Larry Yount is not a familiar name in baseball circles, although he is a favorite answer for trivia questions. Yount's story is interesting, for it includes the unfortunate distinction of appearing in only one major-league game and becoming injured while warming up, thus never actually participating in a play. Obviously, it was the shortest playing career in major league history. But, if that were not enough, Larry's younger brother, Robin, played for 20 seasons and was eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I stumbled across this article in an old Astros program from 1989, and found it to be interesting reading. It was an unexpected historical gem, and I hope you enjoy it as well. Keep in mind that it will take you more time to read the article than Yount spent making him warmup tosses on that fateful day in 1971.
Tom Griffin, Ken Forsch and Larry Yount in a 1971 photo
(c) Houston Astros
Source: Astros Magazine, April, 1989
When the 6,513 fans filed out of the Houston Astrodome on September 15, 1971, most were thrilled that they had seen Henry Aaron of Atlanta hit his 636th career home run and tie Ty Cobb for third by driving in his 1,954th run.
They knew that the Braves had defeated Houston 4-2. But what they didn't know at the time was that they had also witnessed perhaps one of the shortest major league careers on record.
Righthanded pitcher Larry Yount, an eager 21-year-old who had been called up from Oklahoma City just 13 days earlier, had entered the game in the ninth inning and was making his major league debut. He took several of his warmup tosses but the pain he felt in his right elbow proved to be too much and he had to leave the game without throwing a pitch.
He never appeared in another major league game.
Yount was one of a host of prime young pitchers who were moving up the organization in 1971. He had signed as a fifth round draft pick in 1968 out of Taft High School in Woodland Hills, California, which was the same high school that produced Larry Dierker. Like Dierker, Yount made a quick rise up the organizational ladder.
He opened his first year of pro ball in the Carolina League, but was there for just eight games before he was promoted to the Triple A level with Oklahoma City. In 1969, he was back in the Carolina League and after posting a 6-4 record and 2.25 ERA, he was invited to his first spring training camp (1970).
He was sent to Columbus in 1970 and compiled a 12-8 record, with a 2.84 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 184 innings as part of a talented young staff that included such future major league standouts as Ken Forsch and Bill Greif.
Yount found himself back with the Astros in spring training during 1971 and was called up to the majors the following September after posting a 5-8 record and fanning 121 in 137 innings at Oklahoma City.
But before he could join the Astros for the final weeks of the season, Yount spent a week fulfilling a military obligation and the week away from the game proved to be his downfall.
"I was just sitting around for a week and hadn't done anything," Yount remembered. "I usually had some stiffness when I had come back from other layoffs and there was no question at the time that I had no business trying to pitch that soon. But I was a 21-year-old kid, and like any 21-year-old, I wasn't going to turn down a chance to show them what I could do."
"I went to the mound and took a couple of tosses, but it (his elbow) continued to hurt, so I came out," he added.
Yount's number didn't come up again in the final weeks of the 1971 season, but the righthander came to spring training in 1972 in a battle with Scipio Spinks and Tom Griffin for a spot on the major league staff.
He opened the spring in impressive fashion, fanning all six men he faced in the Astros final intrasquad game. Only two of his pitches in the two innings made contact with the hitter's bats, a pair of weak foul balls. He went on to pitch effectively the rest of the spring, but he found himself caught in a numbers game.
"Scipio and Tom were both out of options and I wasn't, so it was obvious that I was the one who had to go (back to the minors)," Yount said. "I made one bad pitch all spring, but it was a three-run home to Willie Davis and it was right when they had to make a decision," Yount added. He went down to the minors trying to take in all that had happened.
"I got off to a 3-0 start at Oklahoma City, but then things just came unglued," he added.
Yount finished the season with a 5-14 record and a 5.14 ERA but said that his short-lived major league appearance had nothing to do with his subsequent problems.
"Basically, it (his one appearance) was a non-event, a glitch that had no factor in what followed. Every once and a while, I would have elbow trouble, but nothing critical and nothing related to that night. I just never quite got the job done," he said.
Yount's Houston career ended in 1974 when he was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for infielder Wilbur Howard. By joining the Brewers, Yount found himself in camp with his younger brother Robin, who had been the club's top draft pick in 1973 and was on the verge of an outstanding career.
However as Robin's star rose, his brother Larry's once promising career floundered. Larry pitched in the minors until 1976 when he retired with a 33-58 career record in eight minor league campaigns. He moved to Arizona and started his new pursuits.
"I guess you would consider me a real estate developer mainly," Yount said from his home in the Phoenix area where he lives with his wife and their three children. "We're mainly involved in shopping malls and other types of commercial properties."
One of his early partners was Robin Yount. A current one is Balcor, a company that was until recently owned by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
Larry Yount has stayed in touch with the game as both a fan of his brother and a member of a group of Phoenix business men who are actively pursuing a major league franchise for their area.
At age 38, Yount is still young enough to be pitching in the majors and from time to time he pauses to reflect what might have been. "I've probably made more money than I ever could have in baseball, but I would still love to have had a chance to play longer. It just didn't work out," he said.