Larry Dierker roast and toast: fun, raucous and wildly insulting.
Given his laid-back, laugh-at-yourself approach to life, his penchant for wearing Hawaiian shirts and his lifelong goal to own a Woodie, it’s hardly surprising that Larry Dierker turned out to be the perfect target for Tuesday’s night’s roast at the Improv in Houston.
Dierker knows both how to laugh at others and laugh at himself, both of which are heavy requirements when partaking in a roast. Whether you’re the roaster or the roastee, if you are involved at all, you have to be ready to give and receive several zingers. In that respect, Tuesday’s event was a rousing success.
Nothing — and I mean absolutely nothing — was off the table. That includes the grand mal seizure that Dierker suffered in 1999, which roaster Bill Brown revealed was all staged “because his bullpen was tired that day.”
“His regular players were exhausted that day, too,” Brownie said. “He got the lead after six innings and he faked the seizure, so they’d stop the game. It would be picked up months later.”
Dierker’s interesting medical past was trumped only by his clumsiness. That’s the trait for which he’s most famous, at least among family and friends and anyone who’s shared a workspace with the former pitcher-turned broadcaster-turned-manager.
Brownie recalled one day in Chicago when Dierker and athletic trainer Dave Labossiere decided to rollerblade the five-mile trip back to the hotel from Wrigley Field.
“He was very proud of the fact that he was coordinated enough to do that,” Brownie said of Dierker. “Then a woman walked in front of him on the sidewalk, he tore his ACL and was out for four months.”
Jim Deshaies pitched for the Astros during Dierker’s tenure as a broadcaster and replaced Dierker in the booth when he was hired to manage the team. JD recalled several early conversations he had with people who worked with Dierker the broadcaster: “‘Remember the time he spilled coffee all over Brownie?’ ‘Remember the time he knocked a monitor out of the booth?’ ‘Remember the time he knocked over the lights right before we would do our open?’”
“I thought, if I don’t fall out of the booth,’” JD said, “I’ve exceeded expectations.”
The lineup of roasters represented all times of Dierker’s adult life. Former Astro Norm Miller was Dierker’s teammate beginning in 1965, and the two remained friends for decades after their playing days were over. They were such good friends that when Dierker was hired to manage the Astros in 1996, a local reporter called Miller to get his reaction.
“I thought it was one of my friends making a joke.” Miller said. “It was the most bizarre thing I’d ever heard in my life. How the (heck) can you hire Larry Dierker?”
Rockets announcer Bill Worrell was a student at the University of Houston when he met Dierker, who, at 18, was much younger than his Astros teammates and in need of friends his own age. Dierker would hang out at UH bars, looking for potential buddies and girlfriends, and that’s where he stumbled upon Worrell, a handsome blue-eyed sports fan who was very successful with the ladies.
“We’d go to frat parties,” Dierker said. “And he’d always get the prettiest girl. I would always get the other girl.”
That all changed years later when Worrell, with Dierker behind him, sauntered up to an attractive young woman and prepared to make his pitch. But in a fateful twist, the object of Worrell’s affection took more of a liking to Dierker. More than 40 years later, it appears Judy Dierker made the right call.
“She saw something in me that the other girls didn’t see,” Dierker said. “And she didn’t see something in Bill that the other girls saw. That was the luckiest day of my life.”
Other roast contributors included Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman and Phil Garner, who were not there in person but delivered taped messages to Dierker.
“I’ve got to tell you,” Garner said. “It’s really cool to manage in the World Series.”
Garner also remembered a story he heard about Dierker missing a team flight his first year in the big leagues.
“You were 18 years old, just signed,” Garner said. “You race to the airport and see a sign, “Airport left.” So, you decided to turn around and go home.”
Proceeds from the event, presented by SportsRadio 610, went to Dierker’s preferred charity, Literacy Advance of Houston. A great night for a great cause, and totally worth a little harmless public humiliation among friends.
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