Larry Dierker’s 18th Birthday 1964 1st Start

Larry Dierker's 18th Birthday Party September 22, 1964 ~How many people in the world ever got to celebrate their 18th birthday by striking out Willie Mays before they blew out the candles on their cake? ~

Larry Dierker’s 18th Birthday Party
September 22, 1964
~How many people in the world ever got to celebrate their 18th birthday by striking out Willie Mays in a big league game before they blew out the candles on their cake? ~

The Pecan Park Eagle apologizes to our friend and SABR colleague Larry Dierker for the absence of a kinder, more local source we surely would have found at the downtown Houston library, but on a late Saturday night column writing streak, we had to settle for the golden gate grist that flavors the tone of this writer’s reporting for the Oakland Tribune.

This newspaper account was the most detailed game report we could find through our digital newspaper resources that are available to us through our Newspaper Archive subscription service. The Tribune’s game story headlines bypass the storyline of Larry Dierker’s first start of his MLB career on his 18th birthday at old Colt Stadium on September 22, 1964. The header goes straight to the blaring shout that Juan Marichal will be going for his 20th win of the season in today’s game against World Series “Perfect Game” hero, also a former Giant and now an aging, but new starter for the Houston Colt .45s.

As all of who have followed his career from his incredible start on his 18th birthday to this very moment already know, Larry Dierker’s accomplishments and contributions to baseball are among the greatest in Houston MLB history – and far too numerous to bear repeating this morning in a brief first game focus.

Safe to say, Dierker was far more than good enough to have earned that retired #49 jersey number that will continue to hang forever in whatever venue survives as the future home of the Houston Astros. No one else has contributed so broadly to Houston baseball as “Dierk” has done either. As a player, columnist, essayist, book author, playwright, broadcaster, historian, community volunteer, Astros club manager and SABR Chapter namesake – nobody else in Houston baseball comes to mind who has done it better in so many important different ways.

Thanks for all you’ve done, Larry! You are very much loved, admired, and appreciated by all of us deep-orange and dark blue Houston baseball fans.

A lot of us too were breaking into our new fields of endeavor around the same time that Larry Dierker was making his 18th birthday MLB debut back in 1964. Those of us who started our careers  out of the bright public limelight that quickly found Larry in baseball had a big advantage on the “Kid from LA”. True, we also had to start our new life jobs by acting as though we already knew what we were doing before we actually did, but here’s where any similarity ends. Nobody put our daily learning curve results in a box score – and then wrote a daily public news story on how things were going for us on the job.

People like Dierker – and all other truly successful athletes – have to have owned the hides of a buffalo and the focus of an eagle to get through that crunch of media attention and still be able to play the game unfettered, if that’s even possible.-  Now it’s even worse. Today it’s 24/7 media attention. How crazy is that?

At any rate, here’s that Oakland sportswriter’s story of Larry Dierker’s first game, warts and all. The box score comes to us courtesy of that wonderful source we know as Baseball



By Emmons Byrne (Oakland Tribune, September 23, 1964, Pages 39 and 41)


Over time, Larry became famous for his Hawaiian shirts and his "hang loose" personna.

Over time, Larry became famous in Houston for his Hawaiian shirts and his cool “hang loose” persona.

In contrast to Wednesday (It actually was Tuesday) when they started 18-year-old Larry Dierker, the Colt .45s will send Don Larsen to the post tonight against the Giants’ Juan Marichal.

Larsen’s chief claim to fame is the no-hitter he pitched in the 1956 World Series but he is also well known to Candlestick fans as a relief man the last two seasons.

The Giants sold him to Houston on May 20 and at the age of 35 he has reblossomed as a starting pitcher.  In seven starts since he moved into (the) rotation Aug. 18 he has an earned run average of 1.71.

So it would appear that Marichal will have to work for his 20th victory.

It was amateur night last evening and the 5,609 fans who turned out to see Dierker make his debut after a brief schooling in the Florida Instructional League left early.

It was just as well for the lack luster contest dragged far on into the hot and humid night before (Giants pitcher) Dick Estelle was credited with his first big league win by a score of 7-1.

Dierker, a bonus baby from Los Angeles, hit the backstop with his first pitch to Harvey Kuenn and eventually walked him.

Hal Lanier followed with a single but the 6’4″ right-hander kept on firing. Mateo Alou fouled to the catcher and Jim Hart and Willie Mays struck out.

Orlando Cepeda greeted the Kid with his 31st homer of the year, a blast into the left field seats, to open the second round.

Tom Haller and Jim Davenport singled and both advanced on a wild pitch. Haller came home on Kuenn’s sacrifice fly to right and Davenport also scored when Rusty Staub’s throw went through catcher Jerry Grote.

In his inexperience, Dierker failed to back up the play and he was well on his way to an early shower in the next inning.

He tried to pick Mays off first, but the throw was wide and Willie didn’t stop running until he reached third. He then scored on a wild pitch and Larry Yellen, another rookie just recalled from Oklahoma City, relieved.

Larry sailed fa ew balls over the batters' heads by accident, but he has been known by his wry sense of humor to also float a few punchlines over his listeners' heads at times..

Larry sailed a few balls over the batters’ heads, but rarely by accident, and he also has been known by his wry and playful sense of humor to float a few story punchlines over his listeners’ heads.

(The balance of the article is largely about the Giants’ faint pennant hopes, but the writer does note that Harvey Kuenn picked up his 2,000th hit on a 9th inning single, further noting that the ball then was retrieved by umpire Jocko Conlon for Kuenn’s souvenir case. The Giants went on to win the game, 7-1, but let’s allow writer Emmons Byrne to finish his game account.)

The lone Colt run came in the fourth on Grote’s triple against the center field fence.  Mays’ throw was up the line and Grote kept on running to score as Willie was charged with an error.


Baseball Almanac Box ScoresSan Francisco Giants 7, Houston Colt .45s 1
San Francisco Giants ab   r   h rbi
Kuenn lf 4 0 3 1
Lanier 2b 6 1 2 0
Alou rf 5 1 2 0
Hart 3b 4 1 1 0
  Pagan ss 0 0 0 0
Mays cf 4 1 1 1
Cepeda 1b 4 1 2 3
Haller c 4 1 2 0
Davenport ss,3b 5 1 1 0
Estelle p 4 0 0 0
  Murakami p 0 0 0 0
Totals 40 7 14 5
Houston Colt .45s ab   r   h rbi
Kasko ss,3b 5 0 2 0
Morgan 2b 1 0 0 0
Aspromonte 3b 4 0 3 0
  Jackson pr,ss 1 0 0 0
Bond 1b 5 0 0 0
Wynn cf 3 0 0 0
Staub rf 4 0 0 0
Beauchamp lf 4 0 0 0
Grote c 3 1 1 0
  Bateman c 1 0 0 0
Dierker p 1 0 0 0
  Yellen p 0 0 0 0
  Giusti p 2 0 1 0
  Gaines ph 1 0 0 0
  Jones p 0 0 0 0
Totals 35 1 7 0
San Francisco 0 3 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 7 14 2
Houston 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 7 3
  San Francisco Giants IP H R ER BB SO
Estelle  W (1-1) 8.0 7 1 1 6 4
  Murakami  SV (1) 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
  Houston Colt .45s IP H R ER BB SO
Dierker  L (0-1) 2.2 5 4 2 3 3
  Yellen 1.0 2 3 3 2 0
  Giusti 4.1 5 0 0 0 3
  Jones 1.0 2 0 0 0 2

E–Pagan (20), Mays (5), Kasko (14), Bond (12), Wynn (7).  3B–Houston Grote (3,off Estelle).  HR–San Francisco Cepeda (31,2nd inning off Dierker 0 on, 0 out).  SH–Estelle (1,off Jones).  SF–Kuenn (2,off Dierker).  Team LOB–13.  Team–13.  WP–Dierker 2 (2).  U-HP–Lee Weyer, 1B–Jocko Conlan, 2B–Doug Harvey, 3B–Tony Venzon.  T–3:02.  A–5,608.

Baseball Almanac Box Score | Printer Friendly Box Scores




5 Responses to “Larry Dierker’s 18th Birthday 1964 1st Start”

  1. Tom Kleinworth Says:

    I’m proud to say I was in the left field bleachers for Dierker’s debut. Of course, I didn’t understand at the time what all the attention was about. I had just turned 13, and I thought anyone who was 18 was an old man. Tom K.

  2. Michael McCroskey Says:

    I like your comment about the rest of the article being about the writer’s comments about the Giants faint pennant hopes. History shows that the Giants actually finished the season tied with the Dodgers for first, then won a playoff to advance to the World Series, losing to the Yankees in seven. Had Larry won this start, baseball history may have been significantly altered.
    Also, how fast was Jerry Grote? Throwing Error or not, scoring on an inside the park hit is no easy trot.


  3. Fred Soland Says:

    Larry has always represented himself well for this City, even though some “unmentioned” idiots never saw it that way. In a game where egos reign supreme, Larry has always been one of the most down to earth players/managers to put on the uniform. As a kid, after the games, Larry was always cordial and willing to sign autographs for the few of us who went after them at the time. He talked to us instead of at us or down to us. Then when he took to the broadcast booth, he carved out his laid back style that worked for him, much to the chagrin of those who said “you can’t do it that way”. When the call to the dugout came, several whispered it was a publicity stunt, but Larry took over the team, learning the dugout game on the fly and doing things his way. All he did was become the most successful manager in club history!! Certainly the brass knew what they had….but no, in typical Houston management history, they fired him for excuses such as “the team was undisciplined” or Larry was “too unconventional”. What a load of garbage!!

    Recently, my nephew suffered a series of seizures that threatened his life. I contacted Larry to get his insight from his experiences with the same. He got right back to me with his doctor’s information and his experience. He could have ignored it. We have met a few times, but, while I would know him if I saw him, he would not know me. But Larry is, and always has been, a down to earth humanitarian, as well as a superior athlete. All too often we only hear the negatives about players, but we overlook the positives. I am sorry I have held the podium for so long, but I felt compelled to express my thanks to Larry for all he has meant to this city and to me personally.


    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Fred, you may have the podium any time you want it. That was an awesome description of the same man that some others of us also have become privileged to know as fans on a more personal level.

  4. Mark W. Says:

    OCD as I am, I feel compelled to correct Mike, who has confused the 1964 season with the 1962 season. Dierker’s debut of course was in 1964, a year in which the St. Louis Cardinals won the NL pennant. The Giants and Dodgers tied for the pennant and entered a post-season playoff in 1962.

    And checking the box score of Dierker’s debut game, that performance by Dave Giusti ought to have been a sizable hint of things to come. But of curse, it was not. (I saw that typo in the word “course” and decided to leave it the way it is.)

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