(Check out our other player card posts here.)

Ken Landreaux once lived the baseball dream …

He was good enough in high school for the Houston Astros to select him in the eighth round of the 1973 draft, but he wanted more. So he headed to Arizona State, became a standout there, and raised his status enough for the California Angels to select him with their first-round pick (sixth overall) in 1977.

That put Landreaux just down the road from his hometown of Los Angeles (Compton) and kept him in the warm weather he’d always thrived in.

It was a good fit, and Landreaux found himself in the Major Leagues by that fall. In 116 games through the end of 1978, he struggled to put up big numbers (.229 batting averages, five home runs, 28 RBI) but showed enough speed and glovework to catch the eye of other teams.

1980 Topps Ken Landreaux

One of those clubs was the Minnesota Twins, who liked Landreaux enough to insist he be included (along with Dave Engel, Paul Hartzell, and Brad Havens) in the deal that brought Rod Carew to the west coast in February of 1979.

Though the move north might have been tough to swallow at first, Landreaux adjusted quickly and established himself as a budding star with the Twins in 1979, hitting .305 with 15 homers and 83 RBI.

He wasn’t the only reason to be excited in Minneapolis, either, as Minnesota crafted an 82-80 record that summer thanks to a young core of players and the guidance of manager Gene Mauch.

The Twins were inconsistent early in 1980, though, and they entered their April 23rd home game against Landreax’s old team, the California Angels, with a 6-7 record.

In that game at Metropolitan Stadium, things got much worse, as the Angels thumped the Twins, 17-0.

While Angels hitters were teeing off against Minnesota pitching, California starter Bruce Kison was nearly untouchable, allowing just four walks and a solitary hit.

That base knock came with one out in the bottom of the ninth at the hands of Kison’s former teammate … Ken Landreaux.

1981 Topps Ken Landreaux

Kison retired Rick Sofield and Butch Wynegar after Landreaux’s double, but the no-hitter was gone.

While Landreax’s heroics did nothing to help the Twins that spring afternoon, it did serve notice that he was a man with tenacity, who never gave up. As it turned out, those traits would show up again and again over the next several weeks.

Game after game, Mauch wrote Landreaux’s name in the lineup, and game after game, Landreaux did what he was supposed to do — hit.

In fact, by the time the Baltimore Orioles rolled into Minnesota on May 31, 1980, Landreaux had hit safely in 31 straight games, a Twins record that stands to this day.

During that streak, Landreaux batted .392 to raise his season average to a hefty .356.

But against Scott McGregor on that final day of May, the hits finally ran dry. That in itself is nothing to lament too intensely, as McGregor was in the midst of a 20-win season and was a legitimate Cy Young contender.

Landreaux’s streak had been a rare bright spot in a dismal run for the Twins, though, and without it, there was little joy for a team that stood at 18-29 entering June.

Things didn’t get much better from there.

By the time Mauch was fired after an August 24 loss to the Detroit Tigers, the Twins were 54-71, and Landreaux’s average had fallen all the way to .272.  Minnesota finished strong (23-13) under Johnny Goryl, and Landreaux recovered to hit .281 on the season, but things were never quite the same.

On March 30 of 1981, just before the eventual strike-shortened season began, the Twins traded Landreaux to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Mathew Reeves, Kelly Snider, and Mickey Hatcher.

And so, after two years and heroics that most Little Leaguers can only dream about, Ken Landreaux was back home.

The marriage worked well, as Landreaux anchored center field and hit .297 with 18 stolen bases to help the Dodgers all the way to the World Series, where they beat the New York Yankees, four games to two.

1981 Topps Ken Landreaux (back)

Over the next few seasons, Landreaux continued to develop his wheels, reaching the 30-steals plateau twice and helping the Dodgers content most years.

By 1987, his playing time and numbers had slipped significantly, and LA released him after the season. Landreaux played a couple more years in the minors (for Baltimore and the Dodgers) and then retired.

On his career, Ken Landreaux batted .268 on the back of 1099 hits, collecting 91 home runs and 145 stolen bases along the way.

Any of those accomplishments would fulfill most boyhood baseball dreams beyond all realistic expectations, but Landreaux went even further beyond.

For one glorious stretch in the spring of 1980, he was Joe DiMaggio and Pete Rose.

Anything was possible.

(Check out our other player card posts here.)

 

 

 

1981 O-Pee-Chee Minnesota Twins Baseball Card #219 Ken Landreaux

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1982 Topps #114 KEN LANDREAUX PSA 9 DODGERS

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1986 86 TOPPS KEN LANDREAUX PSA 9 MINT #782 DODGERS 91719

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1982 Topps True Pure Blackless # 114 Ken Landreaux Psa 9 Mint 1/1 B Sheet

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1981 TOPPS TRADED #787 KEN LANDREAUX DODGERS PSA 10 B2684309-473

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