Larry Dierker, #49

"a smart pitcher who has everything"
Jim Bouton, 1969, from "Ball Four"

link: Larry Dierker player page

(c) Houston Astros
Lawrence Edward Dierker, the man whose name would one day become synonymous with Houston baseball, was born in Hollywood, California on September 22, 1946. His professional career with the Houston Astros has spanned four decades and his success on the field, behind the microphone and in the dugout, has made him one of the few players to have his uniform number retired by the team.

Larry Dierker's baseball career started at the age of 7 in the West Valley Little League. By the time of his high school graduation ten years later, Dierker had matured into a lanky, 6'4", 190-pound pitcher pursued by 18 of the 20 major-league teams. The Chicago Cubs and the Houston Colt .45s were his biggest suitors and Dierker signed with the Houston because he knew the fledgling franchise represented his best chance to reach the major leagues.

(c) Houston Astros
He was right. Immediately after signing with the .45s, Dierker was sent to pitch for their Instructional League team in Cocoa, Florida. After nine starts, the teen had struck out 55 batters and allowed just 20 hits in 39 innings. General Manager Paul Richards then promoted Dierker to the majors to make his first major-league start on his 18th birthday, barely three months out of high school. Dierker would lose the game, but made a big impression when he struck out sluggers Jim Ray Hart and Willie Mays in the first inning. After the game, the team celebrated his arrival with a post-game birthday cake.

Larry would never step on a minor-league pitching mound again. The following year, the team was renamed and moved into the modern and spacious Astrodome. The 18-year-old phenom was kept on a strict 110 pitch-count limit per start, but he was able to manage a complete game among his 19 starts. He became a full-time starter in 1966, making 29 starts and brandishing an impressive 3.27 ERA in 187 innings. Dierker's 1967 season ended early on June 25 when he began a six-month stint in the Army Reserve. By 1968, Dierker was 21 and had become a quality workhorse for the team's pitching staff. Thanks to poor run support, he finished with a 12-15 record despite posting a 3.31 ERA over 233 innings.

It was during the 1969 season that Larry Dierker would completely rewrite the team's record books. The team stalled to its worst start in franchise history, limping to a 4-20 record after the first month of the season, already 12 1/2 games out of first place. Amazingly, the team caught fire, going 71-45 over the next four months to close within 2 games of first place. It was the first pennant race for the team and was documented by reliever Jim Bouton in his must-read book, "Ball Four."

Dierker's season was a key component to the team's success. He completed a staggering 20 of his 37 starts, racking up an astonishing 305 innings, posting an amazing 2.33 ERA while becoming the first 20-game winner in franchise history. Towards the end of the season, Dierker suffered what he would later call one of the toughest losses of his career. After shutting out the Braves over 12 innings on September 12th, Dierker watched closer Fred Gladding blow a 2-0 lead, giving up 3 runs in the bottom of the 13th. The loss crushed the young team, which went on to lose 15 of its final 21 games to finish with a .500 record.

(c) Houston Astros
In 1970, Dierker tossed 270 innings and won 16 games, but the team slumped and finished under .500. In the following season, the heavy load of being the team's workhorse began to take its toll on Dierker's arm. At 25, he was already a 7-year major-league veteran with 1250 innings under his belt, but soon developed a "sore arm", the first of a series of ailments that would haunt him throughout the rest of his career. After a 10-1 start that earned him a spot on the 1971 All-Star team, Dierker's troubles began, slipping him to a 12-6 record.

Dierker's offseason recuperation seemed complete in 1972 when he made 31 starts, completing 12 and winning 15 games over 214 innings. Shoulder problems flared up in 1973, however, limiting him to just 3 starts. He recovered in the following year to toss 224 innings with a sharp 2.89 ERA, picking up his 100th career win along the way.

Dierker won 27 games in his final two seasons with the team, tossing the only no-hitter of his career on July 9th, 1976, shutting out the Montreal Expos 6-0. After the season, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for catcher Joe Ferguson. Unfortunately, he broke his leg in the following Spring Training and tossed just 39 innings for the Redbirds before announcing his retirement.

His career with the Asros was not over, but beginning a new phase. Dierker returned to Houston in 1978 to work in the promotions department and soon began providing color commentary on the team's televised broadcasts. That inauspicious beginning launched a 19-year career in broadcasting for Dierker, cementing his position as one of the most respected and admired personalities in Houston.

(c) Houston Astros
After three second-place finishes under manager Terry Collins, the team took an unprecedented gamble and hired Dierker from the broadcasting booth to manage the team. After years of expert commentary, most fans applauded the move even though it was derided by the national media.

Dierker silenced his critics in his first season at the helm, leading the Astros to the 1997 NL Central Division title. It was the first post-season appearance for the team in 11 years. Dierker bettered that mark in 1998, leading the team to 102 wins, reaching the post-season again while shattering the franchise record of 96 wins set by the 1986 squad. For his efforts, Dierker was named the NL Manager of the Year.

(c) Houston Astros
In 1999, the team was on its way to its third consecutive team when Dierker nearly lost his life during a June game against the San Diego Padres. After experienced from severe headaches for several days, Dierker had a "grand mal" seizure that rendered him unconscious and required emergency brain surgery to save his life. After four weeks of recovery and a national outpouring of support, Dierker returned to the helm and guided the team through one of its most exciting seasons. The team won 97 games and won its third consecutive NL Central title.

Thirty-five years after the opening of the Astrodome, Dierker was still on the team to witness the debut of Houston's new park, Enron Field. Unfortunately, the team could not make a smooth transition to a hitter's park and finished with a dismal 72-90 record. Dierker helped rebound the team in 2001, winning 93 games en route to its fourth division title during Dierker's fifth season at the helm.

(c) Houston Astros
After a particularly tough loss in the postseason, Dierker created a stir during a contentious post-game interview. The team decided that it was time to make a change and fired Dierker, although he "officially" resigned. In his book, "This Ain't Brain Surgery," Dierker conceded that the pressures of the job had worn on him and that a departure was in his best interests.

After 14 years as an accomplished pitcher, 19 years as a popular announcer, and 5 years as a successful manager, the Astros honored Dierker on May 19th, 2002, by retire his #49 jersey.

Awards and Honors

1969 - named to National League All-Star team
1971 - named to National League All-Star team
1998 - National League Manager of the Year

Professional Baseball Record

 Year  Club             W   L   PCT   G  GS  CG SHO SV   IP      H    R   ER   BB   SO   ERA 
 1964  Cocoa, FL (RL)   2  3   .400   9   9   0   0  0   39.0   20        16   24   55  3.69
       Houston          0   1  .000   3   1   0   0  0    9.0    7    4    2    3    5  2.00  
 1965  Houston          7   8  .467  26  19   1   0  0  146.7  135   69   57   37  109  3.50
 1966  Houston         10   8  .556  29  28   8   2  0  187.0  173   73   66   45  108  3.18  
 1967  Houston          6   5  .545  15  15   4   0  0   99.0   95   44   37   25   68  3.36 
 1968  Houston         12  15  .444  32  32  10   1  0  233.7  206   95   86   89  161  3.31 
 1969  Houston         20  13  .606  39  37  20   4  0  305.3  240   97   79   72  232  2.33 
 1970  Houston         16  12  .571  37  36  17   2  1  269.7  263  124  116   82  191  3.87 
 1971  Houston         12   6  .667  24  23   6   2  0  159.0  150   50   48   33   91  2.72 
 1972  Houston         15   8  .652  31  31  12   5  0  214.7  209   87   81   51  115  3.40 
 1973  Houston          1   1  .500  14   3   0   0  0   27.0   27   14   13   13   18  4.33 
 1974  Houston         11  10  .524  33  33   7   3  0  223.7  189   76   72   82  150  2.90 
 1975  Houston         14  16  .545  34  34  14   2  0  232.0  225  109  103   91  127  4.00  
 1976  Houston         13  14  .467  28  28   7   4  0  187.7  171   85   77   72  112  3.69
 1977  St. Louis        2   6  .250  11   9   0   0  0   39.3   40   21   20   16    6  4.58 
 MINORS TOTALS          2  3   .400   9   9   0   0  0   39.0   20        16   24   55  3.69
 MLB TOTALS           139 123  .531 356 329 106  25  1 2333.7 2130  947  857  711 1493  3.31  

For more stats on Larry Dierker, see his entry at

Astros Media Guide entries

1965 Media Guide

1964 Record
                    W-L    ERA   G  GS  CG   IP     H    R   ER   BB   SO
Houston             0-1   2.79   3   1   0    8.2   7    4    2    3    5
Cocoa, FL (RL)      2-3   3.69   9   9   0   39.0  20   19   14   24   55

#49 - One year of pro ball... a "first year player"... struck out Willie Mays and Jim Hart in his first inning of major league baseball...made first NL appearance on his 18th birthday (Sept. 22, 1964)... was All-League in baseball and basketball at Taft High School in Los Angeles.. was sought by 17 other major league clubs

1966 Media Guide

1965 Record
                    W-L    ERA   G  GS  CG   IP     H    R   ER   BB   SO
Houston             7-8   3.49  26  19   1  147   135   69   57   37  109

#49 - Considered one of the best young pitchers in the Houston organization... has good fast ball, curve and excellent control... one of biggest '65 thrills was home run which he hit in St. Louis, one of two hit by Houston pitchers in '65... limited in early starts last year to about 110 pitches as precautionary measure against overwork too early in career... has pitched only 39 innings in minors

1967 Media Guide

1966 Record
                    W-L    ERA   G  GS  CG   IP     H    R   ER   BB   SO
Houston            10-8   3.27  29  28   8  187   173   73   66   45  108

#49 - Missed several turns due to military obligations, and an injured arm... was 13th in the National League in ERA

1968 Media Guide

1967 Record
                    W-L    ERA   G  GS  CG   IP     H    R   ER   BB   SO
Houston             6-5   3.36  15  15   4   99    95   44   37   25   68

#49 - Pitched in only 15 games because he entered Army Reserve Training for six months on June 26

1969 Media Guide

1968 Record
                    W-L    ERA   G  GS  CG   IP     H    R   ER   BB   SO
Houston            12-15  3.31  32  32  10  233.2 206   95   86   89  161

#49 - Was just a little luck away from having a big year in 1968.... he was shut out six times and dropped three 1-run decisions... had six-game winning streak from June 24 through Aug. 20 (sandwiched around two weeks of military duty)... No. 2 on '68 Astro staff in wins and innings, ranked third in strikeouts

1970 Media Guide

1969 Record
                    W-L    ERA   G  GS  CG   IP     H    R   ER   BB   SO
Houston            20-13  2.33  39  37  20  305   240   97   79   72  232

#49 - What a season he had in 1969!... became Houston's first 20-game winner... virtually rewrote the Houston club record book (most wins, 20; most complete games, 20; most innings, 305; tie for most starts, 37; tie for most shutouts, 4)... ranked No. 6 in National League on ERA... beat every club but Atlanta during the season (and had 12 innings of no-decision shut out ball in one outing against the Braves)... five of his defeats were by one run (two of those by 1-0)... exhibited superior control over the last two-thirds of the season... fell only three strikeouts short of tying the club record of 235.... his career win total of 55 is the Houston record... the 1969 Astro most valuable player, and a nominee for "Texas Pro Athlete of the Year"

1971 Media Guide

1970 Record
                    W-L    ERA   G  GS  CG   IP     H    R   ER   BB   SO
Houston            16-12  3.87  37  36  17  270   263  124  116   82  191

#49 - Had another highly-successful season in 1970, leading Houston in just about every pitching department... got away to a great start, was 8-2 on May 18... didn't get win No. 9 for almost exactly two months (July 17)... had a good closing "kick," winning last three decisions (and five of six)... every time he wins a game, he virtually reworks the club record book... helped his own cause with the bat some, also, with 16 hits and four RBI... beat every other NL club except Mets... won five games in May, four in September as Astros put on push for fourth place... nabbed a save in his one non-starting assignment

1972 Media Guide

1971 Record
                    W-L    ERA   G  GS  CG   IP     H    R   ER   BB   SO
Houston            12-6   2.71  24  23   6  159   150   50   48   33   91

#49 - Bothered by arm ailment much of 1971...Had great start... was 10-1 at one point... didn't pitch after Aug. 8... hurled 2 shutouts in 1971 to run career total to 11, tops on the club all-time... team leader in most all-time pitching records

1973 Media Guide

1972 Record
                    W-L    ERA   G  GS  CG   IP     H    R   ER   BB   SO
Houston            15-8   3.39  31  31  12  214.2 210   87   81   51  114

#49 - Registered his fourth straight winning season in 1972 (15-8)... Led the club in shutouts (five), was second in complete games with 12 and tie with Don Wilson for most wins... Tossed one-hitter on June 19 against New York Mets in a 3-0 win in Astrodome... Also, had one-hitter on May 29, 1971 against San Diego... Is the alltime Houston shutout leader with 16... Won five games in August... Pitched back-to-back shutouts (May 17 against Atlanta and May 22 against San Diego)... Two wins away from 100th major league victory

1974 Media Guide

1973 Record
                    W-L    ERA   G  GS  CG   IP     H    R   ER   BB   SO
Houston             1-1   4.33  14   3   0   27    27   14   13   13   18

#49 - Was hampered by arm and shoulder problems most of the 1973 season... Did pitch in 14 games and registered 99th win on Aug. 11 agains the Chicago Cubs in relief.. Has 1,097 career strikeouts

1975 Media Guide

1974 Record
                    W-L    ERA   G  GS  CG   IP     H    R   ER   BB   SO
Houston            11-10  2.89  33  33   7  224   189   76   72   82  150

#49 - Showed signs of complete recovery from shoulder and arm troubles that plagued him most of 1973 season... Won 11 games with seven complete games, three shutouts and a 2.89 ERA in 1974... Three of his seven complete games were three-hitters (April 15 vs. San Francisco, June 6 vs. Montreal and Aug. 23 vs. Philadelphia)... Had 9-4 record in Astrodome last season... Had three game stretch in August in which he pitched 23 innings, allowed 12 hits and two runs (both earned) for 0.78 ERA... Led club in strikeouts with 150... Upped career shutout total to 19... Won his 100th Major League game on April 9 vs. San Diego (seven innings, six hits, two runs, one earned run, five strikeouts) last season... Has 1,248 career strikeouts

1976 Media Guide

1975 Record
                    W-L    ERA   G  GS  CG   IP     H    R   ER   BB   SO
Houston            14-16  4.00  34  34  14  232   225  109  103   91  127

#49 - Was pace-setter on pitching staff in 1975 by leading club in wins (14), starts (34), complete games (14), shutouts (two) and innings pitched (232)... Second on staff in strikeouts with 127. Has two-year strikeout total of 277... Tossed 6-0 shutout over Montreal on May 11 and 4-0 shutout over Philadelphia on May 21 to run career shutout total to 21 which is tops on all time Houston pitching list... Was 4-2 with five complete games during month of August... Posted 9-7 record in Astrodome... Has 1,375 career strikeouts... Led Astro pitchers in sacrifice bunts with 13 last season

1980-84 Media Guides On the Air

...The third member of the Astros' broadcast team is former Houston pitching great Larry Dierker, who stepped into the booth in 1979 with the same cool professionalism that marked his big league career.

As a veteran of 14 big league seasons, Houston's first 20-game winner and author of a no-hitter in 1976, Dierker provides excellent color commentary on Astros' television broadcasts and compliments the experienced play-by-play announcing of both Elston and Staats.

1985-87 Media Guides On the Air

...Providing an added insight into the broadcasts is former 20-game winner Larry Dierker who originally joined the broadcast crew in 1979. A veteran of 14 years in the majors, he was Houston's first 20-game winners, going 20-13 in 1969. In addition, he turned a no-hitter on July 9, 1976 in beating Montreal 6-0 in the Astrodome

1988-91 Media Guides On the Air

Dierker began his association with the Astros back in 1964 as a pitcher for the Colt .45s. After a 14-year career which saw him become Houston's first 20-game winner in 1969 and toss a no-hitter in 1976, Dierker made his way to the broadcast booth in 1979. He serves as the principal color analyst on both TV and radio.

1992-1996 Media Guides On the Air

A name synonymous with major league baseball in Houston, he began his association with the franchise as a pitcher with the Colt .45s in 1964.
-- is the Astros' principal color analyst on radio and television... hsa been in the broadcast booth since 1979.
-- his 14-year pitching career saw him become Houston's first 20-game winner in 1969, and toss a no-hitter in 1976... still ranks second on the club's all-time win list with 137.
-- writes and produces a "Baseball Library" show for radio... also has a weekly baseball column in the Houston Chronicle.
-- was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame on November 5, 1993. (1994-96)

1997 Media Guide

On October 4, 1997, the Houston Astros made one of the franchise's most storied pitchers and astute observers of the game the club's 12th field manager when they named Larry Dierker to lead the team beginning in 1997.

Dierker replaced Terry Collins, who was informed by the club that he would be released from the final year of his contract. Collins, 47, led the Astros to three straight second place finishes in the NL Central Division. His record with the club in three seasons stood at 224-197, a .532 winning percentage.

Dierker's name has been associated with Major League Baseball in Houston almost since the inception of the club. A Los Angeles native who was an All-League baseball and basketball player at Taft (CA) High, he was courted by 17 other big league clubs before signing with the Houston Colt .45s in June of 1964. He made his major league debut in Colt Stadium on his 18th birthday (September 22, 1964) and struck out Willie Mays and Jim Hart in his first inning.

His 14-year pitching career saw him become Houston's first 20-game winner in 1969, the same year he pitched a club record 20 complete games. Dierker was named to the National League All-Star team for the 1969 game in RFK Stadium and the 1971 contest at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. He tossed the fifth no-hitter in franchise history on July 9, 1976 in the Astrodome against Montreal.

Dierker still ranks amoung the club's all-time leaders in virtually every pitching category. He holds the all-time marks for the franchise in starts (320), complete games (106), innings (2,295) and shutouts (25). His 137 victories for the Astros ranks second all-time to Joe Niekro, who won 144.

After completing his career on the field in 1977, Dierker directed the Group and Season Sales Office for the Astros. From 1979 until his appointment as manager, he had been the club's principal color analyst on radio and television, in addition to making several network television appearances.

Dierker joins an impressive list of major league managers who had no previous managerial experience in the minor leagues before taking over a big league club. At the start of the 1997 season, that list includes 1995 NL Manager of the Year from Colorado Don Baylor, 1993 NL Manager of the Year from San Francisco Dusty Baker, Detroit's Buddy Bell, Milwaukee's Phil Garner, the Mets' Bobby Valentine, Toronto's Cito Gaston, Oakland's Art Howe, Cincinnati's Ray Knight, Seattle's Lou Piniella and the Yankees' Joe Torre.

Dierker, wife Judy, daughters Ashley (8/11/68) and Julia (7/22/76), and son Ryan (2/26/85) make their home in Houston.

1998 Media Guide

In his first season as skipper of the Houston Astros, Larry Dierker guided his team to a 84-78 record, earning the team its first-ever National League Central division title and its first division titile in 11 years.
-- Dierker became only the sixth manager in major league history to win a division title in his first year... the last first-year skipper to accomplish this was Hal Lanier, who led the 1986 Astros to a Western Division Championship. The other rookie skippers are: Jim Frey (Royals, 1980); Bill Virdon (Pirates, 1972); Sparky Anderson (Reds, 1970) and Billy Martin (Twins, 1969).
-- Dierker finished in third place behind San Francisco's Dusty Baker and Pittsburgh's Gene Lamont in the 1997 Manager of the Year balloting.

1999 Media Guide

After a stellar season which resulted in a franchise-record 102 wins in 1998, Houston skipper Larry Dierker was recognized by the Baseball Writers Association of America as the National League's Manager of the Year.
-- in his two seasons as skipper of the Houston Astros, Dierker has guided his team to two National League Central Division titles with a combined record of 186-138.
-- in 1999, Dierker has a chance to become only the fourth manager in major league history to finish in first place in each of his first three seasons, joining Hughie Jennings of Detroit from 1907-09, Ralph Houk of the Yankees from 1961-63 and Jim Frey with the Royals (1980 and second half in 1981) and Cubs (1984).
-- on January 27, 1999, he was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, sharing the spotlight withoter Houston sports figures including Roger Clemens, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.

2000 Media Guide

In his first three seasons as skipper of the Houston Astros, Larry Dierker guided his team to three National League Central Division titles with a combined record of 283-203. He moved into fourth place on Houston's all-time managerial list, behind only Bill Virdon (544-522), Art Howe (392-418) and Harry Walker (355-353).

To add to his resume, Dierker reached managerial win number 200 in his 347th game, faster than any of the other six managers who won 200 games during their tenure as Houston's skipper.

During the 1999 campaign, Dierker watched as no fewer than 14 of his players suffered injuries that landed them on the disabled list for at least 15 days each. Just over two months into the season, Dierker himself was challenged with health problems of his own. On June 13, he collapsed in the dugout after suffering a grand mal seizure in the eighth inning of Houston's game against the San Diego Padres. Two days later, he underwent brain surgery to remove a cluster of blood vessels that had dislodged, causing the seizure. He was forced to miss 27 games as he recovered from his ordeal. During his absence, bench coach Matt Galante assumed the duties of interim manager and guided the team to a 13-14 record during a tough stretch where the Astros placed four key players on the disabled list.

2001 Media Guide

Larry Dierker reached several managerial milestones in his fourth season as Astros skipper, and upon the conclusion of the 2000 campaign, he moved into a third place tie with Harry Walker (355-363) on Houston's all-time managerial wins list. With 355 career wins, he trails only Bill Virdon (544-522) and Art Howe (392-418).

Dierker recorded his 300th win on May 25, 2000, making him the quickest manager to reach the 300-win plateau in club history. In addition, Dierker managed his 500th game on April 19 at Los Angeles, marking only the fifth time in franchise history that a Houston manager has directed 500 or more games (Virdon - 1,066; Howe - 810; Walker - 708; Bob Lillis - 537).

2003 Media Guide

On May 19, 2002, the Astros retired the number 49 of franchise icon Larry Dierker. In 38 years of service to the organization, Dierker served as a player, front-office member, broadcaster, and manager. In 13 seasons on the mound, he won 137 games, second only to Joe Niekro in team history. He owns the franchise records for innings pitched, starts, complete games, and shutouts. A two-time All-Star, Dierker pithed the fifth no-hitter in franchise history on July 9, 1976. After one season in the front office and 18 as a broadcaster, Dierker become only the sixth manager in Major League history to win a division crown in his frist season. In five seasons as the club's skipper from 1997-2001, he won four division titles, and the 1998 team won a franchise-record 102 games, allowing Dierker to earn NL Manager of the Year honors.