 ERA pitching most of his career in the “Launching Pad”. Joe had 97 fewer wins, half as many strikeouts, and a higher ERA despite pitching in better pitchers parks for the most part. I just went through the Yount’s careers. And Tony Gwynn, 3,141 career hits, a .338 career average; his brother Chris had 263 hits and a .261 average. How does that happen?
Who knows. But at least Larry Yount can say something the vast majority of us will never say. He got into a major league game.