The Boy of Summer
July 5, 1955. My birth announcement in the Long Beach newspaper the following day read as follows:
THIRD CHILD TO LEDERERS
It may be another 20 years or so before it becomes a reality, but the Baltimore Orioles apparently have another future bonus baby in the George Lederer household.
George, night sports deskman on the Independent, announced very sleepily Tuesday that his wife, Pat, gave birth to their third child, Richard Allan, in the wee hours of the morning at St. Mary's Hospital.
Mrs. Lederer and the seven pound, eight-ounce "Little Leaguer" are doing fine as are Richard's brother, Tommy and sister, Janet. George is still fighting the cobwebs.
Well, I never signed with the Orioles. In fact, I never signed with any professional baseball team. I don't know what Baltimore was thinking, drafting a guy named Eddie Murray out of Locke High School in Los Angeles instead of me in 1973. Just because this catcher-first baseman (as he was listed in the regular phase of the June draft) went on to get 3255 more hits and 504 more home runs than me doesn't get the Orioles off the hook for not drafting me. I mean, take a look at the guys they drafted the year I graduated from college:
1. Drungo Hazewood, of
2. Dan Logan, 1b
3. Richard Moore, c
4. David Caldwell, of
5. Larry Jones, rhp
6. Will George, lhp
7. Mark Van Bever, 2b
8. John Denman, of
9. Mark Smith, rhp
10. Russ Brett, 3b
11. Michael Sherman, c
12. Steven Polan, 3b
13. William Marrero, of
14. David Lankster, ss
15. Mike Martin, 3b-c
16. Mark Bolton, rhp
17. Tom Eaton, 2b
18. Michael Lacasse, 2b
19. Steve Lesser, rhp
20. David Emala, 3b
21. Robert Whitfield, ss
22. Lorenzo Bundy, ss
23. Chris Jones, of
Granted, I couldn't play second base but apparently neither could Van Bever, Eaton, or Lacasse. Number of major-league games? Lederer, 0. Bever, Eaton, and Lacasse, 0. The rest of the players couldn't do much either. Get this, the Orioles got a grand total of six games out of that haul. Baltimore's draft was so bad, they would have been better off drafting George Will rather than Will George in the sixth round.
Only four players even made it to the major leagues. Drungo Hazewood, the team's #1 pick, was the only one who played for the Orioles. I don't know who whiffed more, Hazewood (four times in five at-bats) or Baltimore? If you combine all of the Oriole draftees, they had as many hits for the franchise as me. Zero.
Mark Smith pitched eight (very undistinguished) games for the Oakland A's in 1983, Mike Martin played eight (equally undistinguished) games for the Chicago Cubs in 1986, and Chris Jones appeared in 34 (totally undistinguished) games with the Houston Astros and San Francisco Giants in 1985-86. Add 'em all up and their composite batting record looks like this:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO AVG OBP SLG
48 44 2 6 1 0 0 1 1 5 15 .136 .224 .159
Bitter? Not me. Why would I want to spend my 27-year-old "peak year" playing alongside a rookie like Cal Ripken, Jr.? I don't even wear a wedding band so what would I do with a World Series ring from 1983 anyway?
The closest I came to being an Oriole was working in the front office with Harry Dalton. Not in Baltimore, mind you. In Anaheim, when Dalton later became the general manager of the Angels. "Working in the front office" might overstate my importance a bit. This Boy of Summer spent the months of July and August in 1972 and 1973 taking care of the fan mail. There weren't a lot of Angels fans back in those days but someone had to take care of those Nolan Ryan autograph requests, right?
Lots has happened since Dr. F. Lowell Bowton delivered me 50 years ago. The Brooklyn Dodgers celebrated my birth by winning the first world championship in the ballclub's history. The team moved to Los Angeles three years later and, boy, how that changed life in the Lederer household. It was kinda nice being on board for the next three World Series titles plus Sandy Koufax and his four no-hitters, let me tell you.
Similarly, the Angels hadn't quite made it to Anaheim when I was born. Instead, the big attraction in that city in 1955 was the opening of Disneyland. The Los Angeles Angels joined the American League in 1961 and moved to Anaheim in 1966. They had become the California Angels in 1965 in anticipation of their relocation to Anaheim Stadium the following year. My Dad joined the team in 1969, and the memories of my teenage years and early-20s are filled with Tanana, Ryan and two days of cryin', as well as a Clyde Wright no-hitter here and an Alex Johnson batting crown (and subsequent suspension) there. The evening of Tony Conigliaro's swan song as an Angel is as vivid today as it was in July 1971 when I watched the marathon game on TV with my Dad.
College. Full-time job. A great marriage. Two wonderful children. Buying my first house. Starting my own business. Coaching my kids. A close-knit family. My best friends are still those who date back to my childhood. Good health. Happiness. I mean, what else could a 50-year-old guy dream for?
OK, I'll admit it. I wish I could have played for those damn Orioles, too.