Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band

“Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band”

(to the tune of Sgt. Pepper by the Beatles)

It was twenty years ago today
Larry Dierker taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile
So may I introduce to you
The act you’ve known for all these years
Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band

We’re Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band

We hope you will enjoy the show

We’re Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band
Sit back and let the evening go
Larry Dierker’s Astros, Larry Dierker’s Astros
Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band

It’s wonderful to be here
It’s certainly a thrill
You’re such a lovely audience
We’d like to take you home with us
We’d love to take you home

I don’t really want to stop the show
But I thought that you might like to know
Jose Lima’s going to sing a song
And he wants the band to sing along
So let me introduce to you
The one and only Billy Spiers
And Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band

*******************

The Amazing Mr. Dierker. Unless you are a millennial by birth, you should remember the whole Dierker five-year “joy ride” as Astros manager from 1997 to 2001. You will also remember that Larry got there on the heels of a 32-year career as an iconic Astros pitcher, sports writer, and radio/tv broadcaster for the club before he stepped onto the field and became the most significant figure in the club’s greatest era for finally proving that the Astros could be a consistent winner in Major League Baseball. From 1997 through 2001, the Astros either won or tied St. Louis as co-champions of the NL Central in 4 of his 5 seasons under the field guidance of Larry Dierker, establishing a beach head on the public’s trust that winning would be the normal level of expectation in Houston – and not the once in a while aberration of a team that could not afford success on a steady annual basis.

During Dierker’s reign, 2000, the club’s first season at the downtown ballpark we now know as Minute Maid Park, was the only season that the Astros finished out of the money. The main reason we’ve always assigned to that bleep was that some of the players, mainly pitchers, and namely Jose Lima, had been too psyched out by the short porch in the new left field to keep their acts together. They crumbled in 2000, but then got it together to make another playoff run in 2001, Dierker’s last season before retiring from the chase.

And what a chase and great impact Dierker’s managerial era still has upon Houston baseball today. And it also must not go without saying. All Larry Dierker had to do, beyond hearing and heeding his call to greatness, was to survive a 1999 dugout collapse from a brain tumor that could have easily ended his life and made this whole topic of sporting accomplishment even less important in the grand scheme of things.

But Larry didn’t die. Thank God. And he did survive to achieve greatness as a manager. Of course, the gifts of Biggio, Bagwell, and Berkman helped him a little bit too long along the way, but even their individual greatness performances would have been too little had someone not pulled them all into a winning team – and that’s what the Houston Astros finally became under Larry Dierker. They became and have remained a winning team, even when losing during rebuilding was part of the plan for this great club that represents the Astros in 2017.

The consistent annual winning attitude was installed during the Dierker managerial era – starting in 1997.

Here’s how former Astros pitcher Shane Reynolds described Dierker’s contributions twenty years ago during his 3rd inning discussion in the booth with AT&T Sports.net broadcasters Todd Kalas and Geoff Blum. When asked what brought the ’97 Astros pitchers to greater success over more innings pitched than before, here’s exactly what Shane Reynolds had to say:

“What helped us the most was Larry Dierker. He took myself, Mike Hampton, Jose Lima, Daryl Kile, and Chris Holt aside in spring training and said, ‘Look, guys, you’re starting pitchers. If you get into trouble by the 4th inning, don’t look over your shoulder expecting me to come out and get you.  The best way for you guys to learn to pitch (as starters) is – when you get in trouble, figure it out. Eventually, you’re going to learn how to get yourself out of trouble. – And once that happens, it’s going to snowball.’ – And I think that’s what happened with us. We relaxed. We got comfortable.”

Reynolds added that pitching in the Astrodome from 1997 through 1999 did help him relax when he was faced with pitching himself out of trouble. The deep outfield distances must’ve been like having an extra outfielder for a pitcher in distress. It’s not hard to see how that 315′ wall in left field at the new downtown park gave some of the guys who counted too much on the Dome to be their extra fielder to relax in the new environs during that first season downtown, but that fact doesn’t detract from the appreciation that came through in the explanation that Shane Reynolds shared with the whole world today about his gratitude for the lessons he and the others learned from Mr. Dierker.

It was twenty years ago today
Larry Dierker taught the band to play

And did he ever teach them well!

Thanks for joining our side of the baseball wars on your 18th birthday, Sgt. Dierker. We treasure the gift of your living presence in the history of Houston baseball.

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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One Response to “Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band”

  1. Dick O'Neal Says:

    Absolutely! Larry was a great inspiration to the Houston Organization. But even more importantly is he is a fine man off the field and I consider a dear friend. His testimonial in my book will always be special to me!!

    Dick “Lefty” O’Neal

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