Each week, we will attempt to look at a pro player from our childhood (late 1970s, 1980s, 1990s), mainly because we like those A-Ha moments. Such as “A-Ha, yes, I do remember that guy.” (Sorry if you thought I was referring to this A-Ha.)
That guy this week – our inaugural Random Pro – is former centerfielder Ken Landreaux.
Not everyone in their life has a watershed moment of when they seriously began watching a sport and falling in love with it. I was fortunate enough to have such a moment.
Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series was it. As someone living in Southern California, whose father was a Dodgers fan, I was aware of the team and its players, but untilOrel Hershiser dominated the league in 1988 and Gibson hit that home run, I was just mildly aware of baseball and the Dodgers. Then, I got swept up in it.
Ken Landreaux was not part of that 1988 Dodgers team. He was playing with Baltimore’s AAA team, having been granted free agency after a dismal year before in Dodger Blue.
Probably because he hit .203 in 1987 in 182 at-bats. Not a full-time role, but enough where a player cannot complain about not getting a fair shake.
Ken Landreaux, based on that horrid 1987 season – his on-base percentage was just .269 – became the butt of jokes between my father and myself. When I was playing T-Ball, if I made a bad play, he would tell me I looked like Landreaux.
And that became a thing for us. Whenever we watched a game and someone committed a bonehead play, my dad would say “Oh, Landreaux!” and laugh. Except the way that he said it was “LAN-DRO!” separating each syllable and almost yelling each part of Landreaux’s last name.
The thing is, Landreaux wasn’t a horrible centerfielder. He stole 30 bases in consecutive seasons (1982-83), hit .305 in his second full year in the bigs, scored 63 runs, hit 17 homers and drove in 66 more runs in ’83. Hell, he was an All-Star in 1980.
His defense wasn’t Torri Hunter-esque, as he committed seven errors in both 1985 and 1986 (as an example, Melky Cabrera, by all accounts an average centerfielder, has never committed more than four errors in a season), but he wasn’t a complete abortion out there, either.
The point is that Landreaux wasn’t exceptional and as I started to get old enough to understand the game – around his final year in 1987 – it was the end of his career. So, he became an easy target for our jokes about bad players.
He was part of the package the Angels sent to Minnesota for Rod Carew and he was later traded by the Twins to the Dodgers for a group of players centered around Mickey Hatcher. The irony there is that the Dodgers signed Hatcher as a free agent in 1987, played a year with Landreaux in LA, and then hit two home runs in the Dodgers upset of the A’s in 1988.
Landreaux was not part of that team. He was in Rochester, but his legacy of “LAN-DRO!” lived on. At least in some parts of Southern California.