Larry Hardy

January 28, 2009

Somewhere I Lost Connection

(continued from Tom Brunansky)

Chapter Three

As I experienced it, the Red Sox were swept out of the 1990 playoffs instantaneously. I barely had time to dry my eyes from my emotional envisioning of the Brunansky catch before buying another Herald Tribune to find that they had been flicked aside in four quick games by the Oakland A’s.

Whatever seems like it might be something is really just nothing in a cheap, unraveling disguise. But don’t grip too tightly to that glib shard of nihilism, because the opposite is also true. Or neither is true. Who knows? A few days after my team’s disappointing el foldo, I ended a long passage in my battered travel notebook this way: There is a holy hum that runs through everything, I am trying to believe.


This is Larry Hardy’s only baseball card. The back of his card shows that he progressed in a straight upward line through the Padres system, with just one exception, one tiny and seemingly insignificant hiccup that ended up being a much more accurate harbinger of things to come than the otherwise upward-pointing line of his minor and major league stats as of 1974. This hiccup occurred in 1971, his second year as a pro player, when he was sent back to the Padres lowest-level minor league team after moving up and away from that team at the very tail end of the previous season.

The low-level team he was sent back to was located in Lodi.


I don’t know where I lost connection. I can tell you that as my years in college went on, I had fewer and fewer friends, mainly because all of the guys I’d started with in a cloud of bong smoke had eventually dropped out or been asked to leave or, in a couple rare cases, had continued their nondescript education by transferring to another anonymous diplomatorium. With them gone, I spent more and more time in the library. I became a passionate student. Perhaps the best path for me to have taken right after college would have been to continue straight on into grad school, to keep wrasslin’ those books. But I had it in mind that I needed to go out beyond the walls of the library and experience life like the heroes of all the stories I loved. I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to travel up out of this world to the world of the gods and return with the holy hum coursing through my body and springing from my fingers.


In his debut season of 1974 Larry Hardy set a major league record. It was not a negligible, trivial mark, either, no mere accident or oddity, but a significant single-season achievement that at the very least illustrates that Larry Hardy mattered, at least for one year: He pitched in more games than any rookie ever had. His name, which had never been called by a major league manager, was suddenly called more than anyone in the league aside from the name of another reliever, Mike Marshall, who was in the midst of appearing in more games than anyone ever has, rookie or otherwise.

“What’s the kid’s name? Right, he’s not really a kid anymore, but you know who I mean. Hardy? Get him warm.”

“Well, this one’s out of reach. Get me Hardy.”

“Guess things can’t get any worse. Might as well get Hardy going.”

“Who’s left out there. Just Hardy? Christ. [Long pause.] Get him up.”

Yes, Larry Hardy wasn’t particularly effective, getting knocked around to the tune of a 4.69 ERA that was over a run higher than the league average, but he did get credit for 9 wins against just 4 losses, and this for a team that won just 60 games while losing 102. Larry Hardy mattered. Larry Hardy won. Things were looking up for Larry Hardy.

Why then the expression of apprehension and mute alarm, as if Hardy was watching nothing shed the last of its cheap disguise?

(to be continued)


  1. 1.  He sounds vaguely familiar, but I may be thinking of Larry Haney. I noticed when looking up his stats that his full name is Howard Lawrence Hardy. I guess he decided that Larry Hardy sounded better than Howie Hardy.

  2. 2.  “As I experienced it, the Red Sox were swept out of the 1990 playoffs instantaneously.”

    You and me both, pal.

  3. 3.  There is a holy hum that runs through everything, I am trying to believe.

    Yes – the holy hum – it is a tone – a perfect pitch – as eminating from a tuning fork from the piano tuner’s work box. From time to time you may “feel it” or realize it’s presence, if ever so briefly for a short portion of a moment that somehow feels like forever. Sometimes longer as when you are lost in your work and it feels like time stands still and what has been created is extremely satisfying and good.

    Hey – how about when the ball is struck on the point of percussion resulting in a hit that wins the game for your team?

    Juxtaposed to “being convicted” the holy hum is rather a wonderful affirmation.

    This holy hum is indeed “springing from your fingers”. It is very evident in your work.

    It’s always there, even when we are not aware of it – is everyone aware of it?

    Josh – you are hitting them out of the park with your work here.

  4. 4.  Hardy pitched in both ends of a doubleheader four times, in 1974. That’s got to be SOME kind of rookie record. (Mike Marshall did it SEVEN times in 1973. Ow.)

    In his last season, 1976, he’d been dealt to the Astros, who trotted him out there in nearly half of the team’s games (15 out of the first 33), mostly mopping up.
    In his last game, he took the hill at the Astrodome in the 8th, down 8-2 to the Phillies — who touched him for four straight singles before he could get anybody out, and got four runs in the inning. The game ended 12-2, and Larry Hardy was finished as a big-league pitcher.
    He’s since returned as a pitching coach, for the Rangers (1995-2001).

  5. 5.  I’m guessing that this was taken at Candlestick. If so, this could have been taken on May 19th of 1974; one of the days he pulled double duty. But I find that unlikely. I don’t think they would have had time to shoot pictures and get two games in.

    Speaking of San Francisco and sports photography, I wonder if Michael Zagaris ever did work for Topps in addition to shooting ZZ Topp.

  6. 6.  While “diplomatorium” put a smile on my face, the true diplomatarium is the “Team Archives” to the right, at least for the monastery of Dei Cardboardus. Thanks for another great series Josh.

  7. 7.  While “diplomatorium” put a smile on my face, the true diplomatarium is the “Team Archives” to the right, at least for the monastery of Dei Cardboardus. Thanks for another great series Josh.

  8. 8.  excellent stuff going on here.

  9. 9.  Oh Lord! Stuck in Lodi again…….


  10. 10.  Even more amazing is that he didn’t appear until the Pads’ 23rd game of the season. Starting on May 5, he appeared in 9 of the next 11 games, 21 of 32, and 27 of 43.

  11. 11.  3 , 6 , 8 : Thanks!

    10 : Before joining the Padres in ’74, he pitched in three games for Hawaii.

    Anybody want to take a stab at who now holds the rookie record for games pitched? (It’s not Hardy anymore.)

  12. 12.  11 It’s not really a stab since I looked for it, but I think Sean Runyan holds the rookie record for games pitched.

  13. 13.  12 : I believe that’s correct. I think Oscar Villareal holds the NL record. (He appeared in a couple fewer games than Runyan.)

  14. 14.  There is something freakishly strange looking in his picture. Larry’s forehead must be just about the size of Beldar Conehead’s.

    “Jeeze, you cans stick a fork in us now. Get up that guy with the huge forehead….Harry whatshisname…”

  15. 15.  All the Padres looked odd, as if they were cast to play in a movie whose director didn’t quite get it, Truffaut hired to film a sport he had only seen in fleeting glimpses: Tigers, Cardinals, Blue Wrens all in their colored outfits, striking odd poses in the circle le batting and the mount of the pitcher.
    The pro ballplayers cast as the fictional “Padres” (a name which puzzled and vaguely irritated them) adopted the attitude of the blase’ film crew in their disdain for this role which they couldn’t hide despite their stoic determination to stay on, since the pay is decent and it’s only for a few months, until it’s time to report back to their teams and prepare to play ball.

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