My Side of the Story
Yesterday's guest columnist admitted he couldn't throw as hard as Nolan Ryan, the subject of his article. A southpaw, he fancied himself as the next Sandy Koufax in his Pony League, Colt League, American Legion, Connie Mack, and high school playing days. But, like every left-hander before and after him, he fell short of such lofty aspirations.
Although my brother Tom never made it to the professional ranks, he was one heckuva pitcher in his youth. I'll admit, I'm biased when it comes to singing his praises. Hey, it's an easy thing to do. As Casey Stengel is famous for saying, "You can look it up."
As a 14-year-old, Tom was named to the Lakewood Pony League All-Stars. His team won the sectional, divisional, and regional tournaments and earned a berth in the 1966 Pony League World Series in Ralston, Nebraska. Tom, in fact, was the winning pitcher in the Western Regionals, throwing a four-hitter while striking out 12 in an 8-1 victory over Martinez, California.
Four years later, Tom and many of his Pony League All-Star teammates won the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Schools championship. Tom was the winning pitcher in the CIF semi-finals and finals. I'll let the Los Angeles Times tell the story:
Lakewood and Ventura Gain Baseball Final - "Lakewood, behind the shutout pitching of Tom Lederer, breezed past Covina, 5-0 . . . Lederer (9-0) fired his second playoff three-hitter and collected two hits at the plate as Lakewood raised its season record to 21-2-1." (Image of the scoreboard at the Big A during an A's-Angels game: "Tonight's 'Proud Father' Halo To....George Lederer - Angels PR Director -- Whose Son - Tom - Pitched Lakewood HS Into CIF Finals With 5-0 Win Over Covina Today...Tom Struck Out 10 -- CIF Final Will Be Played in Big-A Monday.")
Hannaford Paces 5-4 Lakewood Victory - "...Lakewood held on for a 5-4 victory over Ventura to win the CIF AAAA baseball championship . . . That's when [Kim] Hannaford and Lakewood pitcher Tom Lederer, son of the Angel publicist, collaborated on the game-ending play. With Ventura runners on second and third and two out, Hannaford moved in behind Gary Elshire and Lederer's pickoff throw was right on the base. Hannaford applied the tag and then hurled the ball high in the air in his joy." (A second image of the scoreboard at the Big A, this time during a ChiSox-Angels game: "An Angel Congratulations To Members Of The Helms CIF 4-A Baseball Team For 1970...And To Tom Lederer...Son Of Angels Public Relations And Promotions Director George Lederer...Winner of 10 Games Without A Loss In 1970...Helped Pitch Lakewood High To Title...Named To 1st Team.")
Tom finished his high school senior year with a record of 10-0 and an ERA of 1.53. He also had a batting average of .429. Tom earned first team All-CIF honors. Future major leaguers Fred Lynn (El Monte High School) and Eddie Bane (Westminster HS) were named to the second and third teams, respectively. The latter is now the Angels Director of Scouting.
The next step in Tom's baseball career was either the pros or college. The California Angels general manager Dick Walsh and farm and scouting director Roland Hemond huddled with my Dad to ask if Tom was leaning toward signing a pro baseball contract or pursuing his college education.
Long Beach Press-Telegram columnist Loel Schrader included the following recruiting information back in June 1970: "Lakewood High pitchers Tom Lederer and Russ McQueen are being courted by USC and Chapman. Lederer is interested in both. McQueen is pretty well committed to Chapman." Days later, Schrader provided P-T readers with an update in the Cuff Stuff section of his column: "Tom Lederer, winning pitcher in Lakewood's 5-4 victory in the CIF championship game with Ventura, appears headed for Chapman College . . . Check signals on Russ McQueen, another Lakewood pitcher. It was reported here last week that Chapman had the inside track on the Lancer righthander. But Justin Dedeaux, junior varsity baseball coach at USC, reports that McQueen told him this past Thursday that he'll join the Trojans."
Prior to attending Chapman College that fall, Tom played for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, a summer collegiate league team that included several future major leaguers. Tom transferred to Long Beach City College the following spring after Paul Deese, the coach who recruited him to Chapman, resigned and founded the Alaskan Summer Baseball League.
Once again, I'll let the L.A. Times fill us in on the details: Deese Looks North to Alaska for Better Baseball Opportunity - "Behind him, Deese leaves a group of frosh stars at Chapman--Manny Estrada, CIF Player of the Year as a junior at Bishop Amat; Bob Blackledge of Foothill High, and Tom Lederer, 10-0 for Lakewood's CIF championship team."
Joining the talented LBCC baseball program a semester behind everyone else, Tom never received much of an opportunity his freshman year on a team that featured Dave Frost, who went on to win 16 games for the 1979 American League Western Division champion California Angels. Tom played for LBCC his sophomore year, then transferred to Long Beach State with the intention of playing for coach John Gonsalves in 1973 but opted out before workouts began the prior fall.
Retired from baseball at the age of 21, Tom earned his degree in Business Administration from Long Beach State and now manages sports and aquatics programs for the City of Lakewood, California, selected the number one Sportstown in California by Sports Illustrated. He has been married for over 25 years to his wife Jeannie and has two children, Brett, 22, and Kelsey, 20. Tom also has a younger brother who is very proud of his older sibling.