Wild About Larry
A former Phillie who plays ass quarters at Downey's? No wonder we love him.
From the October 22, 2008 Philadelphia Weekly.
With baseball trivia flying all around him, Phillies broadcaster and former relief pitcher Larry Andersen hangs at the back of the bar at Downey's, a bottle of Bud Light in his right hand.
"Three countries share the names of Phillies' players," bartender Tommy Brennan shouts to the regulars. "Who are the players?"
"Al Holland," someone barks almost immediately.
"Ricky Jordan," another bellows.
"Kevin Jordan," adds yet another.
The regulars mumble and look puzzled for a moment.
Then Brennan snaps, "Nobody remembers Mark Portugal?"
When the crowd's grunts and guffaws settle down, Brennan throws out another gem.
"Larry Andersen holds the Phillies' team record for 33 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings pitched," he offers. "Who's the jackass who made the error that led to the streak ending?"
"Sixto Lezcano!" someone snaps.
"Ivan DeJesus?" another guesses.
The names Kiko Garcia, Joe Lefebvre and Steve Jeltz float around as casually as if they're as well known as Hall of Famers, which they most certainly are not.
Feeling nostalgic, I toss out, "Rick Schu?"
"Give them a clue," Andersen says to Brennan.
"What kind of clue can I give 'em?" Brennan asks.
"Turn around," Andersen responds.
Brennan spins and reveals a white number 47 on the back of his fire engine-red 1993 Phillies practice jersey.
"Larry Andersen!" we all say, nearly in unison.
"You should have known it was me as soon as he said 'jackass,'" deadpans Andersen, the dry-witted prankster who's the only Phillie who played in both the 1983 and 1993 World Series.
This week Anderson will be in the radio booth as the Phillies play their first World Series contest since that loveable, mullet-sporting band of vagabonds battled Toronto 15 years ago.
Larry Andersen, 55, arrived in the broadcast booth in 1998 following the death of Richie Ashburn, the former centerfielder and long-time color analyst who remains among the most beloved Philadelphia sports figures ever.
"Nobody could ever fill his shoes," Andersen says. "I like to say that I came in like an extra guy from the bullpen."
Known as much for his shenanigans as for his pitching - he once snuck into his manager's hotel room and made cherry Jell-O in the toilets - Anderson was hired specifically for his quirky personality. Among his early regular duties was to perform a "Shallow Thoughts" segment with broadcast partner Harry Kalas.
"Why does sour cream have an expiration date?" Andersen asked rhetorically on television as Kalas listened, dumbfounded. "It's already sour."
Another day he queried, "Why do you park in the driveway and drive on the parkway?"
His personal favorite shallow thought: "Why do you sing 'Take me out to the ballgame' when you're already there?"
Before broadcasting for the Phillies, Andersen had no on-air experience. He stumbled his way along, learning from Kalas and the others. Now his game analysis sounds as comfortable on air as his conversations here in the bar.
"I've become much more a fan of the game," Andersen says of his decade as a color analyst. "When you play, you're in the middle of it and it's hard to appreciate sometimes."
Anderson played in 699 big-league games with six different teams over 17 seasons.
In 1983 he says he felt like a bit player on a team full of future Hall of Famers - Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and Steve Carlton.
"I remember walking into the clubhouse and thinking, 'What the hell am I doing here?'" Andersen recalls.
In 1993, however, renowned for his ear-splitting, on-cue belching, he found himself surrounded by a motley crew of pigpen players - Mitch Williams, Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk and Danny Jackson, among others. They'd spend all night drinking beer in the locker room, talking baseball long after games ended. Once, when there was a day game after a night game in San Francisco, Andersen and Kruk slept on the trainer's tables rather than stumble back to the hotel.
"I miss that camaraderie," says Andersen, who still proudly wears his 1993 National League championship ring. "That's the hardest thing about not being in the game anymore."
As we talk at Downey's, a steady stream of people approach, shake his hand, ask him about Curt Schilling and Dave Hollins, and throw more trivia at him.
"I love this town, the fans," Andersen says later. "They want to talk about the Phillies and that's what I do. I'm like an ambassador for the team."
Andersen first arrived at Downey's, down at Front and South, for a drink back in 1983 and started a conversation with Brennan, the bartender.
They wound up talking baseball that night until 4:30 in the morning. They've been close friends ever since - Andersen now lives around the corner from Brennan in South Philly and spends much of his free time at Downey's.
You can occasionally find Andersen guest bartending here, singing karaoke to the Temptations or dancing.
"You'd be surprised," Brennan notes. "He's a very good dancer."
Then he motions to the bar.
"He's been on the bar dancing maybe a dozen times," Brennan continues. "Dancing and playing ass quarters."
In response to my perplexed look, Brennan explains that ass quarters is a drinking game where you clench three quarters in your butt cheeks, stand on the bar, squatting over top of a pint glass, and try to drop the coins in the cup.
"He invented the game!" Brennan exclaims.
Leaning against the mahogany wall, Andersen says with a smirk, "It's very comfortable in here."